A teacher’s responsibility goes beyond instructing core subjects. Teachers also impart lessons in socialization, and more importantly, have the opportunity to promote social acceptance in their classrooms. Social acceptance is the ability to accept or tolerate, differences and diversity in other people or groups of people. All students have different strengths, abilities, and disabilities.
During my tenure as a public school student during the 80s and 90s, I observed students with disabilities being harassed. I saw countless teachers stand by, doing nothing. I believe when students are taught social acceptance and teachers model appropriate inclusive behavior, society as a whole benefits.
Social acceptance starts with the teacher. As a role model, teachers must respect and care for all students and be comfortable with individuals who exhibit differences. Therefore, a teacher’s language and interactions play an enormous role in creating a classroom environment that fosters acceptance and friendships between diverse students. Below are some simple guidelines teachers can use.
• Note similarities among students: “You are both great writers and love typing.”
• Note differences when they are relevant to the situation. (Salend 2016)
• Establish high and appropriate expectations for students. All students should be expected to complete their work and participate in class. (Salend 2016)
• Affirm all students and their achievements. “Great job Valerie! You are working hard on your project.”
• Give students choices and solicit their preferences. (Salend 2016) Examples of this are tiered tests, tiered homework, and station teaching.
• Give all students the opportunity to be a classroom leader. Classroom jobs can be rotated so all students have a chance to shine.
• Respect your students. Only offer assistance when needed. Give pupils a chance to succeed on their own.
• Act promptly and decisively when students behave inappropriately and hurt each other. (Salend 2016) Bulling, and teasing are unacceptable behaviors and require consequences.
• Address the important issue of “fairness without sameness”. (Salend 2016) Let students know their learning needs are different from each other. As a teacher, one must meet the needs of every single student. Treating students all the same is not always fair. (Sprenger 2003) This is a difficult concept and may need to be addressed throughout the school year.
Social acceptance in the classroom encourages friendships outside of class and can help build social skills. Teachers should reinforce these experiences when they naturally occur. Teaching strategies such as jigsaw, stations, and small groups can help reduce the feeling of isolation students might feel. Teacher created groups promotes different students working together and finding commonalities. Promoting social acceptance is an important part of creating a safe classroom environment.
Garrote, A., Felder, F., Krähenmann, H., Schnepel, S., Sermier Dessemontet, R., & Moser Opitz, E. (2020). Social acceptance in inclusive classrooms: The role of teacher attitudes toward inclusion and classroom management. Frontiers in Education, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2020.582873
Salend, Spencer J. Creating Inclusive Classrooms: Effective, Differentiated, and Reflective Practices. Pearson, 2016.
Tomlinson, C.A., How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. ASCD: VA , 1995
Sprenger, M. (2003). Differentiation Through Learning Styles and Memory. 112-113, Thousand Oaks, CA.: Cornwall Press Inc.