Inclusivity is vital more now than ever. A learning environment should be a safe space. My intent as an educator is to create a learning environment characterized by a positive outlook. I, too, am concerned about our world and our society, and am deeply disturbed by what I see. However, I have made the personal choice to have a positive outlook during these trying times.
I know that there are students for whom it is harder to adopt a positive outlook. News that is upsetting to many can be deeply traumatizing for some. In many ways, it is a privilege to state that I’ve made a choice to have a positive outlook. But if I can create an environment devoted to learning and positive ideas which can be experienced inclusively with everyone in the class, then I think I will have achieved something meaningful for everyone.
Unfortunately, some students struggle to adopt a positive outlook for a multitude of reasons. Understanding why is proving to be an arduous challenge. I mainly attribute this to my lack of exposure to other worldviews. I grew up in a middle-class family, was never plagued by any major health or familial issues, and came to VT for college (like many others in my school district). During undergrad, I majored in one of VT’s flagship programs, primarily befriended classmates. It wasn’t until after graduation when I realized I unintentionally never sought out extremely diverse perspectives, opinions, and/or schools of thought. One of the resources on this week’s page was Harvard’s Implicit Association Test (IAT). I decided to take the “Gender-Science” IAT; my responses unsurprisingly “…suggested a moderate automatic association for Male with Science and Female with Liberal Arts.” Although my teenage and early college years were perfectly stereotypical, I lacked diversity, which is now proving to be problematic when trying to relate to students.
Thankfully, we live in an era where accessing information takes milliseconds. Being at home gives us more time to pursue our interests. I’ve taken this time to culturally and globally educate myself. It’s been fun and enlightening, and I can definitely sense the payout of being aware of new perspectives. I hope to carry this mentality with me when I leave graduate school, as workplace cultures are a totally different beast.