The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was drafted to ensure that students with disabilities are entitled to a free public education tailored to their specific needs and designed to prepare them for post-education choices about employment, further education, and independent living.

By doing a simple internet search, you will see there is no shortage of inspirational quotes about promoting diversity and inclusivity: “Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work,” –Andrés Tapia. “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” –Verna Myers. “When everyone is included, everyone wins.” –Jesse Jackson

There is a reason this topic is discussed so frequently and emphasized often. Inclusivity brings together general education and special education teachers together, creating a support system for the special ed teachers and familiarity among all students as they grow alongside each other in a general education classroom environment. This also leads to a decrease in bullying and a remarkable increase in soft skills that all students will need in life, such as empathy and active listening.

It can take time for new students to relax and feel comfortable enough to contribute. Some exercises to do in a classroom to promote inclusivity involve bonding with your students by sharing some fun, personal anecdotes about yourself. Ask each student to share something that will help other classmates get to know them. There are many variations of this exercise, but the primary purpose is to show that the classroom is a safe space to be open and authentic.

Through the wonders of technology, there are few limits to the ways that teachers can be comprehensive. Students have shown higher class averages concerning focus and attentiveness when a lesson is taught using gamified visual lessons. Another great way to engage students and promote inclusivity is by inviting a guest speaker who appeals to your students. This might be a sports player or local celebrity, or even a virtual guest who appears remotely on-screen.

When there is an opportunity to explore or celebrate heritage days, take the time to go deeper. Ask about topics that are not part of the curriculum but are in the public lexicon or currently trending in the news. Call on students to suggest answers, encouraging everyone to try their best shot. Regardless of the guesses, praise anyone who contributes. 

This article was originally published at