New book teaches teachers how to create inclusive classrooms

Kathleen Gould Lundy wants to create classrooms that are inclusive for students by helping teachers to recognize and value diversity as well as to question how concepts, ideas and subject materials are taught. Her new book Teaching Fairly in an Unfair World offers teachers strategies, techniques and interventions to make their classrooms inclusive.

“To acknowledge, learn about and celebrate diversity is a necessary part of curriculum implementation in today’s classroom,” says Lundy, coordinator of Destination Arts, a partnership between York’s Faculties of Education and Fine Arts. “It is crucial for all of us to co-create classrooms that reflect our students’ interests, racial and cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation, family relationships, special needs and unique abilities.”

The book contains 50 different ways teachers can help to make the classroom more inclusive and to reflect the experiences of students. It also offers teachers a wealth of challenging, open-ended pursuits that give students a voice and help them better understand their world. And it explores opportunities for students to connect with social justice issues in the real world through imagined experiences found in short stories, novels, plays, picture books, graphic novels and primary source documents, such as letters.

“As teachers read the book, they will learn how to scaffold the strategies so that the students are drawn into many different kinds of experiences where they think critically, feel deeply and reflect openly with others about what they understand,” says Lundy.

“For me an inclusive curriculum is an approach to teaching and learning that recognizes and values the rich diversity of our schools, our students, our communities and the global population. The goal of an inclusive curriculum is to create a learning environment that reflects, affirms and validates the diversity and complexity of the human experience.”

Right: Kathleen Gould Lundy            

Lundy’s work in inclusive education began in the 1980s when she worked with the Equity Studies Department at the Toronto Board of Education. With the changing demographic in schools, educators wanted to learn new ways of thinking about teaching and learning that would take the emerging diversity into account. Lundy worked with elementary and secondary schools to achieve inclusiveness in the classroom.

“First, we realized that as teachers from varied backgrounds, we needed to acknowledge our own stories first and then unpack our own assumptions about people different than ourselves,” says Lundy. “Second, we found that we could only effectively build classroom communities where students discovered their voices if we welcomed, hounoured and wove their stories, languages, situations, relationships and identities into the tapestry that we call the curriculum.”

The goal was to embrace diversity, not ignore it. Instead of continuing to teach in traditional ways, the idea was to work with the knowledge and experiences the students brought with them, what Lundy calls the “wisdom that lay like landscapes of opportunity in our classrooms.”

“So, we began by getting to know our kids, finding out who they were and where they came from, and what they wanted and needed to learn. We spent time assessing their strengths and inventing new ways of reaching them,” says Lundy. “We looked for source material that mirrored their personal experiences of living in the world so that they were immediately engaged and could see themselves in the curriculum.”

Lundy’s work in drama gave her the opportunity to explore a diverse range of experiences with the students, allowing them to see different perspectives, learn empathy, think critically and understand how complicated and unfair life can sometimes be.

“In this book, I wanted to tell the story of my teaching journey to embrace differentiated, inclusive curriculum. I write about teaching fairly in the first part; in the second part I write about how to teach about fairness,” says Lundy. “I tell the stories about my struggles, about innovative projects focusing on student voices, about classrooms that presented me with challenges and about teachers and students who pushed me to learn about teaching in new ways.”

Lundy suggests that teachers critically examine what they are trying to do with their students as well as find out about them and their lived experience and how it impacts what is going to be taught to them.

“What do your students already know that you do not? How can your worlds coalesce so that you can establish a relationship based on genuine interest in one another? It is important to look beyond one’s self and to reach out to the student who needs to learn in different ways,” she says.

Lundy has been involved in teaching inclusive curriculum and the arts for more than 30 years. She is also the author of Leap into Literacy: Teaching the Tough Stuff So it Sticks! and What Do I Do About the Kid Who…? 50 Ways to Turn Teaching into Learning.

To order a copy of Teaching Fairly in an Unfair World or one of Lundy’s other two books, visit the Pembroke Publishers Web site.