Quiz: Responding to Common Classroom Scenarios

Below are descriptions of common classroom scenarios. For each scenario, select the action that is most likely to promote belonging.


On the first day of school, a teacher is teaching a good-morning song to her kindergarteners. She notices that a student’s name - Madhuvanti - is difficult for her to pronounce. What should she do?

Incorrect. Giving students easier to pronounce names can make them feel disrespected, or invisible. Incorrect. This answer is incomplete. While you might stumble a bit at first, it’s important to keep working until you get it right. Correct! It’s important to pronounce students’ names correctly, even if it takes a bit of trial and error. This helps students feel recognized, respected, and valued individually and culturally.

An eighth-grade class is discussing a book about an African American family. One of the major themes of the book is race and racism. The classroom consists of mostly White students and is taught by a White teacher. What should the teacher do?

Incorrect. While asking a student to give the perspective of their racial or ethnic group is almost always well intentioned, it can have unintended negative consequences. Many students feel uncomfortable and tokenized when they are asked to speak for an entire group of people. Correct! This type of discussion allows all students to reflect on how similar or different they are without assuming that the African American students will automatically feel aligned with the characters, or that White students won't see similarities to their own lives. Incorrect. While it’s important to not ask students to speak for their entire group, this does not mean that race should be ignored.

A sixth-grade teacher wants to send home a letter to her new students welcoming them to her homeroom class and to middle school. What would be the best way to do this?

Correct! This teacher does two great things: First, she uses students’ first names, which signals to students that this is a place where they are recognized and where they can make relationships. Second, her letter is well timed. The first day of school is a time when students, especially new middle school students, will be especially likely to be uncertain about their belonging. A letter sent at this time can help set the tone for the rest of the year. Incorrect. While sending home a letter is a great way to signal to students that this is a warm environment where they will be welcome, this answer is missing a key piece - using students’ first names. Incorrect. While sending home a personalized letter is important, this strategy should be better timed. Students will not have the same concerns about belonging in the middle of the year compared to the beginning of the year.

A computer science teacher wants to decorate his classroom. What should he do?

Incorrect. The domain of Computer Science is thought of as stereotypically male. Decorating the room with Star Trek posters and video game boxes (both considered stereotypically male) can signal to women that computer science is an area that they are incompatible with, thus lowering their interest in the subject. Correct! Including neutral decorations like plants, and including diverse representations of successful people in the field can signal to women and underrepresented minorities that computer science is a place where they belong and where they can succeed. Incorrect. The domain of Computer Science is thought of as stereotypically male. Decorating the room with posters of only famous White men can signal to women and underrepresented minorities that Computer Science is an area that they may not be able to succeed in.
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