ASK TEACHING TOLERANCE

Advice From the Experts

TT answers your tough questions.

Illustration of various people facing and talking to each other from the top of small buildings.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Q: How can I help students build relationships outside of our white, affluent, segregated community? 

If you’re planning a volunteer opportunity to a food bank or another type of “exposure” experience, please reconsider. If the ultimate goal is to build authentic relationships outside of segregated school communities, exposure experiences will often fall short and may reinforce stereotypes. Contact theory tells us that authentic relationships can be built when certain conditions are met. Members of both groups should have equal status, share personal interactions and work on a project with a common goal. Is there a nearby school you can partner with to develop a cooperative project with the goal of benefiting all students? This could be anything from a co-produced art showcase to the rehabilitation of a basketball court. If so, start making connections at that school. If not, consider giving students opportunities to explore their own community. Encourage them to ask critical questions about how that homogeneity came to be, and invite them to think about whether they’d like to disrupt it. 

 

How do I create accessible field trips for students?

Creating an equitable field trip requires teachers to consider every student’s socioeconomic access and physical and mental health needs in every aspect of the planning and execution. When initially brainstorming a field trip, think about the end goal and commit to giving every student an opportunity to participate. Ask questions such as, “Will the cost prevent any students from attending?” or “What physical or socioemotional accessibility needs do my students have?” 

For any field trip that requires financial contributions from students or their families, develop a plan for financial assistance and make sure there is a clear, private pathway for families or other caregivers to communicate their need. For example, the permission slip can invite families to pay more than the requested amount in order to subsidize costs for other students. Alternatively, your financial assistance plan can include soliciting outside support from local businesses or community members. However, avoid having students fundraise or “earn” their field trip experiences. This can place a burden on students and families who don’t have time or resources to fundraise safely.

When considering the physical accessibility of a field trip, remember to check in with students and families about their needs. Take special note of the potential obstacles you may face at the field trip site and, if possible, make sure to visit the site ahead of time to check for any potential issues. Remember to consider transportation accommodations, such as wheelchair accessibility or the cost of having a school nurse on the trip, if required. Ultimately, your goal is to ensure the trip is a meaningful learning experience that all students can access.

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