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How to feel a sense of belonging among diverse and marginalized classmates?

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Belonging is as fundamental a human need as food and shelter. This emotional requirement propels our desire to form connections with others and to gain their acceptance. Not only does it lead to happiness, satisfaction, and good mental health, but it also fosters longevity. It’s crucial to ask: does every student in the classroom feel valued, connected, supported, and respected?

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Keys to Student Engagement

In the college setting, fostering a sense of belonging promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion. This results in heightened student engagement and learning. Educators have been nurturing this sense of inclusion and diversity for many years, providing significant benefits to underrepresented and marginalized students. However, the onus also lies on you, the student, to cultivate a sense of belonging toward your classmates. This is essential for your own personal growth, as well as for the development of your peers. A sense of belonging in the classroom is characterized by feelings of mutual understanding, respect, and closeness.

When students feel a sense of belonging and support, they’re reassured they’re not alone. This helps them cope more effectively with stress and challenges, not just in the classroom, but also in every facet of their lives. As a student, it’s crucial to recognize how your individual actions impact the sense of belonging for your peers, including those from diverse and marginalized backgrounds.

What is a diverse classroom?

Diversity encompasses various aspects, including ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language, religion, physical abilities, family background, reading level, personality, and more. Embracing this diversity is paramount and beneficial for students, aiding their personal growth and development.

Why developing a sense of belonging in a diverse classroom is so important?

Diversity encourages you to consider perspectives and viewpoints different from your own. It promotes critical thinking, invites you to scrutinize your beliefs, and helps you see the world through various lenses. This not only fosters creativity and problem-solving abilities among students, but also encourages a more productive academic environment. A diverse classroom, when nurtured appropriately, fosters a sense of belonging for all students, leading to more effective collaboration and improved academic results.

Also Read: How is the National Education Policy Helpful for the Students and their Career Development?

How can you foster a sense of belonging among diverse and  marginalized classmates?

1. By embracing and accepting classroom diversity

At its core, a sense of belonging is built on acceptance and attention. Acknowledge and value the diversity and unique experiences of your marginalized classmates. Pay particular attention to the various factors contributing to their marginalization. Cultivate a non-judgmental approach in your behaviour to make your acceptance more welcoming.

Furthermore, refrain from judging classmates based on their race, culture, physical appearance, or disabilities. Strive to understand and appreciate their differences. Seek help from educators or mentors to gain a deeper understanding of diversity, the reasons behind it, and the diverse perspectives it presents.

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2. By showing empathy

For students from marginalized backgrounds, the classroom or college environment might pose unique challenges or discomfort. Show kindness towards them. By practicing empathy in the classroom, you can better tune into the emotions of all your diverse and marginalized classmates.

Empathy involves imagining and understanding how others think and feel. Other socio-emotional skills, like compassion, recognizing strengths in others, expressing gratitude, and respecting others’ opinions, can also help you foster a sense of belonging towards diverse and marginalized classmates.

3. By creating a physically and emotionally safe space

Students from marginalized backgrounds may be more vulnerable to distressing situations in the classroom. Listening to your peers is the first step towards creating a safe classroom. Each student has the right to voice their opinions, share their experiences, and participate in class without fear or hesitation, ensuring a mentally safe space for everyone.

It’s possible that some classmates might experience physical abuse or bullying. Uphold your moral duty as a peer by abstaining from bullying or causing physical and mental harm to any classmate. However, it isn’t enough to simply avoid causing harm; you should also support your classmates in taking a stand if they face such issues. Remember, all resources at the college should be accessible to everyone equally. Ensure your diverse and marginalized classmates benefit from these resources, and assist them in utilizing them effectively.

Also Read: 8 Awesome Organizations That Help Low-Income Students Get Into College

4. By celebrating diverse cultures

Diverse classrooms consist of students hailing from various cultures. To cultivate a sense of belonging, start by understanding these different cultures. Research and dialogue will help you respect this diversity. Asking classmates about their cultures not only makes them feel valued, but it also fosters a sense of belonging. Creating cultural awareness among other classmates is equally important.

A celebratory atmosphere can make the classroom environment feel warm and inviting. Embrace each other’s festivals, traditional attire, food culture, and beliefs. If you find yourself at odds with the beliefs of some classmates, express your views in a polite and respectful manner to avoid causing offense.

5. By ensuring gender equality

Despite societal advancements, gender imbalance and inequality persist. In regions like India, many girls are confined to gender roles and responsibilities prescribed by society, which can prevent them from seizing numerous educational and professional opportunities, They often feel undervalued, unequal, and at times, unsafe, leading to marginalization.

Due to previous experiences, some girls may feel less confident in expressing themselves, acquiring new skills, and participating in academic and extracurricular activities. You can foster a sense of belonging by helping these classmates, encouraging them to learn new skills, sharing your academic resources, supporting them against any form of abuse, and encouraging their active participation in various activities.

6. By  and prcollaboratingacticing teamwork

Working collaboratively can enhance your sense of belonging and connection with diverse and marginalized classmates. In classrooms where marginalized students often feel left out, collaborative efforts and teamwork can bridge this gap. The more you collaborate with your classmates, the more knowledge you can share with each other. Group studies, project work, and recreational activities can strengthen positive relationships in the classroom. Try to identify and appreciate the unique strengths of each individual during teamwork. This shows your classmates that you respect and accept them as they are.

7. By encouraging and supporting

Providing support is crucial in fostering a sense of belonging among your diverse and marginalized classmates. You can show your support simply by acknowledging them with greetings, making them feel comfortable. If you find yourself unable to help directly, assist them in reaching out to teachers if they feel hesitant.

The language you use plays a significant role in supporting marginalized classmates. Use supportive words and ensure they feel heard. Celebrate your peers’ successes and express your pride in their accomplishments. This not only encourages them to persevere but also fosters personal growth.

Conclusion

Feeling a sense of belonging is not just beneficial for creating a positive learning environment or for your diverse classmates; it also contributes to your own individual growth. It can promote high levels of engagement, positivity, satisfaction, mental and physical well-being, and improved academic performance in your learning space. Fostering a sense of belonging improves relationships with peers, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. These are just a few ways to cultivate a sense of belonging, but you should also explore additional strategies suitable for your particular circumstances.

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