Everyone has bias. Yes, even you. As teachers (or administrators) we are often in front of our students more than even their own families, so it’s important that we understand how to check our own bias at the classroom door. Here are some helpful tips for the start of the school year.
First - what exactly is a bias? Simply put, a bias is a prejudice either for or against something or someone. In Education, this bias (usually for against someone due to their race, sexual orientation, religion, gender or ability level) can have extremely negative consequences that can stick with a child for the remainder of their life. Usually, our bias is unconscious, meaning we don’t always recognize when we are being prejudice. However, even if we don’t “mean to” have a bias, we are still responsible for checking it.
STEP 1: ACKNOWLEDGE YOU HAVE BIAS.
Say it with me, everyone has a bias, whether we know it or not. As teachers, what we say and do has a profound impact on the children we serve, so it’s important to recognize our own bias and address it immediately. If you think you are an unbiased person, be reflective about your words and actions and ask yourself why you think the way you do about students or their families. Once you’ve acknowledged that you have a bias, it’s time to actively work on checking it at the door so you are not allowing your bias to influence the way you teach.
STEP 2: LEARN ABOUT YOUR BIAS.
A great resource for determining your unconscious bias is Harvard University’s Implicit Test. There are many tests available, and you should take as many as you can. Even in areas I thought I wouldn’t show a bias, my unconscious bias reared it’s ugly head, and I will address it.
STEP 3: EDUCATE YOURSELF
Once you’ve determine your biases, it’s time to educate yourself. Below are some resources I highly suggest!
STEP 4: BE REFLECTIVE, AND ENCOURAGE REFLECTION IN OTHERS
It can be extremely difficult to recognize your own bias, and even more difficult to be transparent about it. However, just because you’ve done the work, doesn’t mean you are an expert and it definitely doesn’t mean that people will listen to you. It’s important that you tread lightly when discussing bias with others. Should you have an open dialogue about it? Absolutely. Be sure to remain objective and use facts rather than opinions. By being a reflective role model, you can encourage others to be reflective as well, but you can’t force it. If you are bothered by someone’s unconscious bias, address it with them, but be prepared to walk away from the relationship if they are not willing to be reflective.
Stay tuned for more blogs about recognizing and addressing your unconscious bias!