Preventing the Perilous Impact of Microaggressions in K-12 classrooms

Microaggressions have been studied extensively throughout the years and numerous studies continue to reveal the harmful impact on students. The goal of this blog is to further explore microaggressions and to shift mindsets. When our beliefs change, our practices will surely follow.

Teachers can leverage their power to be the most helpful for students who are marginalized in our classrooms, schools, and society. Therefore, this blog will include strategies and resources to empower, celebrate, respect, and appreciate all students to reduce the occurrences of racial microaggressions which can impede academic success for learners.

    1. Pronounce students’ names correctly. Many students have names that are difficult to pronounce but articulating names correctly conveys that students are unique, and we honor them as individuals.
    1. Listen to students instead of denying their experiences by questioning the credibility and validity of their stories.
    1. Instead of attempting to find the “bright side” of oppression as in this recent example from Great Hearts Middle Schools . Refrain from assigning class projects that are sexist, racist, or promote oppression because they create a learning environment that will further marginalize specific groups of students.  
    1. Cultivate a classroom culture where students from historically marginalized groups are empowered during sensitive or controversial topics found in American and World history.
    1. Develop classroom and school student surveys that assess students’ perceptions of bias. A Google search will yield many examples at the college level but most can be adapted for K-12.
  1. Assess the bias of the teachers and leaders in the building. Although this survey is designed for college faculty, many of the questions can be modified and will yield valuable data regarding perceptions and beliefs at the K-12 level.

Microaggression is topic with multiple layers and years of research, so to support your learning I included additional resources for you to explore. Learn about the different types of microaggressions from a student. Access the short video here.

Also, this video does an excellent job of explicating microaggressions and how to be an active bystander.

Finally, for my data gurus. This report presents research findings on racial microaggressions that occur in learning environments at the University of Illinois Urbana campus. Although in a higher education setting, the research team invited 4,800 students of color during the 2011- 2012 to complete this survey. K-12 educators can glean from the student narratives to obtain a perspective from those who experienced and are affected by microaggressions.

It is my hope that the resources, reflection time, and additional self-study will usher in positive, meaningful, and consistent actions in classrooms across America.