Last week we created lists of teacher actions that create unwelcoming and difficult to engage in. After sharing a few different ideas about how the activity made us feel in Mentimeter (and there were a variety of feelings) a few key members of the group talked about where feelings of belonging come from. The idea was shared that every community is different and when one is created there can be a sense that some people belong more than others. When someone feels like they have been “othered” it can impact us physically as well as our learning as humans (according to the facilitators who referenced research). Othering is not always intentional. We can accidentally do it. Our goal today was to talk about how to move towards being inclusive.

It can be a vulnerable activity to talk about failures in a group. We need to create a space where it is okay to be vulnerable and to admit where we have made mistakes – it takes courage to do that.

I entered today really excited by the promise of rebuilding what we destroyed and coming up with solutions. Unfortunately, it takes more time than we had to accomplish that task and I left the session with unfinished thoughts. Improvement is an ongoing process and it takes time and bravery to openly reflect on what we can do to be more inclusive. Today I was missing insight into my own weaknesses. The group I was put into had only two people, which made it hard to get an in-depth discussion going. We also built our list off of things that we see others doing and most of my list I either do not do or am oblivious to doing it.

Image of a person looking sad while looking at a circle of other happy persons.
“Left Out” Image of a person looking sad while looking at a circle of other happy persons.

We were asked to review last week’s list and ask:

  1. Is there anything on the list from last week that resembles what we do in any way?
  2. Decide on steps to take to stop doing those things or bring about the opposite result.

In the table below are a couple of things that the two of us discussed. Partway through the activity, we joined a new group that was still talking about what makes an exclusionary environment. Jumping into a new group was an interesting experience and I admittedly felt a little out of place despite their effort to include the newcomers in the conversation. I mostly listened (which is a good thing) and left feeling uncertain about what I could and could not blog about from those discussions. I have instead added to my table below in isolation after the session ended instead of including anything about others beyond the idea about what to reflect on under exclusionary practices.

Exclusionary Practices Do I do it?How to stop doing it – Or can I?
Reminding students about upcoming assignments.I remind them in the course shell but I typically do not post announcements about them. I have everything in a calendar as well and it is in the syllabus. We also talk about them in class.I think what I am doing now is enough to support learning.
Requiring textbooks I try not to. In most classes I have alternatives. When there is no alternative I highly recommend them. I do my best to provide alternatives but that is not always possible. I need to look for funding for open textbook development. Right now that is all I can do.
Rushing during class Yes, I am guilty of this – in some courses more than others. There are some really content-heavy classes that I teach. Move more content into asynchronous activities to make room for discussion – maybe. That might not work in some cases but in others, students don’t do the asynchronous activities. This is a really hard one. I need more time to reflect on this. Ironically, I do not think I had enough time today to discuss this in our community.
Limited social awareness I am not aware if I have enough awareness in the Zoomiverse – this could be an area of weakness. Get to know students better. Maybe have some social activities drop-in sessions for students and faculty.
Not noticing when someone wants to speak I have been the person who wanted to speak that was not noticed in past situations. I am likely guilty of this. I do not know. I try to notice and I also try not to single people out.
Not being present There are times when I am not 100% present at the moment. Today in one of my classes I was feeling a little “off my game” and self-conscious. I close all the browser tabs that are not needed for a class or move them to my other screen prior to class. I also try to focus by cleaning my space and moving my to-do list out of sight. There are times when I could do better here by making sure I eat before class (grabs snack to prep for my next class). I could also build in time to consciously remind myself to be present. Maybe like a pre-class meditation that says “focus” (thankfully my son stopped screaming “I want mommy” before my next class states).
Talking too much instead of letting others talk This depends on the day and sometimes the students want me to speak a lot. It can be hard to predict the optimal level of me talking for a given class. There are definitely days that I talk too much. Talk less. Most of my classes have some kind of alternate way to get students to interact. Some students are worried about talking because of potential judgment from peers so I think that is important. I want to talk less without singling people out or letting one voice dominate the conversation … I guess the only way is to be adaptable.
Failing to acknowledge the positive I use to do this more than I do now. There are days where I still default to wanting to point out ideas for improvement before saying what was well done. I tend to notice things to improve more than things that I am doing well … except today I am having a hard time identifying what more I can do while maintaining my own sanity. Everyone likes to be told when they are doing a good job. Every time I am providing feedback to students I remind myself of this. I think that it would also help to try and purposefully compliment students more often in class – and of course, make sure I am not focusing on any one particular student.
Positioning I was thinking yesterday about how I need to position myself as a white heterosexual professor who is aware that I speak from a place of privilege next term in my empowerment class where I teach about social inequity, racism, and issues faced by other equity deserving groups. But … why don’t I do that in other classes? I think I should make positioning of myself part of my normal course introductions. Who knows how it might impact students in my classes even when I am talking about other topics.

I feel like I have failed to identify enough tangible strategies to be more inclusive in the short session and time following it. I think I need more time and discussion with students to identify what weaknesses to fix and how to fix them. Most of the time if I know something excludes someone I have already tried as much as possible to fix the action/behaviour within the time I have to do so. Students know best what they need from me. Now the question is: How do I make them feel comfortable enough telling me what they need? Some certainly do (especially students who I have taught several times). I would like to think that they already do, but how would I know who does not feel comfortable expressing themselves?


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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