The challenge of inclusive teaching

It’s home office time, day two. On the agenda: a term-paper and teaching-related matters. Because yes – come March, I will teach again. Naturally, I am pretty busy preparing for it. Our university provides a teaching handbook, which is overall a good thing but after reading it, I am kind of stressed out.

There is a longish (and, in principle, very helpful) inclusivity chapter, which gives teachers information on a range of special needs they might encounter and what could be helpful in these cases. However, the premise seems to be that teaching only counts as inclusive if all possible special needs are taken into account in advance, so that there is no need to “come out” for the students who have them. This is surely a nice idea, but to be fair, this puts teachers under a lot of pressure and it will probably not be needed most of the time. And sometimes, it even gets a bit paradoxical. For example, one of the ideas is that it should not make a difference whether one attends classes or not. So I will probably settle for some sort of compromise and ask people to let me know if they would like me to take something into account that has not been attended to yet.

But it’s not as if reading the handbook has not had an impact on me. I am thinking about changing the way we all address each other in the classroom to a combination of first names and the German formal version of “you”. This has the nice side effect of being gender-neutral, while also helping with all of us learning each others first names (instead of only me learning my students last names in class while they have to ask each other for their first names outside of class) and being a nice middle-ground between formal and informal.

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