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Simple Things You Can Do To Be More Inclusive At School

In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM), here is a list of 10 simple and little things you can do at school that may make a big difference. While this is not specific to folks with disabilities, we can be aware of people who may feel on the outside…because we’ve all been there. 

  1. When you walk into the lunch room, look around. If you see somebody sitting alone, invite them to join you or better yet, ask if you can sit with them. Even if they say no, asking is a good place to start to help them feel welcome and if they say no, maybe try again in a few days. 
  2. If you see somebody standing alone, say hi. Check in. Maybe they are waiting for their ride or maybe they are having a hard moment so just say hi. If something is wrong, you can be a line of support. 
  3. Reach out to people you don’t know as well (online, text, or in-person). How Are You is a powerful question, it lets people know you care. 
  4. Wave and smile at people in the hallway. It costs literally nothing and makes people feel great. 
  5. Treat people the way you want to be treated. We started learning this in elementary school (and at ynagogue) and it still rings true, maybe even more so during high school when things can be hard. 
  6. Send a message of gratitude to a friend, family member, or teacher. We all need to feel appreciated sometimes. 
  7. If you see somebody not eating in the lunchroom, offer a snack (first make sure they don’t have any food allergies). Sharing a meal is a great way to make a new best friend.
  8. If you are able to, carry a couple of extra dollars on you to help someone who needs a snack. We have all forgotten our lunch or lunch money and know how isolating it can be when that happens and you are not sure how to speak up. If students looked around and saw somebody not eating and either shared their food or lent them a few bucks, this world would be a little bit of a better place. 
  9. Gym is terrible for almost all of us. We tried to come up with ways to be more inclusive but it’s hard to do when you are also struggling. So just keep in mind, almost everyone you are in gym with doesn’t want to be there either. With that said, if you are in a position to pick teams, try to include everyone, even those who may be on the sidelines or not very good  at sports. 
  10. Don’t just agree! Sometimes it’s easier to go along with mean comments, but you have the power to change the conversation. If mean things are being said about another student, you don’t have to agree. You can speak up if you feel comfortable or curve the conversation to be about something else. 

Being inclusive isn’t about having all of the answers or doing everything perfectly, it’s about wanting to be inclusive! It’s about caring, knowing that every person has value, and It’s about being an ally and showing up, even imperfectly.

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