Being a culturally responsive teacher means much more than food, fun, and festivals. It means recognizing and honoring that there are various cultural differences in the classroom because there are students from multiple cultures in the classroom. It means reflecting on your own culture and position of power and understanding the assumptions you might make about your students because of your own life experiences. And it means knowing your students as individuals, not as labels or based on racial or cultural assumptions.
U.S. education is based in a particular model of knowing that places not only certain events, but also certain ways of learning and certain ways of behaving as the right thing to know, way to be, or way to learn. If school is a place where not only do you never learn about the things your family talks about or accomplishments of people that look like you, but the ways that you learn with your family and community are not present and the ways that you act with your family and community are not allowed, school is probably not a very comfortable place to be.
As teachers, so many of our exclusionary practices are ones that we do not even recognize. Practices that we have known and loved our whole lives may have implications for students that we would never even consider simply because of cultural differences. Our favorite books may actually send exclusionary messages to the children that we teach. Culturally relevant curriculum asks us to know and care who are students are as whole people. It asks us to use texts that reflect stories, histories, and characters that our students will be able to relate to. Finally it asks us to be reflective about our own practices and the cultural assumptions and messages embedded within them.
So what are some general culturally responsive practices to begin with? Try some of these:
Greet each and every student with a warm welcome and genuine interest in their well being every day.
Run class meet times by student interests.
Regular reflective processin time that allows students to wrte or otherwise express whatever emotions or events they may be grappling with.
Communication of high expectations: There are consistent messages, from both the teacher and the whole school, that students will succeed, based upon genuine respect for stuents and belief in student capability.
Active teaching methods: Instruction is designed to promote student engagement by requiring that students play an active role in crafting curriculum and developing learning activities.
Teacher as facilitator: Within an active teaching environment, the teacher's role is one of guide, mediator, and knowledgable consultant, as well as instructor.
Positive perspectives on parents and families of culturally and linguistic diverse students. There is ongoing participation in dialogue with students, parents, and community members on issues important to them, along with the inclusion of these individuals and issues in classroom curriculum and activities.
Cultural sensitivity: To maximize learning opportunities, teachers gain knowledge of the cultures represented in their classrooms and translate this knowledge into instructional practice.
Reshaping the curriculum: A reshaped curriculum is culturally responsive to the background of students.
Cutlurally Mediated Instruction: Instruction is characterized by the use of culturally mediated cognition, culturally appropriate social situations for learning, and culturally valued knowledge in curriculum content.
Student controlled classroom discourse: Students are given the opportunity to control some portion of the lesson, providing teachers with insight into the ways that speech and negotiation are used in the home and community.
Small Group Instruction and Academically Realted Discourse: Instruction is organized around low-pressure, student-controlled learning groups that can assist in the development of academic language.