Before embarking on this program, I had general ideas of what it meant to be culturally responsive, especially as a World Language teacher and someone who taught in a highly diverse school overseas (Australia). However, specific strategies I would not have been able to discuss. After taking Culturally Responsive Teaching, I feel more confident speaking to colleagues about or digesting research related to multicultural education. This topic is integrally intertwined with social justice, is a passion of mine, and is one area I can see myself taking a leadership role in. It is a challenging area, as one is never an expert; there is always more to learn and further perspectives to consider.
Key understandings of EDU 6525 Culturally Responsive Teaching were:
■Understand how culture impacts teaching and learning
■Understand how increased sensitivity to multiple cultures in the classroom impacts education
■Assume instructional leadership for school-wide improvement in providing culturally responsive instruction
Key focal points that we as educators must consider when striving to be more culturally responsive are:
■Personalizing cultural diversity
–Role, legal issues
■Instruction & materials
–Culturally responsive teaching
■Interaction & communication
–Language bias, communication patterns
■Parents & community
–Strategies, impacts of society/parent attitudes
80% of teachers in the US are white, while only around 50% of our students are white. Gary Howard outlines five steps for developing culturally responsive schools that begin to address this reality. Administrators and schools need to work to:
Phase 1: Build trust-“One essential outcome of this initial phase is to establish that racial, cultural, and economic differences are real–and that they make a difference in education outcomes.” (Howard 2007, p.9)
Phase 2: Engaging Personal Culture-One interesting resource we used was: Your ethnic racial cultural heritage. We also had to reflect on our own cultural reality and how it impacts us as educators: Who I am and my personal identity is shaped by my past and present
Phase 3: Confronting Social Dominance and Social Justice
Phase 4: Transforming Instructional Practices
Phase 5: Engaging the Entire School Community
Gary Howard’s article “Whites in Multicultural Education: Rethinking Our Role” discusses what is means to be a white American today and how historical realities of white Americans’ immigrant ancestors have affected the white cultural identity (Banks, 1996). His core question is intriguing: How do we work together to create a nation where all cultures are accorded dignity and the right to survive? (p. 324) It requires humility, recognizing a need to give up power structures that perpetuate white advantage at the expense of others, and most importantly, supporting actions to increase multicultural education.
Banks mentions that “educational reform movements related to diversity… require the active involvement of scholars personally connected to and influenced by the fate of the movement, as well as sustained support by ethnic and minority communities.” (Banks, p. 38-39) He also goes on to discuss that creating a school environment that is truly accessible to all means reforming whole school structures, “including the curriculum, teaching methods and materials, school policy, counseling, teacher attitudes and expectations, and the learning styles and languages accepted in the school.” (p.42)
In our our schools we need more discussion about 1st or 2nd generation immigrant access to the school system. I feel that this is a very pressing issue in most schools around the country, especially as we received new waves of unaccompanied refuge children from Central America and new waves of immigrants fleeing conflict zones around the world. These families need more, including specific programs to help families understand and navigate the US school system, language and study support for ELL students, additional man-power to support overburdened ELL teachers and counselors and re-training of staff on how to effectively create and implement materials that can assist ELL students in the main-stream classroom. As Banks mentions, to promote truly multiethnic education, we must reform many aspects of the school structure “including the curriculum, teaching methods and materials, school policy, counseling, teacher attitudes and expectations, and the learning styles and languages accepted in the school.” I think it would be relevant to have a more focused discussion on specific ways in which we can improve access for 1st and 2nd generation immigrants to the US by reforming our school systems. As part of this course, I created Integration and Action Plan to engage staff, families, and students in culturally appropriate and responsive ways, applying my learning from throughout the course.
The content of this course engaged my own cultural experiences. I grew up in Boise, Idaho which, a very white area. My cousin, who is African-American, moved away to California, primarily because she felt uncomfortable in a town and school where she was one of the only students of color. Although my family is socially progressive, the lack of diversity impacted my socialization. In my family we didn’t talk about race or cultural issues. We had the luxury of saying we were “color-blind” and ignoring issues related to ethnicity or culture. These days my husband who is Bolivian has opened the door in my family and provided my parents with an avenue to discuss racial issues to some extent, but it is still awkward, simply due to a lack of experience discussing such matters with people who aren’t white. In this way this course gave me a sense of freedom, as these topics are ones that are still taboo in my world, except with my friends and family of color. Most of my white friends and relatives are not open to talking about white privilege, and especially not open to any conversation that consists of giving up white privilege, as Peggy McIntosh mentions in her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” (See link-UnpackingTheKnapsack) I strongly agree with the overriding theme that both Howard and McIntosh stress: that education is one of the most important vehicles for change, because first white Americans must be educated to recognize that “white” doesn’t equate to “without culture” or being color blind but does equate to privilege and power of systems and information that needs to be shared with all.
Banks, J. (1996). Multicultural education, transformative knowledge, and action: Historical and contemporary perspectives. New York: Teachers College Press.
Howard, G. R. (2007). As Diversity Grows, So Must We. Educational Leadership, 16-22.
Howard, G. R. (1993). Whites in Multicultural Education: Rethinking Our Role. Phi Delta Kappan, 75(1), 36-41.
McIntosh, P. (1990). White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Independent School,Winter.