TL Standard 5
Before taking EDU 6525 Culturally Responsive Teaching, I felt I had a fairly strong understanding of the term “culturally responsive teaching”. I felt my experience in such a wide range of demographics in three different schools I had taught in had truly opened my eyes and gave me firsthand experience with teaching in ways to reach all of my diverse students. Even though I felt I had a solid foundation of knowledge, I still feel that I learned a lot about the pieces that make me who I am as an educator. We started the quarter off by writing a Self-Awareness Paper that reflected on who we are and what events in our life helped shape us into that person. During the quarter we spent time listening to screencasts, reading over PowerPoint’s, engaging in several class discussion, as well as reading James A. Banks’s book, Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. There have been a few themes during this quarter that we discussed that really stuck with me. One of those themes was culture.
Culture impacts us as educators in many ways. As teachers, we are responsible for providing our students with a wide spread of culture and diversity. What some teachers often forget is, it is just as important to understand our own culture and where we come from, as our students. This helps us find and understand possible biases that we may have. It can also help open our eyes to help find answers to issues we may come across in our classroom with students from a different culture. We need to encourage students to bring concepts and experiences from their home into our classrooms to share. We as teachers need to accept and celebrate those cultures and experiences that our students bring to the table. It is then our responsibility to teach our class about the importance’s of those differences within our room.
Students from different countries have different norms, speak different languages, and have different religions, gestures, boundaries, and values. During my first year teaching, I had a similar experience to the teacher that we learned about from one of our first lectures. Every day, I greet my students at the door and teach them to say “Good morning, Ms. DeFazio” with eye contact. I had a student that refused to look me in my eyes when speaking to me. At first I took it as defiance. After this continued throughout the first 2 weeks of school I spoke with the ELL teacher in my school. While asking her for her opinion/advice, she informed me that in my student’s culture, it was a sign of disrespect to look adults, teachers and elders in their eyes when speaking to them. I felt disappointed in myself for not taking time to learn about her culture from day 1. Once I understood her reason for not making eye contact while speaking to me, we were able to have a discussion about differences in cultures and norms. From that day forward at the beginning of each year, I do a small amount of research into the ethnicities of my students. I have learned about several norms, values, religions and holidays that are very important to my students. Having an understanding of where our students come from and learning about their culture can help us connect and relate to our students, ultimately allowing for more success in our classroom. In chapter one, Banks states, “It is important for teachers to be aware of the personal and cultural knowledge of students when designing curriculum for today’s multicultural schools. Teachers can use student personal cultural knowledge as a vehicle to motivate students and as a foundation for teaching school knowledge (Banks, 12).” It helps our students not only be successful, but it builds a highly respectable relationship between you and the student and their family.
Another theme from this quarter that really stuck with me was Access. The quote from the lecture, “No significant learning occurs without significant relationships” –Dr. James Comer, holds great meaning. Building a solid foundation with each student is so vital in your classroom. Yes, it can sound daunting, but knowing where each of your students and their families come from will give some of the most important insight to understanding the child. Part of the lecture from the week discussing Access touches on how teachers should be aware of gender-based differences. I feel this is something that as a kindergarten teacher, I see frequently. It is often said that “girls mature faster than boys”. In a classroom full of five and six year olds, I really get to test out that popular statement. After listening to this lecture I feel that I might have found a gender bias within myself. I began wondering if because of that statement, sometimes my patience levels can vary, depending on the students’ gender. I tend to have a lower tolerance when girls in my classroom act out than for boys. My bias favors the boys in my classroom because in a way, I expect it from the boys at this age due to the generalized assumption that has been made by society. Gender and racial bias has been around for many many years. In the Banks text he states, “Further, regardless of their academic interests or specializations, African American scholars often are expected to be specialists in African American studies (Banks, 34-35).” Even though these African American scholars were very well educated and intelligent, they were expected to focus on the studies from their culture rather than being able to choose the direction of study all because of the color of their skin.
Another piece that I really connected with was how I want to work more on cultivating curiosity and creativity within my classroom. This is something I focused my action research project around for our other class. I was able to survey my students to see what intrigued them and to also find what makes learning fun for them. Then depending on their answers, I put my students in smaller groups so they could work with their fellow classmates with similar interests. This allowed for my students to have the chance and opportunity to express their knowledge of the curriculum in different ways that was intriguing to them. It is important to always make sure we are providing our students with equal access to success and an excellent education, regardless of race, gender, social class, and ethnicity.
Listening to the screencast during week 7 on Materials really made me think deeply about the curriculum that we are told to teach our students. Right in the beginning of the screencast it stated “Curriculum is not a static “thing” that teachers deliver to children, but it is really a subtle negotiation between what society desires children to be taught and their won interest and desires.” I have always viewed curriculum as something that the district provides us with, that we are required to teach. Just as any other teacher would tell you, the curriculum by itself is not enough to provide all of our students with a well-balanced education. We always have to supplement our curriculum to better suit our individual students and their needs. When I think about Wonders, enVision and all of the other boxed curriculum, I can see small pieces of the stereotypes and biases that were mentioned in the screencast for this week. Regardless if these biases and stereotypes were a conscience or unconscious decision to add, I see evidence in the kindergarten curriculum that is feeding into racial stereotypes that we are teaching our students at such a young age. These are mainly through pictures and illustrations within the stories that the students hear several times each week.
I feel that it is very important to have the conversation with our students (at any age) about truth in media. Kids are sponges and they are spending more and more time in front of the TV and playing videogames. This connected well with our class from last quarter on digital citizenship. We need to help our students learn how to find reliable sources and teach them to not believe everything they see and hear. Many students do not feel it is okay to challenge what they hear. It is easy to get wrapped up in our boxed curriculum but I feel that it is just as important to pull in lessons to teach students how to problem solve and challenge what they see and hear. I was excited to start teaching my kindergarteners general lessons such as these about challenging what they see and read. Many of them found it to be very silly and at times, uncomfortable to be challenging authors and their curriculum during the first few lessons!
The last theme that I wanted to discuss is communication. There were two major points that really stuck with me. It was discussed that teachers in the U.S. typically teach in a passive-receptive and teacher-centered classroom. Students sit and passively and listen to the lecture and wait to be called upon to share. In our culture, this is normal. If our administrator were to walk into our classroom for an observation and our students were blurting out during our lesson, it would be viewed as behavior management problems. Something I really want to do, is sit down and have a conversation with my administrator about that exact example and get her thoughts on the topic. In the lecture, it also spoke of the difference between a black vs white churches and how they are structured so differently. As mentioned, the pastors in black churches rely on their members speaking out saying “amen” all throughout the sermon. I feel that it can be very easy for teachers (including myself) to overlook simple customs of a culture and how they communicate and immediately expect for them to transform and adapt to our “norm”. I feel that education programs at universities should include a course that teaches undergrads about the importance of these cultural norms.
The second part that really stuck with me from week 8’s theme of Communication was the discussion about ELL students in our schools. I feel that my school district has an adequate ELL program for student’s grades 1-5 for elementary levels. However, in kindergarten, ELL is basically nonexistent. They pull and train IAs who do not have a degree in ELL or even a teaching certificate. Our school district runs a separate program for kindergarten, this program pulls students out of the classroom and has students doing lessons that are not helpful to their learning. I frequently find irritated with the lack of assistance and education this program provides my ELL students. I have worked now in 2 separate schools where 85% of my students are ELL and they are not getting the services they need and deserve. As we read in the presentation, to engage ELLs they need critical thinking, interaction and comprehensibility. Kindergarten is the foundation for reading and writing and so much more. I feel our district needs to really think hard about how they can beef up our ELL for younger children to help set those students up for success. At this point in our district, I feel we are doing our kindergarten ELL students a disservice. I hope in the upcoming years we are able to apply what we know ELL students need and make it happen at all ages.
Overall, this course has made me challenge my own thoughts and views on many important issues like culture and religion. I have discovered new things about who I am as a teacher in my classroom. I have always thought that I did a good job teaching a diverse classroom. I feel that I have found several places for growth in my career. I can say that because of this class I have become more aware of myself, my students and how I teach my class. I look forward to continuing the applications of my new learning to better serve my students in the upcoming years as well as potentially lead a staff as a future administrator.
Banks, J. (1996). Multicultural education: Transformative knowledge and action. Amsterdam Avenue, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching theory, research, and practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hammond, Z. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Corwin.
McIntosh, P. (1989). White Priviledge: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from https://www.isr.umich.edu/home/diversity/resources/white-privilege.pdf
Peggy McIntosh: Beyond the Knapsack. (n.d.). Retrieved May 13, 2015, from http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-46-spring-2014/feature/peggy-mcintosh-beyond-knapsack
Wlodkowski, R., & Ginsberg, M. (1995). A Framework for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Retrieved May 13, 2015, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept95/vol53/num01/A-Framework-for-Culturally-Responsive-Teaching.aspx