I have recently finished reading "The Motivated Brain - Improving Student Attention, Engagement, and Perseverance" by Gayle Gregory and Martha Kaufeldt. There was a portion of the book that addresses being culturally responsive and some of my takeaways.
It is important to draw on prior knowledge! Know your students, know the curriculum, help make connections and build bridges for them. As we know, the field of teaching is not always the most diverse, even though this may differ from building to building, however the authors stated very succinctly, "The more we learn about [our students'] culture and social groups, family makeup, favorite activities, strengths, and concerns, the more empathy we have for our students." And this really spoke volumes to me. How can teaching happen if our students don't know that we care, know and value them? The authors shared how research shows a "deficit perspective" with regards to minority groups and their potential and achievement. It struck me that as a result, it is often with these groups that teachers may revert to direct instruction, and skill and drill tactics, believing that this is what these students need to learn. It is important not to lower your standards, or dismiss the opportunity to provide students with feedback, or ask high level questions of students, especially with minority groups! As per the TONS of research that is out there, as I'm sure you've heard, read, or seen... you should use best practices and strategies to support and scaffold for students. Some of these strategies might include graphic organizers, visuals, hands-on activities, and vocab support and analogies that relate back to a student's culture. Last but not least, you are not just their teacher, you wear many hats. I think one of the most important hats is that of an advocate.
I would like for you to consider, reflect on, or even start to dialogue with others on the following questions:
- What are some things you and your colleagues do to activate prior knowledge?
- What are some ways you can continue to learn about your students outside of the beginning of year activities and introductory surveys? How can you share this information with colleagues to help build community?
- Where might be an area you have displayed or expressed a "deficit perspective" and how might you change this?
- What strategies have you implemented, or seen implemented that you want to bring back to life in your classroom?
- What might be some ways you can, or already have, advocated for your students?