Creating a culturally responsive classroom was a top priority for me. I worked for 13 years in Title I schools. These schools were comprised of 85% to 90% minority students. I needed to create a safe environment and a place where they felt comfortable to learn. As an educator, this means more than knowing your content.
Culturally Responsive Education
When I first started teaching in 2004 I can honestly say I didn’t know what Culturally Responsive Education was. What I did know was that I wanted to build a rapport with my students that went beyond the 4 walls of my classroom. “Culturally responsive education is a framework that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning.” Ladson-Billings (1994). I made it a point to acknowledge, respond, and celebrate fundamental cultural references. For instance, in Miami with a large Hispanic community celebrating a “Quinceañera” is a huge deal. So, it was truly an honor when one of my students invited me to celebrate their rite of passage. Also, with Haitian students, they took a lot of pride in Haitian Flag Day. Every May 18, my Haitian students celebrated by wearing their flag’s colors. I shared in their pride by placing a Haitian flag in my classroom. I always tried to value diversity.
Strategies that Help
- Communicate High Expectations– In a culturally responsive classroom, high expectations need to be communicated and clear. All students need to fully understand how to be successful in your classroom. Your expectations should be consistent for all students. Also, modeling individual tasks will model expectations.
- Student-Centered Instruction– Students are supported to become protagonists of their own learning and encouraged to collaborate with peers. The use of project-based learning that is culturally and socially relevant makes a huge impact within the classroom. Edtech helps facilitate this type of learning. Programs like Genius Plaza, Skype Classroom, and Google make this type of cooperation and learning a reality.
- Reshaping the Curriculum– Now more than ever, revisiting your school’s curriculum is a must. The curriculum should be meaningful and student-centered. Topics should entail students’ background and culture. Further, it should address all students’ higher order thinking skills. Till this day there are classrooms using outdated textbooks. Additionally, these textbooks have images and stories the majority of urban kids do not relate to. Have students take advantage of technology and step away from the textbook. Lastly, create activities that are more reflective of your students’ backgrounds.
Make an impact today by helping create a culturally responsive classroom. The rapport you built will last a lifetime for you and your students. In a culturally responsive classroom an educator must be comfortable being uncomfortable. So get out of your comfort zone and build a global classroom.