When tasked with this opportunity to lead a discussion on Culturally Responsive Teaching, I both leapt for joy and cringed in the corner. I am super excited to talk about something I am extremely passionate about while at the same time mortified to tell my peers how they need to self evaluate while at the same time teach a spectrum of students who have different needs, wants, desires, personalities, backgrounds, education, and the list goes on and on. What have I gotten myself into? Here goes….
Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is defined as “An educator’s ability to recognize students’ cultural displays of learning and meaning making and respond positively and constructively with teaching moves that use cultural knowledge as a scaffold to connect what the student knows to new concepts and content in order to promote effective information processing. All the while, the educator understands the importance of being in a relationship and having a social-emotional connecttion to the student in order to create a safe space for learning” (Hammond 15).
Among all the definitions of this concept, this book provides, in my opinion, the most accurate and effective meaning of this term, for it points back to the master and boss of the classroom, the instructor, us!!!! In Hammond’s definition, she points to us, the practitioners, the experts, the adults, to do the work of not only holding the student responsible for his/her education and success but in conjunction with those of us who disseminate information and who create the curriculum and lesson plans. She uses the word relationship pretty often in her text which means as instructors, we have to do more than simply greet students, call roll, answer emails, sit in office hours, and grade papers. Is that part of our jobs, yes, but that is not all that we should be doing. We need to see our students as people who need our guidance, understanding, and sometimes, dare I say, mercy. Our students are not just numbers on a roster or a misplaced period or comma; they are people who deserve to be seen, heard and acknowledged.
At its core, CRT is not merely understanding you have students from different racial and ethnic groups, students who are LGBTQI, deaf students, older students, younger students, male/female students. What CRT calls us to do as instructors is not to instruct but to teach, and there is a difference. A good teacher/professor does what Hammond and others say all the time which is first acknowledge our own implicit biases that may prohibit us from interacting with a certain person or a certain group altogether. Once you have done that, you now have to own it and deal with it. If you are sitting here reading this and say you do not have a problem or apprehension about a certain group, you need to be honest with yourself because we all have some implicit biases even if it is just a smidgen. Hammond insists “This might not be an issue in our day’to-day lives, but when we are the authority figure in the classroom, we have the power to penalize those students who seem to be acting in ways that are inconsistent with our cultural view” (56). Who are you penalizing because of what you think is going on or how you think the student is? Have you done that? I know I have, and I am ashamed.
Ok now that I have told yall I have penalized students (please do not revoke my tenure), what now? Simple!! I am going to have a S.O.D.A. (stop, observe, detach, and awaken). That is not mine; it came from Hammond. After I read this, I really looked at how I approached, interacted with, and reacted to certain groups; I had to check myself.
As I bring my ramble to a close (sorry this is too long), I implore you to be a great teacher/professor and not merely an instructor and to look in the mirror and take inventory of your own crap and shortcomings and biases before you demonize and dismiss our students.
Great Texts to Read:
- Whistling Vivaldi – Claude Steele
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire
- White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son – Tim Wise
- For White Folks Who Teach in The Hood…and the rest of yall too – Christopher Emdin
- That Thing Around Your Neck – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Anything bell hooks
- What are some techniques you use to make sure every student feels comfortable to share in your classroom?
- What are some antiquated or just down right wrong activity or pedagogy that you have axed because you know it was not student-centered?
- What do you want your students to get out of your classroom besides how to use a comma, how to write an essay, how to perform research, etc?
- How do you present yourself as an ally/advocate to ALL students.
- What is the difference between teaching and instructing?