Just because we teach students from other cultures doesn’t mean we necessarily understand or are sensitive to the backgrounds our students come from. Recognizing differences in food, dance, and dress can create an appreciation for culture, but developing deep cultural sensitivity comes from a different place. Being a ‘culturally responsive’ teacher involves a deep awareness of how our actions impact our students, and how our students’ worlds are affected by the cultures in which they live.
While this is a lifelong process, the journey begins with a few steps:
- Know yourself. Spend some time reflecting on your own experience. How does your background affect your perceptions? What types of experiences do you have with people of different cultural backgrounds? How might these experiences (or lack of) influence your understanding of your students?
- Believe in your students. Regardless of background, all children have an intelligence in some area. Look for these skills and communicate this to them through your teaching style, the materials you choose, and your responses to them.
- Be proactive. Look for ways to actively support and advocate for your students.
- Acknowledge difference. ‘Being colorblind’ means you don’t see a significant part of who a person is. Listen to Diane Harriford describe how to be ‘color conscious’.
Want to know more? See Resources on culturally responsive teaching