In order to better my ability to embed Hammond's aspects of culturally responsive teaching, I need to think about how I will translate this into easily remembered actions.
Via a number of learning events related to cultural awareness, I've learned about a number of my own cultural predispositions, and that awareness has helped me to self coach myself to minimize the negative impact and often false knowledge those preconceptions create. For example, via television, family conversations, and discriminatory attitudes in my cultural groups and upbringing, I have a number of deeply held false stereotypes. Awareness of those stereotypes helps me to self coach myself out of a visceral reaction to a more intelligent, rational reaction. I will often silently say to myself, I am feeling _____ because of _______, but I intelligently know that's not an accurate response given the way this understanding has been ingrained in me via multiple erroneous information threads.
Once when children were sharing during a classroom conversation about agriculture, a child shared what I thought to be a preposterous statement, one that I might easily scoff given my cultural perspectives. Instead I listened carefully and then went home to research the comment--I found the cultural context and learned not to scoff such activity, but instead see it as one more way to grow healthy food and live well, a way I had not considered in the past.
Therefore I want to listen more, observe more, judge less, and teach more broadly with a greater range of teaching/learning techniques to build a bridge to learning/teaching success for all students.
I want students to know from day one that teachers, families, and students are partners in learning--the more and better we work together to help a student learn well in meaningful ways, the greater the success. Reducing social-emotional stress from stereotype threats and microagressions is essential, and the first way to do that is to slow down the teaching/learning environment. As I think back on my teaching year last year, I know that the teaching team stopped often to focus on stereotype threats and microagressions, but I think I can continue to do a better job on this. For example, one child was often the target of stereotype threat--it was an unusual situation that required a lot of discussion amongst educators, the student, and the classroom community about what to do. Though we worked seriously with this a lot, I think we could have been more strategic and focused on that issue to minimize or eradicate the threats and discomfort the child felt. Teaching students about stereotype threat and microagressions early in the year could help us all to work against such obstructions to teaching/learning success and student happiness/wellbeing. Conversation starters at the beginning of the year such as: How can we work best together? What gets in the way of a successful classroom community? What is a microagression--what does that look like, and how can we minimize or eradicate those from classroom life? What is stereotype threat--how does this happen and how can we eradicate it from the classroom? How can we talk about difficult issues? Clear inclusive, collective goals and protocols will help us to form stronger, deeper partnerships.
It's integral that we teach students how to maximize their brains for effective learning. Teaching and learning practices that include the following questions will help:
- Do you already know this well, or is this something you will have to reach for to understand? For example, integrating all of Hammond's information into my teaching is a positive brain challenge for me--I will hold up the book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, in class and say to students, I read this book so that I can better teach all of you. There was lots of information in the book that was new to me--information that is valuable, and information I had to work at learning well so that I can be a better teaching. That's what learning is--it's taking hold of new information and making it your own so that you may use that new information to better what you think and do.
- How can we use our voices through the use and expression of words via song, poetry, call and response, and speaking to learn challenging material?
- How does the information we're trying to learn connect to what you already know? What images, stories, life experiences, and learned processes/patterns connect to what we are learning? Can you make this connection in words, pictures, numbers?
- Show me what this information means to you, and show me the questions this information awakens in you? Use pictures, acting, writing, song, poetry, or another means that helps you to show me this? Essentially make the learning your own.
- What cognitive routine (learning process) will help you to learn this information best? For me, I write about new learning that helps me to retain/integrate the learning. I also often draw pictures or make plans to try out the new learning in my life thus taking words/facts/concepts and translating that into action/practice refining along the way via consultation, more practice, questions, analysis, reflection.
- How can we assess the learning? What do our assessments show about the learning? How can we best choose and integrate assessment tools such as reflection, surveys, tests, rubrics, editing, and more to see if our learning is on track, if we're making gains?
Community of Learners and Learning Environment
I want to co-create this environment with students, families, and colleagues using these questions as the catalyst:
- What is a socially and intellectually safe learning environment?
- What is student voice? Why is student voice important? What is student agency? Why is student agency important? I always tell students that they are the drivers in their education and that teachers and parents are there to help them. I want to deepen that understanding for students, families, and educators in our learning community.
- What actions and protocols will help us to create the best possible learning community--what do we need to do so that every child thrives here?
- What rituals and routines support a culture of learning? How can we make those rituals and routines explicit, memorable, and clearly understood/used in our teaching/learning environment?
- Manage conflict and redirect negative behavior with restorative justice principles.