At Educate. Radiate. Elevate., we tutor students using culturally responsive teaching practices because we believe that students should feel comfortable, understood, and confident.
What is Culturally Responsive Teaching?
In order to adapt culturally responsive teaching (“CRT”) in your everyday instruction, you must first begin by remembering that students enter their education with beliefs and behaviors that are intimately connected to their backgrounds. These beliefs and behaviors may not be in line with how their educators and peers were raised or taught. Disparities can impact the communication and consumption of knowledge in the classroom, which contributes to the widening achievement gap faced by low-income students of color. It is the responsibility of educators to create a learning environment that fosters comfort and belonging for each student. Culturally responsive teaching is defined by Understood as, “connecting students’ cultures, languages, and life experiences with what they learn in school.” CRT helps students from different backgrounds to succeed in school through improved teaching practices, allowing for a better and more tailored educational environment. A study conducted by School Psychology Review, detailed in the journal Examining How Proactive Management and Culturally Responsive Teaching Relate to Student Behavior: Implications for Measurement and Practice, included statistics that indicate that there is, “a statistically significant association between observations of culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices, with observed positive student behaviors in classrooms.” When teachers implement CRT practices, they see proven-effective results.
How Culture Contributes to the Achievement Gap
Issues and complications of cultural friction in a classroom are often major contributing factors to the Achievement Gap. The Achievement Gap is defined by Penn GSE as, “the persistent disparity in academic achievement between minority and disadvantaged students and their white counterparts.” Culturally diverse students often enter their schooling with language barriers, racial discrimination, and/or socioeconomic disparities. For example, as stated by Sahaj Kaur Kohli, many children of immigrants experience “disenfranchised grief” because of their “lost oral history,” “lack of relationships with extended families,” and “internalized shame from their cultural identities.” Inequitable differences such as these force students to begin their education far behind their peers, and they hinder students’ ability to learn in a traditional educational environment. When young children are fighting to understand their instructors and peers or follow classroom instructions – whether that be because of a language barrier, cultural differences, a lack of sufficient school supplies due to a socioeconomic disparity, etc. – they are immediately beginning at a lower level than their more advantaged peers. Through culturally responsive teaching, educators are able to better tackle these disparities. According to Approaches to Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness: A Research Synthesis, educators implement CRT by “making their classrooms inclusive, leaving their own biases at the door, and encouraging their students to do the same.” Use the CRT methods below to make your classroom a safe space for your culturally diverse students!
How to Become More Culturally Responsive
Integrating CRT practices into your teaching methodology provides a more well-rounded and holistic learning experience for all of your students. We want to provide you with a few tips for how to become a culturally responsive educator because – like you – we care about your students and their success!
1st – Educate yourself on your students’ cultures
Not only will researching your students’ cultures allow you to understand your students on a deeper, more personal level, but it will open your eyes to different ways to incorporate aspects of your students’ cultures into your curriculum. For example, you could teach a text by an author from their family’s native country, celebrate one of their major holidays by bringing a traditional treat to share with the class, or ask your students to share an interesting aspect of their childhood in a writing prompt. We also suggest giving students opportunities to share their cultural experiences with the class. When students are allowed to speak freely about their lives, they will feel more understood by you and their peers, and thus more comfortable and confident at school. This 6-Step Guide to Understanding Your Students’ Cultures can help you identify and understand each student in a way that is not stereotypical and respects the student as an individual.
2nd – Partner with families
Strong teacher and family connection is extremely important when working together to foster a healthy learning environment for culturally diverse youth. Often, these students feel an extreme disconnect when traveling between school and home. Their families may conduct life extremely different from the way schools are organized. It can sometimes be difficult to partner with families of cultures that are dissimilar to your own, however, here are a few ideas that bridge the cultural gap:
- Post every general teacher-to-parent message on YouTube. YouTube allows its users to add captions in their language, so all of your parents will be fully informed throughout the school year.
- When speaking to families of culturally diverse backgrounds face-to-face, use a first-person of contact who will bridge both cultures and form a relationship with the family. They communicate with the teacher, informing him or her of the family’s desires, struggles, and questions relating to the student’s education. The first person of contact allows for trust between the parents and the education system.
- Allow the parents to feel involved and informed. Ask the parents what their educational goals are for their children, and schedule consistent meetings to inform the parents of the child’s progress. Tip: When scheduling meetings, it is critical to work around the parents’ work schedules because you are attempting to form positive bonds.
When teachers connect with families, the parents are now able to discuss education with the student, and the families will feel more confident speaking to the teacher about cultural issues that are affecting the students.
3rd – Utilize Universal Design for Learning Guidelines
UDL Guidelines are created for educators to use when working with students who learn in alternative ways. According to the official UDL website, these guidelines “provide multiple means of Engagement, Representation, and Action and Expression.” Engage with your students one-on-one and as a classroom, create activities and discussions that allow your students to feel represented, and be intentional about ensuring parts of your lesson plans allow your students to express their cultures. We suggest using these for students who are struggling to learn or communicate due to language barriers or cultural disconnect.
Watch this video from Edutopia that demonstrates CRT in a classroom setting: Windows and Mirrors: Learning About Difference—and Belonging—Through Books
Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s CRT
One of E.R.E. ‘s core values is to use culturally responsive teaching with every student, as we believe that it creates a healthy relationship between student and tutor, and allows each student a greater chance to succeed in their education. Our tutors are specially trained by our founder, Lindsey Wander, to teach with educational equity, empathy, cultural responsiveness, and a trauma-informed approach. The approximately 10 hours of training that takes place during the initial tutor onboarding process is a mixture of online modules and live roundtable discussions. The training among the educators is continuous throughout the program in the form of guided personal reflections and group discussions. Our aim is to help shrink the achievement gap through these proven-effective teaching methods, and we would love your support! Be a force for good by donating here!