Washoe Country School District

August 19, 2014

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Diversity for Educators

Specific Activities for Becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher

  • Engage in reflective thinking and writing. Teachers must reflect on their actions and interactions as they try to discern the personal motivations that govern their behaviors. Understanding the factors that contribute to certain Behaviors (e.g., racism, ethnocentrism) is the first step toward changing these behaviors. This process is facilitated by autobiographical and reflective writing, usually in a journal.
  • Explore personal and family histories. Teachers need explore their early experiences and familial events that have contributed to their understanding of themselves as racial or nonracial beings. As part of this process, teachers can conduct informal interviews of family members (e.g., parents, grandparents) about their beliefs and experiences regarding different groups in society. The information shared can enlighten teachers about the roots of their own views. When teachers come to terms with the historical shaping of their values, teachers can better relate to other individuals.
  • Acknowledge membership in different groups. Teachers Must recognize and acknowledge their affiliation with various groups in society, and the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to each group. For example, for white female teachers, membership in the white middle- class group affords certain privileges in society; at the same time being a female presents many challenges in a male- dominated world. Moreover, teachers need to assess how belonging to one group influences how one relates to and views other groups.
  • Learn about the history and experiences of diverse groups. It is important that teachers learn about the lives and experiences of other groups in order to understand how different historical experiences have shaped attitudes and perspectives of various groups. Further, by learning an about other groups, teachers begin to see differences between their own values and those of other groups. To learn about the histories of diverse groups, particularly from their perspectives, teachers can read literature written by those particular groups as well as personally interact with members of those groups.
  • Visit students’ families and communities. It is important that teachers get to know their students’ families and communities by actually going into the students’ home environments. This allows teachers to relate to their students as more than just “bodies” in the classroom but also as social and cultural beings connected to a complex social and cultural network. Moreover, by becoming familiar with students’ home lives, teachers gain insight into the influences on the students’ attitudes and behaviors. Additionally, teachers can use the families and communities as resources (e.g. classroom helpers or speakers) that will contribute to the educational growth of the students.
  • Visit or read about successful teachers in diverse settings. Teachers need to learn about successful approaches to educating children from diverse backgrounds. By actually visiting classrooms of successful teachers of children from diverse backgrounds and/or reading authentic accounts of such success, teachers gain exemplary models for developing their own skills.
  • Develop an appreciation of diversity. To be effective in a diverse classroom, teachers must have an appreciation of diversity. They must view difference as the “norm” in society and reject notions that any one group is more competent than another. This entails developing respect for differences, and the willingness to teach from this perspective. Moreover, there must be an acknowledgment that the teachers’ view of the world are not the only views.
  • Participate in reforming the institution. The educational system has historically fostered the achievement of one segment of the school population by establishing culturally biased standards and values. The mono-cultural values of schools have promoted biases in curriculum development and instructional practices that have been detrimental to the achievement of students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Teachers need to participate in reforming the educational system so that it becomes inclusive. As the direct link between the institution and the students, teachers are in a pivotal position to facilitate change. By continuing a traditional “conform-or-fail” approach to instruction, teachers perpetuate a mono-cultural institution. By questioning traditional policies and practices, and by becoming culturally responsive in instruction, teachers work toward changing the institution.