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Culturally Responsive Educating

Culturally Responsive Educating

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Published by Carla Wellborn

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Published by: Carla Wellborn on Nov 26, 2012
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12/04/2012

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Carla WellbornEPS 5127/30/2012Culturally Relevant TeachingFinal Paper
Amon’s face scrunched in confusion as his eyes scanned the reading homework he’
d justbeen handed. His wrinkled brow painted a portrait of frustration over the contours of his face.He finally moaned in agony. The desk groaned as his head came to a violent rest upon it. Heprobably would have slept through the entire reading period if the 4
th
grade teacher, Mr. Jones
hadn’t noticed. Unfortunately, Mr. Jones only saw Amon slam his face into the desk and didn’t
have time or energy to figure out why. He simply sent Amon out of the classroom and asked
me, the classroom paraprofessional, if I would deal with “the behavior problem.”
 I found Amon sitting cross-legged on the floor, tears streaming down his pudgychocolate brown cheeks, scowling menacingly at a dark stain on the floor. After talking to himfor only a couple minutes, I soon learned that he could barely read and was frustrated with
school because he couldn’t catch up. Afte
r asking around about Amon, we soon learned that his
parents never really participated in school functions and didn’t really prioritize school in thehousehold. We also realized that he didn’t learn in the same way as his classmates, so he got
easily frustrated. After tailoring our lessons to include extra reading support for Amon, webegan to see marked improvement in his literacy skills and participation in classroom activities.
 
Amon is just one of many students who can easily be mistaken as a behavior problem inthe classroom. In reality, Amon was simply struggling to understand the material in school andlacking motivation. Once we took the time to understand what was actually going on withAmon, we were able to adapt our lessons to accommodate him. It is imperative that we, aseducators, get to know our students so that we can effectively teach them.
In Tyrone Howard’s article “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy: Ingredients for TeacherReflection,” he discusses why teachers must be able to adapt to teachi
ng students that do not
look like them. “In order to provide more meaningful knowledge and skills for teaching intoday’s cultural context, teacher educators must be able to help preservice teachers critically
analyze important issues such as race, ethnicity, and culture, and recognize how these
important concepts shape the learning experience for many students” (Howard, 2003, pg. 195).
Howard argues that by the year 2050 minority students will represent over 50% of Americanschoolchildren (2003). He states that because of the growing amount of minorityrepresentation in schools, educators must be equipped to deliver top-notch instruction to all of their students.There are many ways that teachers can effectively tailor their lessons to enhance thelearning of their students. Teaching in a way that celebrates the culture of students is anabsolutely necessary component. Howard talks about a way in which he thinks preserviceteachers should be trained to teach in a culturally relevant way. Howard argues that beforeteachers can hope to be effective in a culturally diverse classroom, they must first spend ampletime analyzing and reflecting upon their own cultural heritage, as well as their history
 
interacting with people of different cultural backgrounds. “To
become culturally relevant,teachers need to engage in honest, critical reflection that challenges them to see how theirpositionality influences their students in either positive or negative ways. Critical reflectionshould include an examination of how
race, culture, and social class shape students’ thinking,learning, and various understandings of the world” (Howard, 2003, pg. 197). Howard suggests
that teachers cannot be fully effective educators until they understand themselves and canaccurately confront their own biases towards certain cultural backgrounds.Howard also presents examples of how cultural reflections can be incorporated into the
educational preparation of preservice teachers. “Being able to effectively initiate and facilitate
critical reflection about race and race-related issues requires the ability to critically examine
one’s own personal beliefs, opinions, and values about racial identity, and the race of others;
and the ramifications of these intersecting and colliding values and b
eliefs” (Howard, 2003, pg.
200). Howard claims that the best way to prepare effective teachers in the growingly diverseAmerican education system is to require constant and in depth self-reflection on culture, socio-economics, and ethnicity.This idea that teachers will be better able to celebrate the cultural identities of theirstudents within the classroom if they first understand their own cultural heritage is verycompelling. Howard seems to be suggesting that we must build a world of cherished diversityinto the classroom; an environment where difference is celebrated, yet unity is fostered.The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie, in a recent talk, spoke about the danger of assigning people to a single story or life experience. She discussed how the most dangerous

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