You are on page 1of 5

Kate Frost August 14, 2013

EPS 512 Ruth Myers-Vassell


Final Perspective Paper

My personal experiences along with class readings and discussions for this class and
others have helped me to become aware of the necessity of intentional multiculturalism and anti-
racism within the classroom and understand how to work towards these ever-growing goals. I
had some understanding of these concepts before this semester, but certain readings throughout it
have provided context and evidence for my thoughts and given me a greater depth of
understanding regarding certain issues. In spending time on self-reflection and beginning to
understand my adaptive unconscious, I feel better prepared to begin a journey toward becoming
a culturally responsive teacher. The weaving together of my understandings of the educational
system, my students and their lives, and my own adaptive unconscious and commonplace will
together allow me to become a culturally responsive teacher.
While I had previously been aware of the cultural, racial, and class bias in standardized
tests, I was less aware, until recently, of these inequities within many curricula. In my
undergraduate coursework I was introduced to the idea of cultural relevance and incorporating
many different cultures into ones lessons, but I had not fully understood the reasoning behind
this call for a multicultural classroom. As a white woman, growing up in a majority white school,
with 100% of my teachers being white (there were non-white teachers at the school, I just did not
personally have any of them as my classroom teacher), the Eurocentric nature of my public
schools curriculum went unnoticed by me. After all, it was my reality they were teaching about.
However that is not the case for many students in this country.
So I sit in the back of the science class unconscious cause everything that my teachers
spitting is nonsense. I want to raise my hand to avoid the conflict, but if I raise my hand
Im not the one hes gonna pick. So I sit there, mind in another place, rhyming to myself,
different time, different space. Displace, we aint at the same pace. Cant wait for the bell,
so I can make my escape.
1

Christopher Emdin used this verse to depict one students experience in a classroom in the
Bronx; Emdin explained that the stifling structures of the classroom prevented this student
from participating in the classroom. This anecdote is his introduction to the idea of Reality
Pedagogy. Emdins call for reality pedagogy aligns very closely with a culturally responsive
teaching. This verse speaks to the idea that the institution, the school, or the teacher may likely
be at fault for a students lack of engagement. It speaks to the importance of relevance, trust, and
respect within the classroom. These stifling structures also bring to light the importance of
teaching to multiple learning styles, in order to engage all students and give everyone access to
the material at hand. Another component of reaching all students is knowing your students- how
they learn, what interests them, and from where they are coming.
I have always loved building relationships with my students, and have placed great value
in doing so. Equally as important as getting to know my students, is learning how to utilize what
I know to reach them in the classroom. One idea that has really stuck with me is that my students
may not see their lives as I, or another outsider, do. While I have lived another reality, their life
is their reality, and may be the only one they know. In the aforementioned TEDx talk,
Christopher Emdin mentions a project he did in which he gave his students cameras to take home
and capture their reality. He admits to expecting the results to be pictures depicting poor living
conditions and a depressing reality. Instead they came back [with the cameras] and we literally
saw sunsets over the projects. We saw big brothers holding their little sisters hands walking
them to school. We saw all these images of beautiful and powerful and exciting things. And
thats how youth see their lives. And we come there to teach them thinking of it as oppressive.

1
I transcribed this from the video of Christopher Emdins TEDx talk, so the punctuation and spelling is my best
interpretation.
And that disconnect causes us not be effective.
2
It is vital to not make assumptions about
another culture or lifestyle. Instead, make the effort to get to know your individual students
cultures, experiences, and realities. Being Mexican does not mean the same thing for every
student, nor does being poor. By truly getting to know your students and their cultures, it
becomes possible to make learning relevant. Getting to know and appreciate my students also
includes knowing and respecting their language, whether it be a foreign language, a different
English, or an English similar to mine. In reading The Skin that We Speak, I learned that one
must affirm a childs language before attempting to teach them another, such as standardized
English- In this atmosphere, the mechanics and usage and vocabulary of formal English no
longer threaten to demean them (Delpit 59). By acknowledging differences in languages and
appropriate versus inappropriate usage depending on time and place, instead of correct
versus incorrect, you acknowledge the legitimacy of a students language, and by extension
his/her culture. As Eugene Garcia explains, in order to not have a child feel as though she must
leave her full self at home, teachers must broadcast in everyday ways that we respect the
home practices and linguistic roots of our students and seek to understand them (Pollock 294).
All of these components of teaching and life within the classroom relate back to my
adaptive unconscious. In order to be culturally responsive and reach my students, I must first
truly know myself and understand my commonplace. I must recognize my faults and
shortcomings and actively seek to change those pieces of me. It is extremely important for me to
be aware of the unconscious bias or mindset that may be influencing my actions. Over my life,
and especially during this semester, I have come to realize that my commonplace includes being
in the majority and seeing myself reflected in our white-centric society. My commonplace is one

2
I transcribed this from the video of Christopher Emdins TEDx talk, so the punctuation and
spelling is my best interpretation.
of privilege. And while I have been aware of the inequalities and other realities within this
country, where I have come from is nonetheless my commonplace. My culture however, is only
one culture among a multitude of others with a classroom. By incorporating and representing
myriad cultures in a classroom, you may disrupt your own and your students commonplace; this
environment may lead to a greater understanding of and appreciation for many cultures, creating
a safe space in the classroom. In order to consciously mold my students adaptive unconscious
into one which is more well-rounded, more accepting, I must first fully understand my own.
My life and childhood are drastically different than those of my students, in many
respects. While we may have common experiences and find overlaps in interest, there are bound
to be numerous fundamental differences. In order to not let this hinder my teaching, and thus my
students futures, I must learn to connect with the experiences and lives of my students to extent
which that is possible. On the other side of that coin, I think it is also important to know that
there are boundaries to understanding- I will never live my students lives- and be willing to
accept and in some instances even discuss these boundaries. Through acknowledgement and
discussion, I hope to prevent these boundaries from becoming barriers. Within my
understandings of the educational system, my students and their lives, and my own adaptive
unconscious are four important factors: (institutional) racism, relationships, relevance, and
reality, the middle two of which must be used to counter institutional racism and expose,
confront, and discuss reality. As a result of my classes and my experiences, I have come to not
only understand the vital nature of culturally responsive teaching, but also how to incorporate it
in my classroom.




References
Delpit, Lisa D., and Joanne Kilgour. Dowdy. The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture
in the Classroom. New York: New, 2002. Print.
Emdin, Christopher. TEDx Lecture Series. Teachers College, New York. Reality Pedagogy: Christopher
Emdin at TEDxTeachersCollege. Youtube. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
Garcia, Eugene. Everyday Anti-Racism: Getting Real About Race in Schools. Ed. Mica Pollock. New York:
New, 2008. Print.