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Kerry Gleason July 26, 2012 Final Paper Culturally Responsive Teaching Reflection After growing up in Tucson, AZ and

staying in Tucson for college I decided to move away to Chicago and start my career as a teacher. Sometimes I feel like I grew up in a bubble by living in a suburb of Tucson with a relatively normal family and friends who were all middle-class. I also feel pretty sheltered when I think about the situations some of my future students experience regularly. After reading the study guide and watching videos on Two Town of Jaspers, I really realized the invisible issues that there are among a lot of towns in the United States. Everyone has their own culture, their own views, and beliefs that help shape them to the person they are. In this paper I will discuss the importance of culture in schools, as well as some of my own experiences, and what it means to be a culturally responsive teacher. As a child, my parents always told me to be proud of who I was and who I am today. My Mom is Italian and my Dad is Irish. Traditions from these two cultures were constantly talked about and celebrated in my household. These traditions are a part of what makes me who I am today. It is so important for my students to know where they came from and who they are and to truly embrace their culture. I know that my students probably will not have the same ethnic background as me. Since I have been taking this class I have been reflecting a lot about how I see race and how my parents taught me to see race. I think my family is very open, kind, and non-judgmental. I learned from my parents that you do not see color, you just see people. Just yesterday I was talking to my mom about this and how this actually isnt the best way to view another persons culture.

She was a little taken aback when I said this, and she went on about how all people are equal. I then put it into context and asked her if she would want people to take her for all of her beliefs and traditions from her culture, or just some of them. Then we talked about how it is better to take every person for who they are and to really recognize, celebrate, and respect the differences that all people have. It is crucial to build meaningful relationships between home and school. Parents are a childs first teacher. My mother was a very involved parent at my school when I was younger; I believe parent involvement makes a huge difference in a students education. If parents are at home supporting their childs learning a child is more likely to be more interested, and make connections of concepts outside of school. By having parents on board with my teaching practices they too can promote self-esteem and academic strategies. Teachers need to use real life examples that relate to the students lives to academics in order to help them reach essential understandings of the lesson being taught. I also believe if parents see teachers really getting to know their child, they will be more likely to support and in turn trust the teachers decisions that are made inside the classroom. In order to be a culturally responsive teacher, I think it is important to look at the stereotypes for each culture and put them right out on the table like we did in class. Now I know it would look a lot differently in a third, fourth, or fifth grade classroom than it did in our graduate level class. The more people ignore what is in front of them the more problems become invisible to other cultures, and ultimately nothing will ever be fixed. I love the term unpacking that I have constantly heard in this class. To me it means your taking out just a little bit at a time and becoming more familiar with things until

everything is in the perfect spot where everything that was in your bag is out and works together. If these issues about culture are not out and about I could see some of my students getting caught up in what society says they are rather than being their true self. This is where the self-fulfilling prophesy come up, if children are constantly told what they are well then, eventually they might just become what society says. This is where I really want to inspire my students to be whatever they want and to set goals for themselves to reach their true identity. I never want my students to feel trapped inside them emotionally. A lot of people have the mentality that students who live in highimpoverished areas should get through school and get out of their community. For those who actually do get out, I hope I can teach them the importance of giving back to those less fortunate. If students can give back to the community by starting businesses or being a positive role model for children in their community they can make a big difference. In the book How to Teach Students Who Dont Look Like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies, the author Bonnie M. Davis says, The negative peer culture exists because of perceptions and belief systems; a positive peer culture can exist because of perceptions and belief systems too. Negative stereotypes can do a lot of harm to a childs self-esteem. Davis talks a lot about different strategies that teachers can use to help students become more culturally aware and put stereotypes to rest. A few ways to do this are to build a community that has high expectations where all students can be challenged and reach their goals, and talk openly about negative effects of peer pressure and how to respond in a positive way. The strategies about different cultures are really helpful, but I cannot help to think that another stereotype is being put upon students. I know the book is not saying all African American children like to work cooperatively in

groups, and all Asian American students like to work independently, but that is what it sometimes sounds like. This is where the individuality of each student really comes into play and the importance of getting to know my kids will really power through, so that I can be the most effective teacher. (Davis) Often times, school is looked at as a place where students go everyday to sit in a classroom silently listening to their teachers teach, and then they go home only to return the next day and do it all over again. If this is what is happening in classrooms today, it is ineffective. Students need to be challenged and need a dynamic teacher that has a repertoire of instructional strategies. After watching the YouTube video in class on Culturally Responsive Teaching, it inspires me to have a class that moves and works like the one in the video. All the students seemed to really be enjoy themselves while learning at the same time. Even the teacher looked like she was having a blast. I loved all the little strategies she had such as the classroom thermometer, bottoms up, heads together, musical around the room, and more. Talking was allowed in her classroom in a positive way where students were probably learning better than they were just sitting silently doing a workbook page. It is not only important to get to know your student's cultures, but to get to know them for who they are and how they like to learn. After being in graduate school for a short three weeks, I am feeling both more comfortable, and a little more nervous than I was before I started the program. I know these two statements are very contradicting. I feel a lot more comfortable about the classes that I am taking and the information being talked about in class. Although in Wednesdays class, we were talking about how some schools are going to have a lot more issues than others. I am anxiously awaiting to find out what school I am in and what the

predominant issues will be at my school. To be honest, I do not feel prepared to deal with some situations, because I myself have never experienced them before. In another class we are reading a book about certain teachers or community leaders that really make a difference in their youths lives. All these leaders seem to come from similar situations as the students they are working with. I feel that I lack the knowledge or street smarts that those individuals have. I know that you cannot be taught how to have a presence in the community; you just have to build it yourself. I hope that I can really make meaningful relationships with my students so that they know I care and want the best for them. I also have some questions about how my students view their own cultures, as well as mine. These questions will not be answered until I am in my new school, but for the past three weeks they have been lingering in my mind. Last year I taught fifth grade in Uptown at a Catholic school. Most of my students were immigrant children from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, other African countries, and Vietnam. The teachers were the minorities at the school. Unfortunately the school was run terribly, the building was old, and our curriculum was from the 1980s. The worst part was that my administration did nothing to help fix any of these situations and they were very stuck in their ways. Teachers were told they must do every page of the work book and since most students were English language learners they were forced to listen to cassette tapes made by my vice principal of every vocabulary word from the lesson. Teacher morale was low and it was definitely an Us vs. Them situation at my school. There was never any communication between administration, or parents, and in the end the students were the ones who were suffering from it. My students were already at a disadvantage coming from low socioeconomic homes and some of them hardly knowing

the language. I felt like I could have had a great opportunity to really open up my knowledge of other cultures, but I did not really get the chance to. Being a second year teacher I did not feel comfortable questioning the administrations educational approach. I know that I could have done more to get to know my students better. Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but I really need to look at it as learning experience. I am really looking forward to the rest of my year with AUSL. I think I am going to become a well-rounded confident teacher, or a no-nonsense nurturer as my current mentor resident coach says. The most important thing I am going to take away from this class is the fact that it is imperative to get to know your students. Like Gloria Ladson-Billings said in the video in class, you never know who is going to be sitting in your class, and you need to teach as if there are children who will become the next Bill Gates, Martin Luther King Jr., or the person who will find the cure for cancer .If you do not have everyone on your side it is going to be a battle all year long. Like we talked about in class, elementary school classrooms are like a yearlong family. I intend to create a loving and positive environment where my students learn, make mistakes, and feel free to be themselves.

References: Davis, B.(2006). How to Teach Students Who Dont Look Like You: Culturally Relevant Teaching Strategies. California: A Sage Publication Company.

Erker, J. (2011, Feb.) Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from: