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Culturally Responsive Classrooms

What does it mean to have a Culturally Responsive Classroom?

You might be wondering, 'what exactly does a culturally responsive classroom entail?', 'what does culturally responsive mean?', or 'what does culturally responsive teaching look like?' Culturally responsive teaching is educating in ways that connect the curriculum to student's cultures and life experiences. Meaning, the student always has something valuable to add to the classroom and lessons because their cultures can be integrated into the instruction. Culture has become an important topic, not only in our society but in the classroom especially. Culture encompasses not only a broad scale such as social, geographical, or religious groups and customs but also a personal level. Every person has a personal culture that is completely unique to them and their family.

Integrating Culture into the Classroom

When culture is integrated into the classroom, teachers foster an 'asset-based mindset.' Rather than focusing on what the student needs to strengthen, you focus on what strengths the students have and how it contributes to the classroom. Diversity and personalization become tools to be utilized. Since culturally responsive teaching highlights the students' culture, learning becomes contextualized and the students are able to make more connections with the curriculum. Students feel more empowered in the classroom, and their confidence is heightened due to the fact that you as the teacher are integrating things that are important and relevant to them. Most importantly, in order to integrate culture, the teacher is responsible for getting to know the students, their hobbies, learning styles, likes and dislikes, and even their families. In order to achieve this, have conversations with your students, use multiple modalities to meet learning styles, ask for personal perspectives, link lessons to what the students like, and involve all the diverse cultures of your class in your lessons. In the end, it's all about building relationships with your students.

Professor Perspective

We reached out to Crystal Jewkes, adjunct professor of Foundations of Multicultural Education at BYU, to tell us how she builds and maintains a multicultural classroom:

1. She stated, "My number one thing I preach is, at least one success every single day for every student. The snowball of success needs a starting point and to keep rolling. Sometimes these successes are big and some are small and some are very apparent and some have to be searched for, but they all need to be acknowledged."

2. Her next point was, "As a teacher, it is our responsibility to position our student for success. Some can do it on their own, but many need some assistance. What I mean by this is positioning them with specific students in small groups to interact with or positioning them to answer in a whole classroom setting. This leads to my third idea of building relationships of trust..."

3. Lastly, she expressed, "We have all heard of building relationships of trust. It's not new, but without it, learning is greatly hindered. Students need to trust the people around them, peers, teachers, other classroom teachers, etc. Play learning games, give them opportunities to meet and work with each other."

"Never be too busy to interact with your students. Some may feel that participation is up to the participant, but if we don't facilitate a situation to safely participate it won't happen. Be creative! Ask ourselves every day, are the students able to draw from their lives and experiences to enhance their learning?"

We hope this blog post helps you better understand culturally responsive classrooms and how to maintain them when you lead your own classroom someday. To look at our other blog posts, click this link!

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