Preparing for Teaching Different Cultures: My Personal Experiences

M13 U3 A2 – Blog Post

 

Preparing for Different Cultures

 

It is clearly identifiable that many of our teachers today are part of a certain demographic – namely, white and female. Many, understandably, have a difficult time connecting with those from different backgrounds, and may not realize how their actions seem to different cultures. If it were not for the many experiences I have had leading up to my current position, I, too, would probably have fallen into this camp.

I have the distinct pleasure of coming from a family of teachers in the same area in which I currently teach, serving the same demographics I currently serve. My city is one of the most diverse in the nation and one of the most culturally integrated cities in the nation. That means that in a single classroom, we will have as many as ten different language spoken at home – this is at a typical public school in one of our diverse neighborhoods. Growing up in a family of educators meant that I had a lot of experience working with children from a variety of different backgrounds. As I volunteered in the classrooms at my mother’s school, I got to see how the experience was different from my own. This greatly shaped the classroom experience for the children, and it greatly shaped the way my mother and her colleagues taught.

I have also had the blessing of working at a summer camp that incorporated children from a variety of backgrounds. At my camp, we had one week every year that was devoted to serving children from a homeless shelter. Another week was devoted to serving children from abusive backgrounds and their adoptive families. That week, in particular, was very eye opening to the challenges that come from adverse situations. The training provided in these sessions helped me start to see that a person’s experience can greatly influence their current reactions, and the more I became aware of that, the more I tried to mitigate the situations that could cause negative reactions in the groups I was serving.

My clinical practice, though, was probably the most beneficial and eye opening in this area. Since I did my clinical practice at the same school in which I currently teach, it served the purpose of introducing me to the demographics I serve. I realized how little I knew about them, and how little I knew about working with them effectively. It was one thing to volunteer in such an environment, and another to be responsible for creating a learning community in such an environment. I got better with classroom management and parent communication as the year went on, but it’s something that I believe is still an area of weakness, largely because of my differences in cultural expectation.

I believe that the information presented in the last module will be most beneficial for my practice because it helps me understand some of the things I experienced last school year. I find that the more I understand something, the easier it is for me to respect that perspective. Once I know a problem exists, I do what I can to eliminate areas of weakness in my own approach so that I am not the cause of conflict. With the knowledge of why cultures sometimes cannot communicate, and the strategies for improving that communication, I feel that my approach this year will produce more favorable results than it did before.

There are a few things that I wish to specifically change about my teaching to support positive multicultural engagement in my classroom. When working with parents, I plant to try to show that I see them as equal stakeholders in their child’s education. Often, parents from multilingual, multicultural backgrounds are seen as “deficient” by schools (Karge and Lasky). I plan on asking for their input on their child’s education and implementing the ideas when feasible. I also plan on providing specific strategies for at-home literacy and mathematics work, and, if need and if possible, providing a translation for families of different linguistic backgrounds.

In the classroom, I hope to create an environment that both supports a community within the classroom and celebrates the individuality of my students. I plan on doing this by using a teddy bear. The teddy bear will go home with each student over one weekend, and the student will journal in an “Adventure Journal” about Ted E. Bear’s adventures. On the following Monday, the student will read the journal during our morning meeting (in which we are all sitting in a circle). This will allow for discussion of various cultures, as it will certainly bring up the differences in life experienced by these students, and it will allow for the opportunity to acknowledge the difference and celebrate it. (Turner and Youb). I plan on reading stories that feature students from multicultural backgrounds, as this helps students feel that their culture is respected without clearly signaling them out. (Fish). I plan, too, on accounting for the differences in experience in my lesson, and trying to incorporate each culture’s way of acquiring and understanding knowledge into my teaching as much as I can. (Pratt-Johnson).

Culture plays a huge part in every day life, and education is no different. It is easy to understand how one’s experiences can shape one’s approach to education. As a teacher, I must learn to account for it. I feel that my past experiences and this current module have helped me understand the ways in which I can actively engage with the families and students at my school.

 

Sources:

Fish, Larri. “Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom.” Critical Multicultural Pavilion Research Room. http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/buildingblocks.html

Karge, Belinda Dunnick; Lasky, Beth. “Involvement of Language Minority Parents of Children with Disabilities in their Child’s School Achievements.” Diversity and Special Education. [2011]. Accessed online at: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ955942.pdf

Meltzoff, Nancy. “Relationship, The Fourth “R”: The Development of a Classroom Community.” School Community Journal. {1994]. Accessed online at http://www.adi.org/journal/ss01/chapters/Chapter19-Meltzoff.pdf

Metropolitan Center for Urban Education. “Culturally Responsive Classroom Management Strategies.” NYU Steinheardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. [2008] Accessed online at: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/scmsAdmin/uploads/005/121/Culturally%20Responsive%20Classroom%20Mgmt%20Strat2.pdf

Turner, Jennifer D., Youb, Kim. “Learning About Building Literacy Communities in Multicultural and Multilingual Classrooms From Effective Elementary Teachers”. Literacy Teaching and Learning. Vol 10, No 1., pp 22-44. Accessed online at http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ966162.pdf

Pratt-Johnson, Yvonne. “Communicating Cross-Culturally: What Teachers Should Know.” The Internet TESL Journal. Accessed online at http://iteslj.org/Articles/Pratt-Johnson-CrossCultural.html