|"What to Look for in a Classroom" by Alfie Kohn at http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/wtlfiacchart.htm.)
The culturally competent teacher should be able to account for, demonstrate awareness of, and respond to the sociocultural distinctiveness of her or his students, families, and communities when planning for and delivering instruction. Describe the linguistic and sociocultural characteristics of the students in the classroom in which you are tutoring (Incorporate the data on Infoworks as well your observations). What sociocultural and linguistic differences do the children bring into the classroom? How can these differences be developed so as to strengthen our society/democracy? How does/might the teacher communicate that sociocultural and linguistic differences strengthen the learning community and our society?
Although these Kindergarten students are in a classroom for children who are bilingual, next year they will be in classrooms that have students who are not bilingual like them. These students who are not bilingual might see it as “cool” and want to know how to say some English words or phrases in Spanish. Although telling a student “plato” means duck in Spanish does not do anything immediately for society, it could possibly have lasting effects. The non-bilingual student may be more supportive of English and a Second Language programs because he or she saw how it helped their fellow students learn English. Or maybe they'll become interested in learning not only the language, but their customs and traditions as well. For a non-bilingual student who attends school with children who are bilingual, it could spark interest in another culture and language.
Most of the children in this classroom are Hispanic, but there are a few that come from different cultures. The other day, while everyone was sitting on the rug, one of the boys mentioned that he was going to a wedding that weekend. When the teacher asked him who was getting married, he said that it was his uncle and that they were having a traditional Cambodian wedding. We started talking about the weddings that we've been to, and one of the girls mentioned the Chinese traditions that she's accustomed to seeing. It was interesting to hear the different traditions of these cultures because it was something completely different from what I was used to. For example, I learned that in Indian weddings, the bride typically uses a red dress because red is the color of good luck. I loved this conversation because the children were able to teach me things about different cultures that I had no idea about.
These students could offer so much to our society, but this can only happen if we open our minds and let them. Christopher Kliewer wrote a book about educating children that have Down syndrome, and I think that a lot of his points can be related to teaching children from different cultures. For example, there are a lot of negative attitudes towards Hispanic students, which causes people to make judgments about them, their families, and their cultures. However, there is nothing wrong with being Hispanic (or Indian, or Chinese, or whatever other cultures you can think of), and these children deserve a fair education, just like everyone else. In his book, Kliewer mentions that community should establish and be derived from each individual's recognition of the value of every other individual, and he promotes human reciprocity. What does all of this mean? It means that in order to have a functioning society, we need to recognize that everyone brings something special to the table, which makes us all important to one another because we can all benefit from each other. Instead of seeing someone from a different culture as an outsider, it's better to embrace that person's culture and incorporate it into the classroom, so that everyone can learn about it.
Appropriate assessment techniques
The culturally competent teacher should be able to use a variety of assessment techniques appropriate to diverse learners and accommodate sociocultural differences that affect learning. Describe the linguistic and/or sociocultural differences of the students in the classroom that might affect learning. How is the teacher responsive to these linguistic and sociocultural characteristics of the students in his or her assessment practices? [If you do not observe the teacher in this role, write about how the teacher might accommodate the needs of the student(s) you work with.]
The fact that many of these students in my school are from different backgrounds, and as a result, may speak different languages not only from one another but the teacher, must be factored into educating these students. It would be ignorant to say that these linguistic differences do not affect learning because from experience, I know differently.
In Mrs. Lake's kindergarten classroom, I tutor a group of three girls for a half hour but afterwards, I observe and assist students during center time. It is during these centers that I most notice how language can affect learning. I often find myself working with Matthew, an extremely quiet boy from an Asian background. His peers claim that “he doesn't talk” but he talks to me. I usually give him at least five minutes of my time to work with just him in centers. I have noticed that he responds extremely well to one on one attention and during this time, he has shown me that even though he is extremely quiet, he is a very intelligent little boy, spelling words that many of the other students struggle with, even though he is still learning English. One of the reasons I feel that Matthew, as well as the other students, are excelling in Mrs. Lake's classroom, despite a language barrier, is due to these reading centers. Each center features a different reading activity in which the children can engage themselves in reading differently at each center. One center allows children to play with alphabet beads in which the students essentially make necklaces by spelling words with these beads. Another center the children enjoy is the listening center, in which they listen to stories and words rather than just simply writing them. Each center pulls at different ways in which the children can learn, not just one mode of learning. I believe that this is a great teaching strategy because the five different centers can appeal to each student. While they may not enjoy one center, they may love another so it gives each child an opportunity to enjoy reading.
Centers work especially well for students who have linguistic differences in the classroom. The centers allow children to interact with one another and in return, learn from one other, but on the same note, it allows children who speak different languages or who have not yet mastered English, to work together. If a child has a hard time speaking English, verbal exercises are going to be extremely difficult for them because they may not be able to follow along and may get lost easily. Centers focus on different aspects of reading, not just one aspect. It allows students to visually see words, hear them, and in some cases “touch” them or create them, as with the beads or stickers. This makes it so that even if the child is still learning English, the teacher can still get through to him and he can learn. Different teaching techniques, such as centers, are crucial when teaching children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
The culturally competent teacher is aware of the diverse cultural groups represented in his/her classroom, investigates the sociocultural factors that influence student learning, and is able to integrate this knowledge into his/her teaching. No one enters a classroom without a personal history; thus, no one enters a classroom completely free of bias. How might your personal history and your linguistic/sociocultural characteristics intersect with those of your students? What challenges or advantages might you have as a teacher in this classroom? What misconceptions about various cultural and linguistic differences have you confronted during this experience? What have you learned about the benefits and challenges of being emergent bi/multilingual?
Like my professor always says, “No one speaks from nowhere, and no one speaks from everywhere.” Everyone has some type of bias when they walk into a classroom, and I include myself in this generalization. When I first heard that we would be volunteering in an inner-city school, I became very nervous. Right away, I saw visions of rowdy, disrespectful students with bad tempers and terrible attitudes. Why did I feel this way? Because every time I turn on the television and see movies or TV shows about students in inner-city schools, they're portrayed as punks. Take a second to think of movies like “Take the Lead,” “Freedom Writers,” “Step Up,” and “The Ron Clark Story.” Each of these movies show students in poor inner-city schools, and most of the students are the ones that I described above: disrespectful, disruptive, and unwilling to learn. It's because of stereotypes like this that I had the wrong image in my head when I showed up for my first day of volunteering at this school. I was expecting dark, dirty hallways and a school in a very bad neighborhood with dreadful students, but what I ended up with was completely different.
If I were the teacher of this classroom, I think my biggest challenge would be to accommodate the different sociocultural characteristics of my students. There are so many cultural and linguistic differences, and I would want to be sensitive to each one of them. I think that I would have a slight advantage with the Hispanic students because my family speaks Spanish. I feel that I'd be able to use this capability to communicate and interact better with the students.
In my first paragraph, I described common stereotypes for inner-city schools and their students. In, “Gayness, Multicultural Education, and Community,” Dennis Carlson wrote that it is important for us to challenge world views that give categories fixed meanings. In order to describe this, my professor used the examples: all women are the same way because they are women, and all gay men are the same way because they are gay men. So, I wrongfully made the assumption that this inner-city school would be like the ones I saw on TV just because it was an inner-city school. Carlson wants us to challenge these world views because they're wrong!
Families and community resources
The culturally competent teacher involves and works with families and community resources, understanding the differences in families, the important influence of family participation in students' learning, and the benefit of collaborating with the wider school community. Imagine that you are the teacher of this classroom. What challenges might you encounter in collaborating with the parents of your students? How might you address these challenges? How might you demonstrate respect for the concerns or contributions of parents?
Lisa Delpit's “The Silenced Dialogue” makes it clear that power is extremely present in schools and education. She recognizes that there are systems of power and that these systems have a major affect in education. Commonly, those who hold the power in these systems are not those who the power is used for. It is not the students or the parents who hold the power but people who are detached from the school. As a result, the parents, who lack power, are unaware of the codes of this system and the way it operates. This forces them to be detached from their child's education, unable to effectively be a part of it. Often times, the parents have trouble connecting with their child's academic life, even though they want to. They simply have a hard time fitting into this system because they are considerably powerless, being a non-dominant member in this system. They want to be a part of their child's education but they do not know how to be. They are not the ones in the school or who experience the system daily. Many parents find it difficult to help their child with their homework if they themselves do not understand it. In order to be a larger part of this system, they must be let into it. The parents, as well as their students, must be given some power and allowed to be a part of this system. This would allow making the connection between school and home much more stable and present.
The culturally competent teacher communicates in ways that demonstrate sensitivity to sociocultural and linguistic differences, using a variety of verbal and non-verbal communication techniques that encourage positive social interaction and support learning in their classroom. How have you (or the classroom teacher) communicated (verbally and/or nonverbally) in ways that demonstrate sensitivity and responsiveness to sociocultural and linguistic differences? What verbal/nonverbal strategies might be helpful for ELLs?
On my last visit to the classroom the teacher brought in a guest speaker; a fireman who took time out of his day to talk to the students about his job and to read a book to the children. He read a story about a young girl who came from Jamaica and moved to New York City. The girl in the story had trouble adjusting to her new life and always wanted to go back to Jamaica. I think that this story was read on purpose because some of the children in my class can relate to the fact that they once came from a different country or culture and now must readjust. This helps the students understand that there are other people who feel the same way about the situations that they are going through and it makes it easier to relate to the other children and connect to their heritage.
The reading of this book taught me that you can demonstrate sociocultural and linguistic differences to children in many different ways such as books, movies and other outlets. In order to truly teach the children to realize and accept sociocultural and heritage differences we must put into action John Dewey's ideal of a democratic society. We must have students realize that they have shared common interest with people of different cultures and also we must ensure that they have free interaction with many different social groups. This is easily done in my school because there is about an even amount of White, African American and Hispanic children within my school so it's easy for the students to interact freely between social groups and notice that they have common interests. This will allow for sensitivity about sociocultural and linguistic differences to develop within the students.
I have also found that picking out books that relate to the students works best. I knew I should be reading them books about living in the city, walking to the market, playing ball in the neighborhood, etc. this worked well. Next, I ventured into using their imaginations. I knew they could do that. They really enjoyed “Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me” by Eric Carle. I also knew that they enjoyed moving and it was a good way to have them respond to the story. So, I had them act out certain parts of the story. For instance, I had them hold out their hands to show how big the ladder was to get up to the moon. I also had them reach up high to pretend they were reaching for the moon. The movements helped me to communicate. By being explicit in my classroom and using gestures and movement, I am demonstrating sensitivity and responsiveness to the linguistic differences of my students.
Cultural Competency Activities and CEP 315:Educational Psychology
- Specific activities include a lesson on local economics, the effects of homelessness on families, the median wage for Rhode Islanders and the prognosis for wage earners.
- Students then relate local problems to the study of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
- Another lesson involves the use of a Quicktime movie of 4 interviews conducted with school personnel in Doha, Qatar about how schools are run and their expectations for students.
- Another lesson involves looking at Rhode Island demographic data regarding the extent and diversification of languages in state, including information as to whether or not the language is the primary one spoken in the home.
- These lessons seem to be effective in broadening the students understanding of the challenges facing learning in the classroom, chiefly amongst diverse learners.
- We go over the material in the text plus reviewing articles that deal with the practical aspects of incorporating appropriate teaching activities. Part of the final paper involving a teacher interview is a requirement that each student must question the teacher about how that person incorporates cultural diversity in their room and then the student must write a reflection on how the teacher response relates to the material covered in class.
See also The Conceptual Framework Competencies and Advanced Competencies
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