If you ask a teacher what their classroom goals are, you will undoubtedly hear them share that they hope their students excel in the subject they teach and are engaged in learning. However, one of the most common things you’ll hear a teacher share is that they hope that their students feel comfortable, safe, and supported in their classroom. We do better in environments where we feel supported than ones that make us feel bothered. Creating a space in your classroom that is comfortable and inviting can look like the way you decorate to how you set up your desks. These are excellent methods for creating a welcoming environment. Still, one of the most critical ways to ensure that your students feel supported is to create a classroom that is culturally responsive.
The culturally responsive classroom is not something that occurs overnight. It takes careful consideration during planning as well as during your interactions with students. Culturally responsive teaching is a method that takes into account the unique identities of your students. This method involves multiple steps and cannot simply be completed by purchasing a few posters or books. Cultural inclusion doesn’t only mean representing your students in the classroom but also exposing them to a variety of identities and experiences.
Questions for the Culturally Responsive Teacher
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you understand your students’ identities and how their identities impact their experience in your classroom?
- What books are you reading to your students? Are the characters and their experiences diverse?
- Do you take into account your students’ backgrounds when planning lessons? Are you addressing language that might be confusing to students?
- Is your curriculum teaching content in a way that is accessible to all of your students?
What to Avoid
This school year, many teachers found themselves wanting to make their classrooms a more inclusive environment, which can feel overwhelming. Almost any start is a great start when trying to bring cultural inclusion into the classroom, however, you’ll want to avoid adopting a “colorblind” mentality, which is more harmful than helpful.
While it might seem like a good idea to create a culturally “neutral” environment, this is impossible, and not something that will support and foster an inclusive environment. Including diverse music, decor, texts, and topics of conversation in your classroom celebrates, not ignores the backgrounds of your students and introduces them to different worldviews and perspectives. The colorblind mentality ignores and silences any experience that isn’t included in your curriculum.
Ideas for your Culturally Responsive Classroom
When developing a more culturally inclusive classroom, consider the following actions:
- In your own classroom, you might reach out to your curriculum specialist or school leadership to ask about swapping out books or lessons that lack diverse perspectives.
- Try more activities that allow students to share their own experiences, where you play the role of facilitator. Lessen your voice and thoughts and let students truly express their thoughts and life experiences if they feel comfortable.
- Ask your students what stories and topics they want to learn about.
4. Change the names in word problems to the names of your students.
If you’re looking to learn more about how to celebrate cultural diversity, check out some of the following resources: