Review the eText for applications for your learning and teaching
EDU: 657- Global Connections in Education
eBook Review: Culturally Responsive Pedagogy : Teaching Like Our Students’ Lives Matter
Sobel, D. M., & Taylor, S. V. (2011). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching Like Our Students’ Lives Matter. Bradford: Brill NV.
When deciding on a text to read and incorporate into my teaching skills, I wanted to focus on something that would offer an immediate benefit to my students. Though I have taught as a long-term sub and as a contracted teacher for the past two-to-three years, nearly every school I have been in has been the same. Whether they were Middle or High Schools, an extreme majority of the students I taught were white, middle to upper class students, with very little to no cultural experiences of interactions with people ‘different’ than them. By far the most diversity I had with my students was economic diversity amongst the families, though a majority fell within the Middle Class, I still did have a range from extremely wealthy students, to students that came from families that lived very near the poverty line all within the same room. However, my current position at a high school offers me the most diversity that I have experienced in my teaching career. Thought the school demographics are still predominantly white students, there is solid portion of Latino and Black students. Due to my current position, and knowing that as a magnet school we will be receiving more minority students in the following year(s), I wanted to find something that will make me a better teacher for all of my students, but especially for the students with diverse backgrounds. For this analysis I decided to read, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching Like our Students’ Lives Matter, by Donna Sobel and Sheryl Taylor. From the book I was hoping to gain a better understanding how to better incorporate teaching strategies that are more culturally inclusive. With this ability I believe not only will I be a better teacher for any students of diverse backgrounds, but also a better teacher for any white students as they can also gain a better understanding of more cultural learning and experiences within their education as well. One of the first points that I came across while reading the book is that my original idea of learning more inclusive cultural teaching strategies is “commendable,” but misguided. Sobel and Taylor note that, “Howard (2010) clarifies that cultural responsive teaching is situated in a framework that recognizes the rich and varied cultural wealth, knowledge, and skills that students from diverse groups bring to schools, and seeks to develop dynamic teaching practices, multicultural content, multiple means of assessment, and a philosophical view of teaching that is dedicated to nurturing student academic, social, emotional, cultural psychological, and physiological wellbeing…” (ix). Culturally responsive teaching is something that is much more in-depth and comprehensive than just incorporating new multi-cultural lessons or activities to reach all of your students. True culturally responsive teaching is an entire shift of curriculum. This cannot be done simply in a class, or even within an entire unit; true culturally responsive teaching is something that is thoroughly embedded throughout every aspect of the school community- whether that be academically or socially.
Sobel and Taylor point out the hard truth that this may not be the easiest transition for all teachers. Though this could be for many reasons, a shift in how we treat all students is a very important one for all modern educators. Though we need to make sure that we support and challenge all of our students, we must be conscious of how we teach students from diverse backgrounds, and realize that students from different ethnic and/or socioeconomic backgrounds may have very different educational history’s. According to the authors, “Teachers who are committed to culturally responsive pedagogy [must] recognize the structural inequalities in society that are reflected in its schools and acknowledge that schools have a history of failing to serve students who are outside of the ‘mainstream’ culture” (x). Though the knowledge of the “achievement gap” between white and minority students, as well as socioeconomic differences, is becoming more well-known, and schools are reacting to it in positive manners, as educators with diverse backgrounds that knowledge must be cognizant while curriculum is created and lesson plan objectives are being planned. Even aspects of the lessons such as word choice to explain certain ideas, or how we try to draw analogies from our past can alienate students with diverse backgrounds if they cannot make the connection. What may be a commonplace word or example for the “mainstream” culture, and making an easy connection for them, if that word/example does not reach the diverse students, then it may further separate their educational background and ability from the other students. Teachers much be aware that the words and examples/analogies they use in class can further serve to alienate any diverse students if they cannot connect to it, while they see others around them understanding it.
Due to my content area as a Social Studies teacher, the importance of culture is something that has always been an important aspect of my lessons. Understanding culture and celebrating the successes of different people around the world, is something not only I seek out for my own knowledge, but something I try to stress my students to learn and celebrate as well. I was glad to see that this practice is something that is beneficial for all students, but especially those from diverse backgrounds. Sobel and Taylor note that, “instruction is more effective when the learner’s broad cultural backgrounds, racial/ethnic identity, and life experiences are integrated within the curriculum” (3). Though this may sound like a commonsense finding, the acknowledgement of this fact is a simple step in the right direction of creating a more inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students. I must admit that teaching multiple perspectives of cultures and their histories was much easier as a Middle School teacher due to the curriculum for that grade level. I currently teach 11th grade US History, which tends to lend itself to a very specific viewpoint on internal and external events. Though we do discuss events and impacts of certain actions and events from the viewpoint say of the Spanish-American War and the Filipinos, being a United States focused curriculum does pigeon hole some aspects of cultural discussion. After reading this book, and talking about culture throughout this course though, it has made me want to take a dive into my curriculum and find places where I can do a better job incorporating different cultural perspectives for events of our past, and how they still impact our country today.