Describe how you have adapted (or plan to adapt) your teaching with students (or other people) who would benefit from special accommodations for their exceptionalities, race, ethnicity, gender, culture, linguistics and socioeconomic status.
EDU: 657- Global Connections in Education
As I have moved through this course, I have done my best to better recognize cultural implications in my history curriculum and be more cognizant of trying to be more inclusive and welcoming to all students. More than just making all students feel welcome though, I want to make sure that I am teaching information that is relevant and meaningful to all of my students. Though for the moment the curriculum and learning objectives are set, it does not mean I cannot bring in better activities or learning extensions that will provide better cultural diversity and perspectives in the information we are learning about. I think that I have a great opportunity to achieve better cultural learning in my classes being a History teacher. I teach Civics, US History, and AP Psychology, all of which can lend themselves to focusing on perspectives and cultural focus to help explain behavior and thought patterns.
In regards to Civics, the course is broken up into five total units; Foundations of Government, Political Participation, Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch. In each of the unit’s students explore the importance of the specific function of government, and the role they will play as citizens of this country once they are old enough to vote. Though some units will lend themselves better to an increase of cultural learning, I think a great change to our current curriculum is finding ways that will illustrate more diverse aspects of our government and our country. In today’s political climate it is something that I think can be difficult, but the importance of including more viewpoints and becoming a more inclusive learning environment takes precedence over any difficulty of planning the objectives. A resource that I believe I can utilize for this undertaking is Teaching Tolerance, which was founded by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1991. Teaching Tolerance’s mission, “is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy” (www.tolerance.org/about). A truly great feature of this program is that the offer numerous free resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. With an emphasis on “social justice and anti-bias,” taking advantage of this website is something that I believe will be a very positive inclusion into my Civics classroom.
The second course I teach is US History. Out of all three of the courses I teach, I believe this one offers my best chance to include many avenues for students to explore more diverse historical perspectives and focus on the impact of many peoples and not just “mainstream” America. Though I am not perfect in this regard, I do believe that I have a strong starting point for incorporating more diverse perspectives in this class due to my previous two years teaching at the Middle School level. In both years there was a heavy focus on historical viewpoints and how the same event could be seen by multiple groups of people. For example, a several class-long event was reading a short-story about the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan, and then a trial with the main defendant being Dona Marina. The trial was to analyze the Spanish, Nahua, Dona Marina’s, and surrounding tribe’s perspective of that time period, and how and why the sides acted in the way they did. However, the true purpose was not to her Dona Marina guilty or innocent, but rather an in-depth learning experience to illustrate just how many viewpoints there can be even for a single event. In my current course, I have tried bringing in more diverse viewpoints and making sure to also tell the other side of the story whenever I can, but I know I can do better. Again, with a strong minority student population, I want to make sure that my classroom and the content in it are ones that students feel comfortable learning and identifying with them to place greater meaning on the material. One activity that I did this year in my US History class this year was a journal creation and Harkness Discussion where the students were to create a character that traveled either through Ellis or Angel Island. Students researched the immigration centers, sending countries, and the immigration process. A fun aspect of this activity was that many of the students researched their own family heritage to find a relative that they could then tell their own family immigration story. Though not every student has that type of history, I think it allowed all of my students to connect to an immigrant story, and to stay cognizant of the fact that all of our families came here from a different land. Another focus that dove into was during our unit on Reconstruction and for all intents and purposes the continuation of slavery with the introduction of Sharecropping. We focused on the practice and how it was a way to keep the freed slaves in a state of economic dependency, but then also researched how the practice, coupled with things such as Jim Crow Laws, led to outcomes such as generational poverty and the negative effects it can have. Even in my classes that may not have many minority students, I found it to be a valuable learning experience about how systems in place can be set to work against people and the lasting impacts they can have.
Lastly, the third and possibly the most difficult class I teach in regards to including better diverse learning activities is AP Psychology. Sadly, the reason for this has nothing to do with the content. On the contrary, I think there are many possible avenues in this class that incorporating more diverse perspectives, in both psychological theory, and aspects of Social Psych, the content would be a great conduit to talk about the human condition. the amount of content that must be taught and learned in such a short amount of time, makes the prospect of changing the AP curriculum nearly impossible. The one caveat to this is however, the Social Psych unit. Due to the fact it is entirely based around social interactions and group dynamics, activities on culture and perspectives are very much built in to the content. Actually, as the culminating activity for our Social Psych unit, as a class we watched the movie Crash (2004)¸ with the focus of analyzing prejudice and group dynamics. I have several minority students in the class who did mention they thought the film was worthwhile to show to help illustrate how race can impact someone personally and how they feel viewed by others. It was reassuring to hear that all of the students, but especially those that have dealt with prejudice found the movie to be something that was beneficial to their learning. Where I can fit in more diverse learning opportunities is the approximate month or so of school after the AP test. Even though it is a short amount of time, allowing students to take part in an independent study opportunity of several topic choices, one of which diversity in psychology, is something that I can offer as a way to help students from diverse backgrounds create more meaningful connections with the material.
Teaching Tolerance (2018). About Teaching Tolerance. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from: https://www.tolerance.org/about
Teachinghistory.org (2018). Multiperspectivity: What Is It, and Why Use It?. National History Education Clearinghouse. Retrieved from: http://teachinghistory.org/teaching-materials/ask-a-master-teacher/23610
Green, Amy M.A. (January 2016). Psychology’s Diversity Problem; Why Psychology training programs need to improve diversity. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psy-curious/201601/psychologys-diversity-problem