In this chapter, I expect to learn about diverse students and strategies to provide culturally responsive teaching. This is a topic that I find very interesting. I value cultural diversity and want to respect all people and their cultures.
Having gone to college in an international setting, I have experienced learning with students from very different backgrounds. As the text indicated the exchange of cultures and the opportunity to discuss material with students from all over the world, enriched the learning experience.
I can also attest to the effect on students when an educator fails to take the students’ cultural context into account.
I remember taking an ethnicity course with students from Israel, Serbia, Hungary, and Germany taught by a professor from the main campus in the United States. The professor came to our classroom to discuss ethnicity issues. He brought with him his regular curriculum geared for U.S. students. It seems he did little to look into the backgrounds of the students in our class. Understandable, however, it was a small class on an international campus and his subject was ethnicity. The subject matter could have and should have been easily applied to our group and we all could have learned many things by drawing on our own backgrounds and presenting and analyzing information. However, the professor focused almost solely of issues of racism in America.
As the only American student in the classroom, I was probably the only one interested or well-acquainted with the information he was presenting. When my classmates offered examples from their own backgrounds, the professor often took offense or tried to offer an “expert” explanation of the subject. However, his impromptu discourses often showed his lack of knowledge of facts, undermining his ability to cross-transfer the information that he did indeed have expertise in. The class got off to a rocky start, there were many complaints and we did not experience the same level of discussion and cultural exchange as we did in many other courses.
This was a well-educated, excellent professor who had much experience in teaching. Not only that, but he was a genuinely nice person who liked his students and wanted to make a connection with us. He even had us to his flat to Barbeque burgers. I have no doubt that the struggles we had in our classroom were unintended, but do believe they could have been avoided with a little planning.
Another professor from the main campus came to teach about Holocaust. He also brought his curriculum from the main campus, but adapted a little. We read a Holocaust memoir written by a Hungarian Nobel Prize winner. He attempted to learn a little Hungarian. He explored museums and cultural sites in the area and shared what he was learning, asking the students about many things. He also arranged a class trip to Krakow where we went on tour of Auschwitz. He presented himself as an expert in his area of expertise and as a learner in any new areas for him. When students brought up information from their backgrounds, he was genuinely interested.
From these two experiences, I learned the importance of respecting students’ culture and how to teach your subject while capitalizing on the both your own and students’ expertise.
The text offered many strategies which I hope to use. In particular, the use of multi-cultural trade books to supplement the text. I also hope to create projects which allow students to connect the course connect to their own areas of interest.
I was very interested to read that a teacher was taking a day of coursework to explore each student’s cultural background. I recently attended a seminar with an organization called Facing Race. In it we explored our own background and beliefs in the context of race. We viewed a video series that depicted some very common stumbling blocks in interracial communications. Between each segment we had time to write and reflect and group shared with one another. The purpose was to understand where we were coming from and learned to hear one another and speak to one another about race in a respectful way.
After the program, I thought that this would be an excellent way to begin a course in American History in a multicultural classroom. I feel that the time invested in recognizing race, reflecting on our own backgrounds and learning to share in a respectful way, would be a great way to break down the barriers that can complicate learning this subject matter in a diverse setting. It is great to see that a teacher has had some success in a similar approach.
I am excited to teach in Multicultural classrooms. I hope to draw on what I have learned and experienced to make the classes engaging and meaningful to all students. I hope to do this by learning about the backgrounds of students and connecting the course content both to their current physical surroundings—neighborhoods, city and state and to the cultures they come from.