A person’s culture deeply impacts his or her way of thinking and learning; that presents a special challenge to educators because modern classrooms often have a beautiful mishmash of students from different backgrounds. How can you adapt and demonstrate cultural awareness in your teaching? The following resources may help.
Pursue a Multicultural Mindset
The most diverse cities in the U.S. have fairly equal numbers of Hispanics, whites, blacks, and Asians/Pacific Islanders. If you are coming from a place with a fairly non-diverse population — or if you are just starting to notice that your classes are becoming more diverse — adjusting your mindset to take all cultures into account may be something of a lengthy process. These resources may help you make the transition.
- In August 2014, Edutopia updated its list of cultural diversity resources for teachers. One of the standout resources on the list is an article from the Harvard Family Research Project. The article contains the viewpoints of several diversity education leaders and offers practical advice on how to approach cultural diversity.
- The University of Minnesota presents a simple but insightful article that gives pointers on how to embrace cultural identity in the classroom. It starts with understanding that “culture is taught and caught.” The article offers three tips for teachers that center around getting to know students and building meaningful relationships with them.
- Tolerance.org provides a thought-provoking commentary on the impact that books can have on human perception of culture. Even individuals with the best intentions may be unaware that they exhibit cultural bias. One way to combat the subconscious pitfall is through diverse literature. The article gives a short list of books that feature people of varying backgrounds.
- Teaching for Change offers a wealth of downloadable articles that focus on anti-bias early childhood education. The list includes attention-grabbing titles like “What if All the Kids are White?” and “Diversity Issues Are Sneaky.” The articles on the list are available in both English and Spanish, making them more accessible to both standard and ESL classrooms.
- Diverseeducation.com shares the thoughts of Dr. Marvin Lynn, the dean of the School of Education at Indiana University South Bend. Dr. Lynn points out that culturally inclusive teaching is too often more of a theory than a practice. He explains the benefits of the edTPA program, a teacher assessment that requires candidates to demonstrate how they give attention to their students’ varying backgrounds.
- An Australian university gives a useful look at the benefits and challenges of designing a curriculum that doesn’t leave any student feeling alienated. The article also includes practical strategies for considering students with varying religious and cultural backgrounds. At the bottom of the page, you will find links to external resources.
- The Lafayette Journal & Courier shares the challenges faced by schools in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. In recent years, the number of minority students in the county has grown significantly, and educators are struggling to cope with the cultural and linguistic challenges of reaching those students. The article may help you anticipate and understand some of the obstacles that come with a diverse classroom.
- International schools face some unique challenges when it comes to cultural diversity. These schools’ students are often from all across the globe, have limited English skills, and may even be unaccompanied minors. This article from NPR discusses how Flushing International High School in New York handles these challenges.
Connect With Students of All Backgrounds
After you have a well-rounded idea of what it means to have a culturally diverse class and the attitudes that should come along with it, it’s time to formulate specific strategies that aim to ensure that every student in your class derives the most benefit possible from the information you present. There is no one tried-and-true formula for approaching cultural diversity, but these resources will give you a good idea of how to get started.
- The University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia presents an article entitled “Designing culturally inclusive classrooms.” It is aimed at university teachers, but you can apply the principles therein to K-12 classrooms as well. Tips include things like having a positive attitude toward diversity, setting clear expectations, and making students feel safe in the learning environment.
- Cultural diversity involves more than simply what you do as an educator; it also involves what your students do. This list of resources from Kentucky’s Department of Education includes lesson planning resources, lesson plans, and classroom activities that you can use to teach your students about diversity.
- A person’s cultural background can have a deep impact on how they learn. Edutopia offers pointers on how to help diverse learners thrive. Tips include setting high expectations, presenting culturally relevant instruction, and developing caring relationships with students. The article contains a link to a PDF file that gives further details.
- Categorizing your students by culture instead of by their individual traits can make you miss out on connecting with them. A writer for EdWeek gives advice on how you can get to know students on a personal level through their writing assignments. You have to log in to the website to access the full article, but registration is free.
- Becoming acquainted with your students is vital if you want to give them the personalized education they deserve. This infographic, published by Edudemic in August 2014, provides ideas for fun activities you can use to become more familiar with your pupils.
- How can you go about learning about other cultures? This article from Community Tool Box answers that question in detail. It even includes a PowerPoint presentation that summarizes the article’s key points.
- Religion plays a pivotal role in many cultures. Religionfacts.com contains abundant information about major religions as well as religions you may never have heard of. If religious students are uncomfortable with certain assignments or activities, you may be able to use this website to find out why.
Cultural diversity is beautiful and should be embraced as an opportunity for learning rather than as a challenge. The above resources can help you become an effective educator whether your students are from your hometown or anywhere else in the world.