Culturally Responsive Teaching Empowers Students Intellectually and More

“Culturally responsive teaching is an approach that empowers students intellectually, socially, emotionally and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes”.

-Gloria Ladson-Billinas

When I was a sophomore in high school I was enrolled in Honors English (not Honors Math) thank God. I had a teacher from Dallas, Texas. She was a cowgirl. She looked around the room, 27 students and 25 of them Latino. We had the typical Shakespeare booklist and she looked around and said “we’re throwing that out, instead we are going to read “Bless me Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya.” The story is about a Mexican-American boy living in New Mexico. His grandmother is a native folk healer and she teaches him about the importance of moral independence. An emphasis of thinking independently about moral decisions. Antonio, the boy learns many lessons from his grandmother and witnesses the end of her life. The story ends with her death.

Talk about classroom engagement. The entire class was consumed by the story and the cultural validation. It didn’t end there. Somehow our teacher contacted Mr. Anaya and asked him to visit our class. He said yes and within weeks of us finishing the book he came to our class to talk about his life as a Mexican-American author. We were beyond impressed. This was a memorable experience for me and my classmates.

As educators both in the classroom and outside the classroom we have a wonderful, blessed career to partake in the educational journey of our students. We get to be a part of their journey and we get to learn about their personal lives as well as their goals and dreams for the future. Often times we are their first mentor, their first role model, their first support system. To me, cultural responsiveness means more than one strategy or providing students with one experience, it means truly being interested in who they are as a person and understanding my role in their success. Veteran students, single moms, foster youth, minority males, the list goes on and on but the underlying commitment lies in our ability to adjust our college to meet our students needs and help them achieve their dreams.

 

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