Did you know that in the United States there is a major shift in the demographics of our schools? With an increasingly diverse world, more children of color will begin dominating schools around the nation. Ironically, the majority of teachers will continue to be middle aged white women. This new epidemic is certainly taking place, but how are we preparing ourselves for what is to come? Will there be a cultural mismatch between teachers and the students they teach? How do we ensure this mismatch doesn't interfere with student learning.
The first step to avoid this mismatch is to become aware of our own assumptions and possible biases about cultural groups. Assumptions and biases can interfere or facilitate a student's progress to a great education. What happens when we teach an Asian student who may not meet our assumptions of being smart? What about that Black student who aces every assignment but comes from a single parent home? Our assumptions can impact the way we feel about and treat students.
To successfully reach all students, one must become culturally proficient. Culturally proficiency enables individuals to respond effectively to people who are different from them.
For many, becoming culturally proficient takes much time, reflection, and practice.There are six points along the cultural proficiency continuum that indicate unique ways of perceiving and responding to differences. The goal is to move ourselves from the downward spiral of the continuum into the upward spiral.
How are teaches developing their teaching style to accommodate students? Before differentiating, what must one have to know? If educators do not have some knowledge of their students' lives outside of paper-and-pencil work, and even outside of their classrooms, then they cannot accurately know their students' strengths and weaknesses (Delpit, 1995).
We must teach students according to how they learn; we cannot expect students to learn the way we teach. This is a disservice to learners and many will be left behind. When we become culturally proficient, then we have the ability and openness to adapt to diverse learners thus building cultural responsive relationships. Lessons become meaningful and culture relevance becomes daily practice. Instruction should be culturally relevant to accelerate student learning. This is done by initially knowing students’ interests and abilities.
The cultural mismatch among teachers and the students they teach can't and won't be eliminated overnight. People are generally ignorant to their lack of cultural awareness; however, if we can aim to move those up the continuum, it is sure to become contagious.
Delpit, Lisa (1995). Other Peoples' Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press.