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Building a Culturally Responsive Classroom

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Gwen Booker

on 24 December 2013

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Transcript of Building a Culturally Responsive Classroom

Building a Culturally Responsive Classroom
Families are the Experts
Families are the experts in their child's learning. Families share commonalities in how they prime their children for academic success. These commonalities consist of family system processes that support successful outcomes. Categorized into four domains, the following family system processes are:

1. Family Beliefs and Expectations
A. Sense of Purpose
B. Positive Outlook
C. Sense of Efficacy

2. Family Emotional Connectedness
A. Emotional warmth and belonging
B. Open, emotional sharing
C. Clear communication
D. Collaborative problem-solving
Culturally Responsive Teaching con't.
Contextualize Learning- Contextualized instruction utilizes what students presently know in their everyday lives and associating it with learning new content- making it easily and readily retrievable (Doherty, Hilberg, Pinal & Tharp, 2003). There are three levels to contextualized instruction: 1) teaching/pedagogical strategy which links a learner’s current knowledge with learning new content; 2) curriculum which uses culturally relevant materials to promote literacy, numeracy and science; and 3) policy which focuses on school learning as a social process involving school and community (Amatea, 2013).
***See accompanying paper on an example of a contextualized lesson plan.***
Educators as Advocates in Crisis
How can educators assist learners and their families through crisis? Educators can help by employing the following strategies:

Building quality relationships with students and families.
Be a good listener.
Be flexible with school assignments.
Allow open communication between student-teacher regarding crisis.
Allocate community resources to assist students and families in need.

Effective Partnerships
Effective school-family partnerships are driven by a set of core beliefs and expectations, such as:

1. Families are influential to a child's learning and development in and out of school;
2. As a common practice, educators will execute an outreach to families by listening and understanding the needs, strengths and perspectives of a learner's family to enrich their learning;
3. The shared responsibility of a learner's academic success is defined by a school climate that upholds trust, two-way communication and mutual support;
4. Building trusting relationships with families from inception lends to easier problem-solving interaction; and
5. Community support is equally vital in fostering teacher-parent collaborations (Amatea, 2013).
The purpose of building culturally responsive classrooms is to:

Recognize how culture, family and community influence learning and utilizing those connections to facilitate learning.

Partner with parents/caregivers to make decisions, dialogue and problem-solve to improve academic achievement.

To improve school programs, pedagogy and curriculum to maximize learning.
Families are the Experts con't.
3. Family Organizational Patterns
A. Strong Leadership and Clear Expectations
B. Firm but Friendly Management Style
C. Developed Social Network

4. Family Learning Opportunities
A. Development of Family Routines that Support Achievement
B. Explicit Skill Instruction

Community Resources for Families in Crisis
North Texas Area United Way provide education, income, health, childcare and afterschool services for families who need support. Further information regarding available programs and services provided by North Texas Area United Way can be found at: www.ntauw.org

The Helen Farabee Center which provides counseling services for families and youth at-risk, substance abuse services, adult behavioral health services and in-home and family support services. More information concerning available services and resources provided by the Helen Farabee Center: www.helenfarabee.org.

Family Stressors
Along with understanding how a learner’s culture and family values influence their academic progress; educators must learn about the stressful, unpredictable circumstances that could impact learning to support them in restoring balance back to their lives. Carter and McGoldrick (1999) have characterized the types of stressors that cause families disarray. Such strategies are:

- identified as the biological, familial and behavioral aspects that cause dysfunction in families. These vertical stressors are dependent upon an individual’s character, physical nature and genetics; in addition to family ideals, values, secrets, relations and functioning that are bestowed upon generations to follow.

- characterized as: (a) developmental (life-cycle transitions, migration); (b) unpredictable (unexpected death, chronic illness, accident, unemployment) and (c) factual occurrences (war, natural disasters, politics, etc.) (Amatea, 2013).
Culturally Responsive Teaching
Culture influences how educators teach and how students learn. Furthermore, different cultures have varying perspectives on how educational systems should be implemented. It is imperative that educators recognize cultural differences in education, learn about the cultural background of students and their families and how to support those differences when facilitating learning. Educators can begin to learn about the background of a diverse classroom of students by creating opportunities for parents to participate in school activities. Several strategies are:
Have a multicultural event- At multicultural night, students and families are encouraged to bring foods that represent their culture. The event will also have music and games from various cultures represented in the school and community. Multicultural night is an event which allows students, parents and school personnel to come together and learn about the different cultures in their community. Additionally, this event will give educators the opportunity to build relationships with students and parents while garnering some perspective on the cultural and familial influences students bring to the classroom.
Problem-Solving with Culturally Diverse Families
Problem-solving with families and students must be collaborative as well. However, educators should recognize there may be some difficulty in problem-solving with families who, according to their cultural beliefs, have different perspectives on how to communicate concerns when they arise. Educators can utilize the SOLVES family-school problem-solving approach for effective, positive results for the student and constructive relationship building:
etting up the meeting and inviting the student and family;
rienting to purpose and process and introducing parents;
istening and clarifying participants' concerns and blocking blame;
alidating and checking for consensus about shared concerns;
xpanding solution ideas; and
etting up an action plan and follow-up (Amatea, 2013).

The SOLVES approach is ideal when dealing with culturally diverse families who want to be involved in their child's learning but may not understand what their role is in a monolingual/monocultural school. SOLVES is a great way for educators to inquire upon and learn about the cultural background of students and their families to better communicate with them and implement effective ways to engage parents and facilitate student learning.
Culture and Disability
An educator being culturally responsive also means acknowledging and responding to cultural differences in terms of disabilities. Typically, educators are involved in IEP services for students with special needs. To prepare for such meetings, educators must be culturally sensitive and responsive to these families (as they are diverse) to bridge gaps between what schools deem what the child’s needs academically versus what the family’s views are pertaining to what the child needs. To practice cultural sensitivity in preparing for IEP meetings, educators can employ the following strategies:
1. Arrange to talk with parents before the meeting to make them aware of the meeting's purpose and how they can prepare for the meeting.
2. Ask parents if they have concerns that they feel need to be discussed by you the representative.
3. Provide parents with the 'draft' copies of reports (in their own language if needed) that will be discussed at the IEP meeting.
Amatea, E. S. (2013). Building culturally responsive family-school relationships (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education. ISBN-10: 0205523641

Carter, E. & McGoldrick, M. (1999) The expanded family life cycle: individual, family and social perspectives. Allyn & Bacon.

Doherty, R. W., Hilberg, R. S., Pinal, A., & Tharp, R. G. (2003). Five standards and student achievement. NABE Journal of Research and Practice, 1(1), 1-24.

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