culturally responsive teaching

John Quincy Adams once said that, “if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” As an educator, the classical style of teaching has been considered outdated and obsolete. While the No Child Left Behind looked to use standards and accountability to push its students to proficiency level and the Race to the Top initiative of offered a $4.35 billion competitive grant to spur innovation and reforms for in-state and local districts, the programs instead failed to provide our schools with the quality education that all kids in America needs to be successful. Furthermore, the new initiatives, such as the Common Core Standards, have enhanced more problems than solved.

But why are these initiatives failing? Isn’t it a good thing that we are looking to reshape and invigorate our education system in a more modern day style of teaching?

While Common Core Standards are designed to build upon the most advance and current millennial thinking, the overall implementation of the system has become incredibly troublesome for both teachers and students alike. For Common Core, the idea and vision behind it is justifiable. They look to model lessons and assignments that allot critical and analytical forward thinking in English, Writing, Mathematics, and Science to better prepare all students for a brighter and successful future. As great as this sounds, the implementation and execution itself has become increasingly intangible for educators to implement in the classroom. In addition, teachers have faced various problems that have hindered their capabilities to perform such as student over-testing and lack of resources. This dissatisfaction has lead to an alarming decline of teacher retention rates, which has been a growing problem for the past few years.

So what can we do to change this? How can educators respond to the unrealistic expectation of the public and the media?

In many schools across the nation, teachers are embracing the concept of culturally responsive teaching as a platform for their lessons. Culturally responsive teaching is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including student’s cultural reference in all aspects of learning. The lessons themselves use cultural knowledge, prior experiences (schemata), and performance style teaching to make learning more appropriate and effective for the students. In addition, culturally responsive teaching leverages various lessons and appropriates them with the experiences that students see on an everyday setting within their communities or world around them.

While it is important to utilize the foundational standards found in Common Core, incorporating outside relevant information can be an incredibly powerful concept that teachers can utilize for stronger student engagement. Take for example you are a high school teacher planning a lesson on the Civil Rights movement. To relate the concepts to your students, you can use current events such as the Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin case to teach the complications of racism and prejudices going on today and relate it back to your lesson. Incorporating that type of current media can give students that emotional and knowledgeable reference point to truly understand the reasoning and impact for that specific topic.

(If you would like to learn more about Culturally Responsive Teaching, take a look at this video here.)

However, as much as we could rely on culturally responsive teaching as the new platform for education, the overall concept still has room to grow and fill the gaps we still have today. We cannot treat this style of teaching as the sole replacement for Common Core. In reality, nothing can substitute a strong effective teacher who can both meet a set of standards and make it relevant and meaningful to his or her students. But incorporating a style that inspires students to read well, write analytically, and speak knowledgeably, through meaningful engagement is something we need to incorporate into our “core” in this actively developing educationally focused future.