My Personal Framework for Culturally-Responsive Teaching

1. Re-Education of Educators: Teachers and educators at all levels of the educational-system must go through intense training centered on multiculturalism with social-justice as the premise. Educators must decolonize their way(s) of thinking. In this intense training, educators will look at their own position in society and how their position impacts the way they interact and view the world. In seeing their positionality, educators will begin to start the work of understanding intersectionality. Intersectionality would look at the various identity-markers (sexuality, race, religion, gender, socio-economic class, and etc) and how it intertwines to form individuals’ lived realities. In looking at this, educators will begin to understand that individuals within society, within schools are faced with multiple oppressions just based off of their identity. In undergoing such an intense training, educators will look at equitable ways to: restructure a school including school culture, creating equitable lessons within classroom, equitable disciplinary action and etc.

In the words of Paulo Freire’s  Pedagogy of the Oppressed, ““[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.”


2. Re-Structuring of Curriculum: Districts will work with diversity-committees and/or groups to ensure that curriculum is based in multiculturalism. Within curriculum, teachers are taught how to implement multiculturalism in lessons that will based in social-justice as the aim. Professional-development throughout the year will help teachers learn how to implement teaching strategies and equitable assessment to ensure that students of all backgrounds are given quality education that is critical in thinking and problem-solving. Within the curriculum, students are action-researchers and given the tools needed to go out into the world to solve problems within their own communities and afar.

“The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy”
― bell hooksTeaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

3. Classroom Environment: Within the classroom setting, teachers are not givers of knowledge, but facilitators. Students are given the role to actively ask questions and seek out answers. Students are taught the tools needed to be critical in the analysis of the world. Students are ongoing researchers that are given access to tools need to solve problems within the content-area or interdisciplinary. The teacher urges students to bring prior knowledge to the classroom to discuss issues pertaining to: race, gender, socio-economic class, religion, culture, and etc. The teacher will help students connect these identity markers to multicultural issues that are present within the world. Furthermore, students are taught to reflect on the knowledge they gain and create. Students will understand that change will not come until reflection is done.

“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence;… to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.”
― Paulo Freire

The Poverty Paradigm: Resisting This Narrative

I can’t tell you how many educators I have heard say that poor, Black kids can’t learn and that poverty is their deficiency. On top of that, poor, black parents/guardians do not care about the education of their children.

Full stop.

I, for one, grew up as a poor, Black kid.

I learned.

I, for one, see how poor, Black kids can, will and have always excelled academically. See, it takes educators that are there to teach with high expectations that will push all of his or her students, no matter the background.

Being poor doesn’t make you deficient.
Being poor doesn’t make you deficient.

Let me tell you, my parents never thought I was deficient. They never sent me to school saying I was an inadequate black kid because of poverty. They always told me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I can succeed in anything if I had the will to believe. We were broke and struggled at times, but that never stopped me from going to school and excelling. Sure, you may have been through some dark times but my parents didn’t want to see no bad grades. They weren’t about to have me sitting up in a school and not learn.

Let me tell you, my folks made sure to read to us. They made sure to see if I had homework and if I needed additional help. So, please dismiss yourself if you have the belief that poor folks, especially black and Latino folks can’t learn.

Let me tell you, most of us poor folk are serious about our education. We set high expectations for ourselves and the kids around us. In the words of my black mama, “I ain’t raising no dummies”. There you have it.

So, the next person that I hear saying that poor black kids can’t learn than we about to have some problems.

Let me tell you something else, these black and brown babies are pushing hard in these classrooms. They are pushing hard against the social-inequities within their lives. They are pushing against the oppressions that face them just because they are poor and black.

Let me tell you something else, if my black and brown students want to beat-box on the table, braid their hair back in cornrows, dab on it and everything else that screams “Black and brown” then go ahead. There’s too many people that wish to police them. There’s too many people seeking to silence them. There’s too many people that wants to see them fail.

We are not deficient. We are not going to silence ourselves. We are not going to fail.

My Letter to Victims of Domestic Violence

Dear Survivors,

You are not the violence you have received. You are not the frustrations that your perpetrator may have placed upon your body. You are going to survive this moment of your life and understand that it is not your fault. I don’t care what he or she said before, during or after the incident(s). You are not to be blamed. You are not to be violated in any way. I will not ask why he or she was provoked to abuse you in any form (emotionally, financially, psychologically, mentally or physically). There is never a reason to hurt someone. You do not hurt the person that you love. Yes, people may say that this is unrealistic but it is the truth.

As a survivor and witness to domestic violence, I am calling out those that have hurt us. I will not place shame on us for what they did. We are not to feel shame for what they have done. We must share our stories. We must learn that healing happens and can happen and will happen. It is so hard to walk away from the person that you believe loves you, but love doesn’t hurt. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say this. People always say that love shouldn’t hurt and it shouldn’t.

As a young girl, I saw domestic violence in the physical and psychological form. I didn’t understand what was happening because mama and papa would always express their love for their children, but so often I would doubt the love they had for each other. I didn’t know if love was supposed to be so hurtful at times. I would see the sadness in the face of my mother and my father. As a child, a young girl-child, I began to equate the painful love that I saw with the type of love that I would later accept. My parents would often argue with one another, mostly about money. Other times, my father would get upset at my mother for wanting to go out by herself. For my mother, her time was mostly spent working and coming home to tend to household responsibilities.  In seeking to find some time for herself,  she would be stopped, reprimanded and made to feel guilty for wanting to step outside of the home. For wanting time for herself. For wanting to seek out self-care.

In coming to the realization that violence is cyclical in my family, I am learning to heal from the pain. The pain can be unbearable. It can be tragic. It can sometimes ruin us. And even in the midst of healing, we sometimes blame ourselves for the pain we have undergone. We have flashbacks. We have internal conversations. We have guilt. We have sympathy for our abuser. We have love for our abuser. We have hate for them too. We have shouldered the burden of the pain.

However, in the midst of all of it, sometimes we forgive. We forgive them. We forgive them. We forgive them. We cry. We cry for them. For them that chose to hurt us. And sometimes the hurt they imposed upon us is the hurt they feel themselves.

And here we are, learning how to be whole again. Wholeness becomes our priority.

And this is for us, for surviving.

Sincerely,

Lauren Anderson, Survivor

 

What is Your Purpose?

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As time passes, I often as myself the question, “What is my purpose?”.  In working with elementary-aged students for the last year, I’ve observed and experienced many things. I found myself in joy from working with them and seeing them progress socially and academically. However, I’ve seen the amount of work and dedication it takes to become and remain a teacher. In Education, you have to know if students are a part of your purpose. For me, children will always be a part of my purpose. In Urban-schools, you will often find poverty, trauma, struggle and creativity. In this creativity, students often find ways to cope with their own pain. In this creativity, you will find that you’re able to learn a lot about your students. However, if this is your purpose then you will find ways to connect to your students. The question is, “What is your purpose?”.

Why is this question important? It’s important because it forces you to re-evaluate your choice. After a year of instructing students, I’ve realized that my heart became attached to these little people. You become a part of their lives. They become a part of your life. They will look to you for guidance, love, and attention. The end of the school-year is hard for me. I’m realizing how tough teaching can be for a teacher. A teacher doesn’t only teach, but he/she counsels and parents, as well. A teacher wears many hats within the daily routine of school. However, all these hats include the ability to deal with political issues within the school and surrounding the school.

In the wearing of many hats, the teacher is truly an amazing person. They can give students the ability to dream and to believe in those dreams. Why is this important? Well, in my experience, dreams can be everything for a student. In the lives of many inner-city students, the reality of trauma and struggle is ever-present. Instability may be the order of the day. I’ve seen kids come to school with dirty clothes, hungry, shoes with holes, no coats during the winter,  and etc. So, if an educator is able to give students the ability to believe and to achieve, this give students something to yearn for. This give students something to hunger for. In my opinion, many parents care. If not parents, guardians of the student want the best for their child. However, many parents/ guardians are struggling themselves to keep food and a roof over their family’s head. Let’s not begin to talk about structural oppression that occurs to people of color. Sometimes we find that people argue that ‘these’ people do not work hard enough, but this claim doesn’t hold water. In the history of America, structural oppression has always been ever-present in the lives of people of color.

So, it is important to think about all of these aspects when thinking about the purpose of why we do what we do. We may not be educators. But our purpose is important. Our purpose usually gives some feeling of satisfaction or contentment in living life. Our purpose isn’t always black and white. However, our purpose should bring some happiness to our daily lives. Being an instructor has taught me a lot about purpose. It has taught me a lot about caring for others. It has taught me a lot about social justice in our country. It has taught me to never give up on what you truly enjoy and find important in the sustainability of your personal happiness.

Where Have I Been?

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The spring 2016 semester has started up. I am finally back in the classroom again -at the university. I am in my last year of my Master’s program and life couldn’t be more hectic. In the time I have been away from my blog, I’ve experienced so many life-lessons that could last a life-time. As a paraprofessional at a local school in Kansas City, I have grown so much in my outlook on education. It really is vital to get first-hand experience in any career you are seeking to go in. I highly encourage a person to dive headfirst in whatever they seek in life. Life is filled with so many opportunities.

As a female of color, I have seen the importance of being in the classroom. I understand the importance of having presence and making a positive impact. In many ways, being a person of color within the inner-city school I work in, I am able to relate to the students. In return, students are able to feel a level of familiarity with you. Culture is very important. In my college courses, we often discuss the importance of diversity. However, diversity is such a big concept that can encompass many things. Diversity transcends racial groups. Diversity includes: languages, lifestyles, cultures, religions, classes and etc. You will encounter students from various backgrounds that will need your understanding and love. For some people, this can be challenging. And sometimes, it can be.

The classroom at a university is different than a classroom you will encounter in a school. You are given theoretical outlooks and then you are given reality once you step outside of your college campus. I am forever grateful for the job that I have because I can experience the daily lives of teachers. You have to be proactive in many ways. You have to be self-confident in the choices that you make. You have to be creative. You have to be a critical thinker. You have to be open to change. The classroom is forever changing as time goes by.  Your classroom may force you to rethink your own personal values and beliefs. Are you ready for that?

In order to be an effective educator, you need heart. You need the kind of heart that remains constant in the battle to give your best each and everyday to every student that you teach. You have to dig deep everyday and touch that part of yourself. Look yourself in the mirror and tell yourself why you are an educator. Never forget your purpose. You are a very special person. You have a heart that will influence students to be all that they aspire to be. You have to keep this mentality. Every morning, I wake up with my purpose in mind. I go to sleep with my students in mind. I keep my ‘why’ in mind. Why am I doing this? Why is this important to me? Why are the students important? Why? Why am I in a classroom? You have to know your why.