I recently discovered that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC) have offered each district in our state access to the online course Becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher with Strategies for Language Acquisition by Gary Howard and Eugenia Mora-Flores. The idea is for each district to facilitate the delivery of this module to all teachers. I was able to get access to the module and found it a great resource for my own professional development. Some of the topics the course covers are:
- Creating a working definition of cultural competence that is, looking at my will, skill, authenticity and effectiveness in building relationships with all of my students, and across all differences.
- Learning more about how issues of privilege and social dominance impact student success. (This section was especially enlightening for me to look at the dynamics of dominance at work in the culture and practices of my school district. I am now more aware of students’ feeling of inclusion or lack thereof within the school.)
- Learning about privilege and power, and how we can work to create a more inclusive, equitable, excellent, and welcoming environment.
- Diving into into the Seven Principles of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the blocks and barriers to implementing these principles in the classroom. Most important in these seven principles is the belief that relationships precede learning. The seven principles are: affirming students and their own cultures; being personally inviting; creating an environment that is physically and culturally inviting; reinforcing students’ academic development; accommodating differences in learners as instruction is planned; managing the classroom with firm, loving and consistent control; ensuring that interactions are collective as well as individual.
- Identifying teacher behaviors and beliefs that serve as keys to equity and inclusion.
- And, understanding English Language Learners (ELLs) and their language acquisition needs, as this is the fastest growing segment of the student population. The Policy Brief from the National Council of Teachers of English provides some helpful suggestions.
After spending some time with this resource, I walked away with the understanding that I am still learning, and have a long way to go in my journey toward becoming a culturally responsive person. These modules are a great resource for educators to expand their learning and understanding with the most important lesson being that students feel welcome and cared about as humans.