Monday, June 8, 2015

Culture Counts

I'm going to be honest and say that when presented with information about thinking about cultural diversity in my teaching practice, it isn't something I feel I need to address because it is embedded already in my values and in my teaching philosophy. My fundamental value is relationships. To be an effective teacher I must have good relationships with my students.

So why do so many teachers fail to recognise students culture and what they bring to the classroom?

I wonder if this is actually embedded in how we view children. Do we see them as competent and capable? Do we believe in the concept of ako - that we are both teachers and learners and so are our students? Who holds the power in our classroom?

To look outward one must also look inward. How are we evaluating resources and initiatives that address the needs of Māori and Pacifika students? They address these cultural needs within the context of there being more than 1 student who identifies as being of that culture. How do we address the fact that some of us work in predominantly european schools?

I ask these questions because I've heard the arguments and I've seen the excuses.

My solution would to be look at something similar to Te Kotahitanga  - that we use culturally responsive pedagogy to form our relationships in the classroom.  That we address power-relations, that we see each student as being culturally located and we think about our teaching strategies and how they meet the needs of the learner.  Most of all, that we actually build proper relationships with our students.

Culture isn't a separate entity, it is part of our students so by getting to know our students we will know more about what they have to bring to our classrooms whether that is "cultural" or not.