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Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT); It's Not What You Think!

Updated: Apr 1, 2022

Let me quickly explain.

As the old adage goes, "don't judge a book by its cover", it may be worth it to add, "or by its title." So, at your next professional development, before you initiate the eye roll at, "not another", cultural-based professional development, I'm here to chill you out with some tea on why it is worth your time to get some CRT training.

What culturally responsive teaching is not:

For reading convenience, I'm going to do what I do best and break out the listicle:

Culturally responsive teaching is not...

  1. about learning everything there is to know about another culture.

  2. Giving up your culture to only promote the culture of your students.

  3. just knowing about race and ethnicity.

  4. a strategy to make you feel sorry for your students so that you lower your expectations of them (DON'T DO THIS!)

  5. unbacked by research and cognitive theory.

It's a common misconception that CRT means that teachers have to participate in, or be a part of the culture(s) of their students in order to connect with them. But that's not the case at all.

In fact, without an effort to genuinely get to know your students, you run the risk of coming off as disingenuous, or inauthentic and merely co-opting surface-level cultural things (i.e, food, dress, music, holidays), which can work against you when trying to build those authentic relationships.

What culturally responsive teaching is:

Do you know what time it is? Listicle time!

So, what is culturally responsive teaching? It is...

  1. a way to combat the five presuppositions of educational inequity

  2. a tool for teachers to lead successful classroom management in various cultural contexts

  3. a method for teachers to become self-aware of their deep cultural beliefs.

  4. teachers building rewarding and authentic relationships with the students, and their greater school community.

  5. Theory and research-based.

So now that we've cleared up what culturally responsive teaching is, and isn't. You're probably wondering, how does this apply to me, and my classroom?

How does this apply to you and your classroom?

The 2014-2015 school year marked the first year that more ethnically and linguistically diverse students enrolled in schools across the nation than the previously prevailing majority of white American students enrolling.

That means, as a teacher, regardless of if you are white American, an American of color, or otherwise, if you are a teacher in the American education system, you may already be teaching in a classroom full of students who are culturally different from you or culturally different from what you are used too.

Research found that the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged Black and Brown students, "is created by in-school factors (51%) over at-home factors (49%) (Haycock, 1997).

However, the research shows that schools aren't responding to these changes very well. In fact, research found that the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged Black and Brown students, "is created by in-school factors (51%) over at-home factors (49%) (Haycock, 1997).

Given that 51% of the disadvantage students face is caused by in-school factors, there's something to be said about the role a school community can play in upholding some of that inequity.

Here's where CRT comes in....

CRT is when an educator has an understanding of their deep level culture, and is then able to recognize students' cultural displays of understanding and respond with the appropriate teacher moves that will build pathways from that student's cultural knowledge to the concepts and content that they are being taught (Hammond, 2015).

If it sounds familiar, that's because it is! CRT uses theory based on cognitive psychology that has been pushing theory through the education intelligentsia. If you've been teaching for a while then you know, the best way to help students retain content is by activating their prior knowledge and building from those connections.

CRT is not "just" another cultural PD, but a tool to help teachers effectively handle the diverse classrooms of today.

Culturally responsive teaching is a tool for educators to leverage their skills for creating engaging and relevant lessons for their students through activating their prior knowledge, by being the thing that we need to be able to recognize when students cross our deep and shallow cultural norms, these are times to investigate further in order to perhaps learn of a culture that we were not aware of before, but most importantly, a chance for us to authentically learn about our students, which provides us with authentic material to build student/teacher relationships from.

Relationships that work to remove roadblocks and cultural barriers that may prevent us from doing what we love doing the most......teaching.



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