The modern education system encourages cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity in the classroom in order to eliminate any existing gap in communication between representatives of different backgrounds. However, students are frequently divided into classes on the grounds of their social class, race, ethnicity or religious beliefs. This practice has negative results and increases the gap in the education system. More than forty percent of children in American schools come from culturally diverse backgrounds. Thus, the cultural mismatch between teachers and students can cause a troublesome classroom experience for both sides. To show respect and honor towards students’ language and cultural backgrounds, schools should follow multicultural educational policies, provide teachers with necessary training, and involve parents into the education process.
In addition, teachers should use various methods of working in the diverse classroom in order to increase their competence with students’ cultural and language backgrounds. This paper analyzes the way culturally responsive teaching and its instructions help schools and teachers validate students’ language and cultural backgrounds.
In the past, the main division of students in American schools was based on their social class, for example, there existed distinct categories of rich, poor, and middle-class children. However, in 1996, the number of students from different ethnic and racial groups doubled. Thus, at the beginning of the twentieth century, thirty percent of teachers began teaching students with limited English skills. Furthermore, only twenty-five percent of those teachers had sufficient training on how to work in multicultural conditions. The problem suddenly emerged and revealed that the majority of teachers showed little awareness of multicultural teaching, technical issues, and instructions. Typically, most urban schools have problems with cultural competency. It means they do not meet criteria on cultural competency before receiving license. In such institutions, students from different culture, language, and ethnic backgrounds do not receive the necessary support and respect. Furthermore, experiencing continuous misunderstanding, difficulties with education, and teachers’ indifference, they do not feel safe.
To stop the process of school degradation, the American professor Geneva Gay created an innovation concept of culturally responsive teaching. Even today, the peculiarities of this concept are one of the most useful in education. The reason is that culturally responsive teaching includes particular instructions that can help instructors and teaching staff to validate students’ language and cultural background. These culturally responsive instructions include such integral steps as culturally responsive school organization, culturally competence teachers, and parental involvement.
There are numerous schools that are not financially or psychologically prepared for ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic differences. In most cases, the administration of schools lays responsibility on teachers regarding such issues. However, the consideration of cultural competency must not be presented only by classroom teaching. American scholars, in particular Mick Brown, support the statement: “For real reform to occur in today’s schools, a complete transformation must take place. It is not enough to have teachers change their teaching to reflect their student’s diversity”. Consequently, culturally responsive schools should estimate diversity and support multicultural education policies. Such an approach usually involves curriculum that sufficiently and properly represents the contribution of many cultures. In contrast, the mainstream curriculum does not introduce ideas and experiences of diverse society. For example, for the purpose of providing people with useful information, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) organizes various forums on the design of culturally relevant curriculum.
The implementation of multicultural curriculum mainly depends on school administration. Without this support, teachers will be unable to introduce the culturally responsive material. Furthermore, multicultural education policies arrange various forums that are beyond the classroom. Thus, students get an opportunity to communicate with peers from diverse cultural backgrounds. As a result, culturally responsive organization of schools as well as following multicultural policies and curriculum may have positive results for the learning atmosphere in the whole school. Furthermore, if schools approve diversity, they will be able to accept children from not only different cultural and language backgrounds but also children who come from different religious or those who have disabilities.
Culturally responsive instructions require schools to recruit diverse educators and provide the staff with the necessary training with the aim of improving their teaching skills. However, many teachers oppose the benefit of culturally responsive teaching at school. They claim that this approach is quite complicated to be implemented. At the same time, teachers usually commit a huge mistake, such as a concentration on only safe topics about cultural diversity in the classroom while neglecting more troubling issues of inequality, injustice, and oppression. Using culturally responsive instructions in the classroom can transform teachers into powerful assistants. Thus, the main strategy is to provide all students with the feeling of respect and safety at school regardless of their culture, race, religion, and socioeconomic status. All students should feel and understand that teachers and classmates accept their backgrounds and treat them fairly. The concept of culturally responsive teaching offers different ways of providing various linguistic and cultural groups in teaching academic subjects. A good example of the productive usage of culturally responsive teaching and instructions is the Teaching Tolerance project. The Southern Poverty Law Center provided this project for reducing prejudice, expanding intergroup relations, and maintaining equitable school experience in all country. Hence, it shows how teachers can use culturally responsive teaching and make it beneficial for both sides. For instance, Barrie Moorman from E. L. Haynes Public Charter School represents the importance of understanding students’ strengths and contributes regardless of their culture or race through culturally responsive teaching. Thus, there are numerous possible actions or statements in the classroom that can be perceived as an insult even without such intention. According to culturally and linguistically responsive instruction, Mrs. Moorman establishes rules of respectful treatment. It helps her to create a strong classroom community. As a result, she is able to smooth over the sharp cultural questions at her lessons of history and cultivate cooperation along with mutual responsibilities between students and teachers.
However, cultural background is not the only factor that schools and teachers should consider. Non-standard language speakers in the classroom can be the reason of misunderstanding, tension, and conflicts even more than cultural aspect. To avoid such consequences, teachers should validate and affirm the native language of students through the use of particular instructional strategies. Non-standard English speaking children grew up speaking another language at home and for some reasons English became dominant.
Cultural responsive teaching requires educators to use texts that affirm and validate students’ backgrounds, cultures, and languages. For instance, a Spanish teacher from Portland proves that culturally responsive method of Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) can be quite useful. The key to this language strategy is personalization and comprehensible input. This technique includes storytelling and drawing pictures that assist non-standard English speaking children express their thoughts and understand the classmates. It teaches students to be allies towards each other and have a cultural conversation that leaves all the stereotypes behind. For teacher, TPRS helps to connect on multiple levels with anyone, getting into somebody else’s reality by leaving their personal comfort zone.
One more step of culturally responsive teaching is parental involvement. According to professors Richards, “Students’ performance in school will likely be affected by the ability of the teacher to negotiate this home-community-school relationship effectively”. The best way to do it is examine students’ home environments. This approach helps educators to look at their children alongside their social and cultural network. For instance, the ABC school in Southern California supports the philosophy that partnership between parents and school is a precondition to the academic success of their children. It gives an opportunity to discuss educational issues important to parents, teachers, and community, including the cultural tendencies in the relationships among teachers, students, and their parents. The results show that parents help children to establish a higher standard about themselves that includes cultural and language backgrounds.
Beginning from the end of the twentieth century, the education in America requires schools and teachers to be aware of culturally responsive teaching. Thus, they should validate students’ language and cultural backgrounds. The idea of culturally responsive teaching proves to be quite useful for teachers and schools in general. It includes such main steps as introducing the curriculum that meets peculiarities of multicultural groups of children, hiring trained educators with various methods and approaches, and incorporating parental involvement. The practice shows benefits of culturally responsive teaching. In particular, such teachers like Mrs. Moorman or Michelle Nicola show how the skills and knowledge of culturally responsive methods help them to provide equality and cultural competence in their practice. Moreover, this approach provides useful instructions for teaching students who do not speak Standard English. In general, using culturally responsive teaching and instructions provides schools and teachers with various approaches that help them to be tolerant and show respect and honor towards students’ language and cultural backgrounds in education.