Examining the Relationship Between Culture and Learning

            I have always considered myself very accepting of others no matter their ethnic background, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation but while reading our course material this week I realized it’s not enough to just be accepting. I’m sure many of us have heard people make statements like, “they are in America now, so they need to speak like us and be like us.” That statement always makes me stop and think about all the changes people face when moving to a new area. There are changes from state to state and city to city. My family and I have moved a lot in the last few years and although it’s been just in the tri-state area it is still hard to adjust to new cultures and people. In the video, “Cultural and Linguistic Diversity,” Dr. Eugene Garcia stated that we are all diverse and it’s our roots that shape and sustain us. This tells us that a person’s culture isn’t so much based upon their race as it is their family and how they were raised. So to take away a students’ identity would be to say that they don’t matter.

         I believe that it is possible for teachers to be culturally aware without oversimplifying or stereotyping. In order for this to happen though we must make a conscious effort to do so. We must have what Erickson and Mohatt call teacher radar to figure out what we need to do to connect with out students. (Nieto & Bode, 2008).

         In order for us to support students’ cultural differences in learning preferences and/or communication styles we must get to know our students. Children will learn more in an environment where they feel safe, comfortable, and accepted.  My oldest son, who is in 7th grade, just wrote an autobiography for a class at school and they all had to share them. I thought this was a great way to get to know the students and for them to get to know one another. All through the elementary school that I work in they did similar activities. We need to admit the possibility that students’ identities may influence how they experience school and, hence, how they learn. (Nieto & Bode, 2008). One of the major keys to having successful students is to learn about them and use all our differences as learning experiences.

More on Diversity

 “Diversity in education is not a waste of time. It should be a national goal, and it’s a goal we’re going to keep fighting for. “ (Daschle, 2012). We have not always had equal education for all and now that we do we must reach to all students no matter their race, gender, or socioeconomic status. It is important that we accept the always changing world. “We need to educate for the world today, not as it was.” (Nieto). In America’s recent history, equal education and equal opportunities have not always been an option. Many people have fought for these rights and freedoms. With our continually changing culture and the growing diversity we must continue to fight to implement multicultural education into our schools.

In talking with some of the teachers in the school district that I work, I found that more things were done to implement multicultural education than I thought. I was pleasantly surprised with this discovery. Although we don’t have a lot of ethnic diversity in the small community that we live in, we are teaching our children about other cultures anyway. I believe that this helps our children to be open to and accepting of others.

In my school district there does not appear to be any achievement gaps from one ethnic group to another. We do, however, see achievement gaps in those with a lower socioeconomic status. Children coming from a low socioeconomic status may come to school hungry, tired, dirty, or scared and worried about what is waiting for them when they get home from school. These children usually have to worry about things that others do not which causes them to not be able to focus well on their studies. Another thing that factors into achievement gaps in lower socioeconomic statuses is a lack of early education by parents and guardians or parent involvement in their children’s schooling. One of my colleagues shared with a about a student she had in one of her first years of teaching that came from a family that did not have much. This little boy loved sports but was struggling with his schoolwork and his parents were unable or unwilling to help him catch up on his work. In order to make a difference for this little boy my colleague worked with him before and after school to catch him up then allowed him to do odd jobs for her to earn money so that he could buy basketball shoes that year. It was nice to hear because it lets me know that all children are important to her.

As I researched and found the data for diversity I found that there are many implications for us as teachers. We need to be sure that the curriculum reaches to all students. We must be aware of student’s differences and be flexible and willing to change. Building relationships with our students is very important because it plays a big role in their personal success. If we use Sonia Neito’s Seven Characteristics of Multicultural Education we should have no problems in reaching to all of our students.

Diversity

In what ways does your school implement multicultural education?

Without implementing multicultural education into our schools we will lose the whole purpose behind public education. Multicultural education is a philosophy, a way of looking at the world, not simply a program or a class or a teacher. (Nieto & Bode, 2008). It is important that we as teachers reach to students and their families no matter their race or socioeconomic status. Building relationships with our students and their families lets them know that they are important to us and will help them to be more successful. When I went to my colleagues this past week about how we implement multicultural education in our district I feel that it really got people thinking about what we do as a district. They began to open up and share various stories and experiences. This type of reflection and discussion helps us to continually look for ways to be effective for every child. If we are not careful we as teachers can get in a rut because of the busyness of our day to day lives so keeping in communication with each other keeps us flexible and open to change. “Good schools, like good societies and good families, celebrate and cherish diversity. “ (Meier, 2002).