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Validating Students’ Diversity through a Multicultural Responsive Education

As the number of students from diverse backgrounds dwelling present-day classrooms increases, and efforts to identify effective didactics of teaching them swell, the need for pedagogical approaches that are culturally synchronized and responsive heightens. Classrooms of today require educators to teach students varying in abilities, language, culture, and many other attributes. To meet this specific demand, educators must employ culturally sensitive and fundamentally sound pedagogy. Furthermore, teachers must develop an environment inside classrooms that welcomes, recognizes, respects, affirms, honors, and includes the linguistic and cultural background of students, and provides the best opportunity to grow and learn. In multicultural classrooms, effective cognition occurs in a student-centered, culturally supportive context, through which the strengths students bring to school are recognized, fostered and put to use to encourage students’ achievement and empowerment. To facilitate a multicultural education, the school system, teachers and the didactics must be culturally responsive and synchronized. To achieve this, an in-depth collaboration between all three dimensions must be established to address the personal (teachers), instructional (didactics) and institutional (school system) attributes of a culturally responsive pedagogy. In this essay, the three sections are elaborated to better understand how critical a culturally responsive education is in a multicultural classroom environment, and how the interconnection of those three domains opens better education opportunities for students who are linguistically and culturally subordinated in mainstream America.

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A Culturally Responsive School System

As the institution that is inherently responsible for providing the political and physical structure of the campus, the school system can be culturally responsive through giving reforms in its procedures and operations that impact the delivery of education services to diverse students (Valenzuela 70). Specifically, members of the school board should focus on the delivery of resources that impact the education of diverse students (Sullivan & A’vant n. p.). Furthermore, the school administration can be more community involved. For example, the administration seeks ways to strengthen their connection with the families and communities of their students, instead of the other way around. Specifically, school activities that celebrate and showcase the different cultures and ethnic backgrounds of students can be conducted. Discussion members Taesung Lee, Taeyoung Lee and I agree that our school lacks culture-centered activities that aim to present the relevance of Korean culture and other ethnic groups. If the school administration is more involved in the multicultural community of students from diverse backgrounds as a whole, teachers will be further encouraged to be culturally responsive and non-White students will not feel alienated (Madison Metropolitan School District n.p.). 

Culturally Responsive Teachers

Self-actualization is an essential part of becoming culturally responsive. When teachers are truthfully examining their thoughts and attitudes, they not only discover their value system but also identify their underlying biases that influence such (Valenzuela 66). As the inherent values of teachers affect relationships they have with students, they must reconcile any prejudices they have towards specific ethnic or cultural groups. This helps facilitate an environment based on acceptance and trust for students of color and their families. Teachers should also explore the personal experiences of their students and their families to better understand them, develop greater appreciation of the cultural and language differences, and take action to their culture-based needs (Irvine & Armento n.p.). This process can be achieved through reflective writing of students on topics that touch family history, culture, personal values, experiences in the past or present, and expectations. Personal interviews can also be utilized. The same manner Katie Hendrickson used in her study identifying student resistance in a rural Appalachian school, but this method is more time-consuming and less comfortable for students of color who view such activity as an invasion to their personal space. Families can be interviewed, too, through conducting home visits. This is an excellent method of getting to know the students and their families because the teacher relates to them in their home environment as cultural and social beings, and not just physical bodies inside the classroom (Trumbull & Pacheco n.p.). While the community immersion, teachers have the chance of exploring the set of attitudes and behaviors by making observations and asking open-ended questions both students and families. Community visits are effective in getting valuable insight into the various influences on behaviors and attitudes of students, as seen in the collaborative study of Moll et al (1992) where teachers assumed the role of anthropologists for a semester. The need to explore the community setting of the students’ culture is crucial for educators in identifying community resources that can impact their educational growth. 

It is a different revelation when teachers assimilate the experiences and history of a diverse group, and not just a singular entity. While individual needs matter in providing multicultural education, students also identify themselves with groups or peers. Culture is not to be seen in a flat surface because intragroup differences occur, too. Similar findings in the study of Jamie Lew are revealed in his study “The ‘Other’” Story of Model Minorities: Korean American High School Dropouts in an Urban” where Korean intragroups are identified in the urban neighborhood high schools around New York. Although belonging to the same ethnic background, these Korean peer groups have distinct set of beliefs and characteristics. This serves a reminder for teachers that diverse students should also be seen from the perspective of their peers. From a personal experience, my behaviors at home are different from that when I am with friends at school. The same situation goes for my discussion members Taeyoung Lee and Taesung Lee. Circumstances like ours are not an uncommon occurrence. Phelan et al (1991) have explained the phenomenon behind the multiple worlds of students in terms of family, peer and school culture. By learning about the subgroup within a group, educators begin to see the difference of one intragroup from the other, and better distinguish the qualities that make individual members different from their peers belonging to the same racial background.

Culturally Responsive Instruction

To further validate the students’ diverse pedagogical needs through a culturally sensitive, responsive and informative education it is crucial that the tools of instructions used are compatible with the cultural experiences of students. If the educational instructions marginalize the diversity of the students, teachers can expect some sort of disconnection, just as what Gloria Ladson-Billings has discovered in her 1995 study “But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” School disconnection comes in different forms such as low academic performances, truancy and dropping out of school entirely. To bridge the disconnection, teachers must utilize books, teaching methods and class activities that not only recognize the students’ culture and language, but also respect their community and personal identities. For example, when a student refuses to look a teacher in the eyes, this can be a product of a cultural taboo instead of an act of defiance. Nevertheless, the key is to respond to the students according to their identified needs, strengths and weaknesses, and not on the preconceived ideas about the specific group affiliation (Kozleski, Sobel, & Taylor n.p.). 

As much as possible, teachers should utilize books, devise bulletin boards, and pursue class activities that support the cultural and linguistic diversity of students. Taking a cue from the didactic experiment of Bresser et al (2009) in their study, the authors have synchronized the mathematical goals in the class with the language goals of participating students who are English language learners. In instances that instructional materials hold racial and ethnic stereotypes or fail to represent diverse groups properly, it is the responsibility of the teachers to correct the biased concepts and ultimately supplement textbooks and other educational materials that are culturally sensitive and diverse (Kozleski n.p.). The more students encounter familiar practices inherent in their culture in class, the lesser are their feelings of isolation; the more students are encourage to think free of biases, the more they feel empowered (Saifer 16).

Conclusion

A culturally responsive pedagogy is possible through a collaborative effort of the school system, teachers and students. The personal construct directs to the emotional and cognitive processes educators must engage in become responsive to a multicultural classroom. The instructional dimension refers to materials, activities and strategies that form the base of method of instruction, and institutional construct indicates the values and policies of the school administration. Without intense efforts of the three constructs, multicultural education is difficult to establish. Teaching involves intensified efforts of breaking cultural and language barriers within modern day classrooms, which are no longer confined to conventional pedagogy, and student population is getting more global. As a consequence, the challenge to bridge the gap between education, student diversity and effective teaching becomes harder to conquer, but nevertheless possible. As my discussion members and I constantly debate, the learning opportunities in South Korea should not be compared to American, the same manner that an American student should not be equated to a Korean student. Instead of comparison, schools should promote mutual respect and foster healthy interrelationship amongst students, their families, and the community they live.

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