You've decided to engage in culturally relevant teaching, but you're probably wondering what that will look like in your classroom. If you're like most teachers, you want some clarity. You want strategies. You want tools. But before identifying strategies and tools, it's important to develop mindsets that allow you to do the work.
To develop a culturally relevant teaching mindset, it is essential to recognize the infinite capacity of children. As a group of teachers committed to this mindset, the authors of No More Culturally Irrelevant Teaching worked to articulate a set of principles that guide our teaching. They reflected on their own experiences as students, their professional experiences and learning, and their dedication to their students. Below are the five key commitments that they've embraced:
1. Recognize the wealth of knowledge and resources that each family and community has, and help students develop multicultural competence, becoming knowledgeable about and competent in their own culture(s) and at least one other culture.
2. Make students' histories and identities a central and integral part of the curriculum.
3. See and celebrate what students can do instead of focusing on their perceived deficits (as defined by society).
4. Invite students to name and question injustices in society.
5. Critically supplement the curriculum, making it not only rigorous, but also inclusive and culturally relevant.
Culturally relevant teaching is much bigger than any single engagement, project, or activity. Relevance needs to wrap around everything that happens in a classroom. As you engage in this kind of teaching, always remember that irrelevant teaching continues to promote inequities, to tell students of color and student multiply minoritized by schools and society that they don't matter...that their lives don't matter. As teachers, we have the responsibility to take a visible stand and show students that their lives do matter... in teaching, in learning, and in society.
Mariana Souto-Manning, a former classroom teacher, is Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Chair of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Research Foundation. You can find her on Twitter at @soutomanning.