Managing a Culturally Diverse Classroom
As the international population in United States schools grows, teachers need to embrace and welcome cultural diversity into their classrooms. Student populations in the United States today often reflect the spectrum of culture, language, and religion found throughout the world. While cultural differences among students can occasionally create challenges in the classroom, they should be viewed as opportunities to create positive, trusting relationships. This week, we offer a series of tips on managing a culturally diverse classroom.
This Week's Tips
Educate and Sensitize Yourself to Cultural Diversity (Monday)
Define for yourself how you feel about the diversity in your classroom. Do your feelings affect the way you teach in positive or negative ways? What can you do to overcome deeply held biases that you may have? Being aware of your own behaviors and motivations is the first step in successfully managing a culturally diverse classroom. While we recognize that most people hold biases at some level, teachers who can replace these biases with an appreciation and a tolerance for culturally different students will greatly increase the likelihood for student success. They also provide a model for acceptance to other teachers and students.
Celebrate Cultural Differences in the Classroom (Tuesday)
Do not expect students to adopt mainstream cultural behaviors overnight or, possibly, at all. Instead, teachers should recognize that when a studentís culture is valued, it can have a positive affect on performance. Students who are willing to share their culture should be encouraged to do so in ways that contribute to the curriculum. This can help create a community of learners in your classroom, where differences become strengths.
Learn About the Cultures in your Classroom (Wednesday)
Take time to learn all you can about the cultures of the students in your class. Remember: behaviors that teachers may automatically expect may not be what a student has learned at home. For example, in some cultures, students donít make eye contact with figures of authority. In others, even the slightest physical contact, such as a handshake, is strictly taboo between members of the opposite gender who are not married or related. Behavior that might be construed as cheating could be a studentís cultural expression of helpfulness. Behaviors are shaped by cultures; learn all that you can before correcting or disciplining a student.
Consider Studentsí Cultural Needs First (Thursday)
Treat all students with fairness and dignity. Evaluate your teaching style, expectations, assessment practices, handouts, and classroom environment in terms of cultural diversity. What modifications are necessary to support all learners? What are the different learning styles in the classroom? Give consideration to the various holidays students in the class may celebrate before scheduling special events or assignments.
Learn to Communicate with Culturally Diverse Parents (Friday)
Find out what you need to know to be a culturally competent communicator. Remember to respect the standard modes of communication between parents and teachers in other cultures. The home culture of the parent often dictates the acceptable forms of communication between parents and teachers. Regularly communicate with all parents with information regarding student expectations, school policies and procedures, and methods to have questions answered. Solicit feedback from parents regarding student attitudes and perceptions about the class. Relay volunteer opportunities to parents and encourage their participation. Be consistent, supportive, and honest with them.