MAIN ARTICLE: Dack, H & Tomlinson, C. A. (2015). Inviting all students to learn. Educational Leadership, 72 (6), 10-15
SUPPLEMENTAL ARTICLE: Arum, R. (2011). Improve relationships to improve student performance. Phi Delta Kappan, 93 (2), 8-13.
Teachers are most effective when they are aware of the cultural backgrounds of their students as well as their individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning needs. Dack and Tomlinson discuss this theme in their article, “Inviting all students to learn” as well as some best practices to make sure that your classroom is an inviting learning space for all students, regardless of their background. The authors suggest that we as teachers a) recognize and appreciate differences in cultures, b) learn about and recognize culturally influenced learning patterns, c) look past culture to see individuals, and d) write curriculum and lesson plans that are inviting to everyone. These are excellent tips, especially for teachers who work in international schools and deal with students from all kinds of cultures. I know at my school, we had over 76 nationalities represented! Teaching without sensitivity to cultural differences just would not work.
Developing a relationship between teacher and student is also discussed in Arum’s article, “Improve relationships to improve student learning.” Teachers and administrators need to maintain a role of authority in a classroom to get results. There are issues, however, regarding legality when students feel that they are being reprimanded or treated differently due to racial or cultural differences. Therefore it is important that discipline is fair, transparent, and legitimate. As Arum say, “When students perceive school discipline as unfair or illegitimate, students are less likely to internalize and accept social norms and rules that we increasingly rely on schools to promote.” (Arum, pg. 12)
These articles both focus on the role that connections and relationships can make for a deeper learning experience for the student. Arum focuses on the idea of moral authority and its role in creating an environment conducive to learning as opposed to situations where authority is questioned. These two articles show that respect is needed both on the side of the teacher and the student.
These articles bring up some interesting questions, namely:
Where do we draw the line between taking time to get to know a student as an individual and member of their culture and maintaining enough of a distance to be seen as an authority figure? Is there a line?
Why is it important that we treat all our students with cultural sensitivity? Why should we modify our teaching style, why don’t they change their learning style?
How can we adjust our teaching styles to maintain moral authority in the classroom? And cultural sensitivity?
Have you ever differentiated with your students based on their backgrounds? How? And what kind of results did you achieve?