Modern-day educators face a paradigm shift in the delivery of instruction driven by the need and desire to meet the needs of a culturally diverse classroom. Schools now seek culturally relevant teachers to allow students to engage in academically rigorous learning and curriculum and to feel that their experiences and identities are affirmed. In this reflective essay, the focus will be on how my development as a culturally relevant and sustaining educator affects my encounters with families, youth/children, and communities.
Class readings have played a critical role in my development as a culturally relevant and sustainable educator. Most course materials contain well-articulated ideas regarding the expectations of a teacher and the best practices befitting this type of teacher. In this case, the book For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… and the Rest of Y’all Too by Emdin (2016) made the most significant influence on me because it explains the situation faced by poor black learners. The author sheds light on the problems and challenges affecting the black minority in the urban areas and offers a potential solution to addressing them. Academic inequality in the country could be caused by the inability of some populations to access education or because cultural factors exist that hinder academic performance and success. Therefore, their behaviors may not be good enough for teachers, but understanding them presents a possibility for learners and instructors to be on the same page.
Another critical class reading is the book Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy & Responsibility Using Restorative Justice by Maynard and Weinstein (2019). The authors propose that restorative justice can create a culture of empathy to help educators handle a culturally diverse classroom. The key message contained in this class reading is that students are not inherently bad and that discipline is correlated with academic progress. Therefore, the book has instilled a sense of empathy and a desire to study and understand the minority populations to find the best solutions to their academic issues. Such is the essence of restorative justice advocated by Weinstein and Maynard (2019), who feel that bad behaviors have root causes that should be understood and addressed.
Therefore, it is apparent that all class materials have been designed to impart knowledge on how to handle varied ethnic backgrounds. The basic tenet across all materials is that they all hold the position that the problems faced by students could be handled more effectively by appreciating their identities. In a nutshell, my encounters with the learners, families, and community will involve learning about their cultures, identifying with them, and helping them overcome whatever cultural challenges they face.
Class participation activities are often a means to experiment with the knowledge gained from class readings and other course materials. I have found that participating in such activities as group sessions, formative assessments, and topic reflection has helped me reflect on my development and has affected my encounters with children/youth, families, and communities. In group sessions, the main activities included role-playing and discussions, which have helped me to evaluate my competency in both practical and theoretical aspects of culturally relevant education. The group sessions have been designed to allow students to engage with each other to assess learning progress. Such activities allow each learner to evaluate and apply what they have learned throughout the specific learning sessions.
Another class participation experience is the formative assessments that have been accomplished periodically. The essence of formative assessments is that educators use a variety of methods to monitor a student’s learning progress. Personally, each assessment presents an opportunity to reflect on what I have learned regarding culturally relevant and sustaining education. In other words, the teacher can help me identify my strengths and weaknesses, as well as the target areas where more work is needed. Both formal and informal assessments test whether I have grasped the core concepts of the course and whether I can apply them in real-life situations. However, it is important to acknowledge that most formative assessments assess theoretical applications. Even the theory can change a person’s perceptions regarding the target population, which means that my development and encounter with families, communities, and pupils has been positively impacted.
Lastly, topic reflections are another way of monitoring learning development. This paper represents an idea of what topic reflections may entail, only that most of them target specific topics learned in class or covered in the various readings. Reflections assess what a student has been taught and may test both memory and competency on a subject. Additionally, this form of class participation means that I can evaluate how my development is progressing. Overall, class participation tests what I have accomplished as a culturally relevant and sustaining educator and the competence gained can be applied when encountering families, communities, and students.
Emotions and Thought Reflection
Emotions and thoughts are also part of a learning process, especially when such sensitive issues as vulnerable populations are involved. The class readings managed to evoke multiple thoughts and emotions, majorly empathy towards natives and black Americans. Such was the intended result of the authors of the two class readings examined earlier. Empathy emanated from a realization that some challenges are cultural and that they have had devastating implications on the academic achievements of minority populations. Such an emotion resulted in a thought involving contemplation of how best to tackle these challenges. I thought that some of the class readings offered viable approaches but also left me thinking that some are not as practical as others. Even so, my thought was that if all educators could appreciate the efforts of the authors, more empirical evidence would emerge.
Lastly, I felt disturbed by the thought that some problems have real and workable solutions, yet there are inadequate efforts to address them. These thoughts and emotions have made me realize that I have indeed my development is positively progressing and that I will have different perceptions when encountering families, learners and communities. Overall, my development leaves me feeling empathetic towards vulnerable populations and I will become more courteous when interacting with them.
Becoming a culturally relevant and sustaining educator requires one to acknowledge the link between culture and academic achievement for specific populations. Most importantly, the key to solving the main problems is by embracing the cultural differences and assessing how related factors affect education. In this reflection, class readings, class participation, and emotions and thoughts have all served to remind me that I have gained adequate knowledge and competence, which insinuates positive development. Additionally, my encounter with families, communities, and youth/children will be guided by this competence and geared towards helping vulnerable populations achieve better academic outcomes.
Emdin, C. (2016). For white folks who teach in the hood… and the rest of y’all too: Reality (race, education and pedagogy). Beacon Press.
Maynard, N., & Weinstein, B. (2019). Hacking school discipline: 9 ways to create a culture of empathy & responsibility using restorative justice. Times 10 Publications.