Many teachers around the globe have classrooms that are increasing more globally diverse. Students are moving from around the globe to new places and bring with them a wealth of cultural information that may be new or different to their new home region and school. As teachers our goal is to get to know the student to make them feel comfortable and safe. In doing so it means we need to get to learn the cultural background of students and how those cultures see education, the role of the teacher and classroom, and how communication is used. By bringing in those aspects students can see themselves in the classroom. Plus including learning about your new students language, foods, special festivities and more into the classroom year round as well as on special occasions. When students feel that they are welcomed and embraced in the classroom, the will feel that they are part of the classroom fabric, woven into the importance.
I remember when I was in classrooms where the students looked and sounded like me. We all knew the same two languages. We ate the same foods. We attended the same cultural festivities, cultural grocery stores and had the same pictures around our homes of our parents motherland. And then one day I no longer went to school with like cultural students. No-one in my class spoke my other language, had a clue where the Azores was located or ate what Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá. I was effectively a lone representative. But, my class was full of students from backgrounds different from each other and very different from our teachers. So, it was a very interesting learning experience. I didn’t just learn about the academic goals my teachers had set out, I learned about the many cultures of my peers. However, this wasn’t from my teachers. Very few of my teachers tried to learn or incorporate the difference and similarities of the students in the class. I didn’t feel that I mattered as much because they didn’t know me. They didn’t really know me and my teachers didn’t know how to see me. I didn’t feel that I was part of the fabric of the classroom, nor do I think many of my peers did either, no matter how hard our teachers tried to make learning fun, hands, on and meaningful. The teachers were great in many ways but if I had felt seen it would have been better.
As you are planning your new school year I encourage you to consider learning and adding cultural background of your students into the classroom. Adding background and voice help to students make the classroom inclusive and equitable. Here are some examples of ways to incorporate students backgrounds into the classroom without making the student the sage on the stage at all times.
- Student surveys
- Family Surveys
- Look up country backgrounds at : https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/ These impacts can effect how students learn and behave in the classroom.
- Amazon and libraries to fill your classroom library with books on places represented by your students as well as books in native languages of your students and bilingual books of native language and English,
- Allow students to engage in learning strength based on their cultural backgrounds
- Support students to learn with methods that are different than those they come to your class already knowing
- Allow students to teach or correct but not always feel the need to be the teacher of their culture- become a resource and a partner for your students
- Cultural representatives: as guest speakers
Also something to note- we cannot always tell the backgrounds of our students just by looking at them or hearing them. Not everyone is a English Language Learner or wears their culture on their sleeve via clothing etc. Be sure to ask rather than assume. My teachers would be have been able to help me more if they would have asked instead of assumed. Be the asking teacher.