It’s that time of year for many educators; the excitement, jitters, and anticipation of a new school year to come. Around this time of year many educators, in North America and the Northern Hemisphere, are preparing to welcome students of all ages and backgrounds into their learning environments. I remember, both as a student and teacher, how I used to look at the start of the school year. My anticipation of seeing friends I have not seen for a few months, my excitement about the possibilities, and my eagerness to implement new ideas from a summer of professional learning. But I also remember as a student, being worried. I remember being worried about what my teachers were going to ask me about my summer. Why? Because many of my teachers would ask the same question so many students dread, “Write about what you did over the summer.” The problem with this question is that the teacher creates a climate that lacks cultural awareness and thus risks putting many students into a position in which they see themselves as inferior to their classmates. I remember having classmates that took summer trips to Europe or many other destinations even adults dream of getting to at some point in their life. I remember having students whose families would do that same or even spend an entire month at the “Family Vacation home.” As a student, my summers were spent playing summer league flag football, summer league basketball, and running track. I had many classmates that spent their summer working in the family business or even just working to earn additional income for themselves or their families. Yet, somehow that just didn’t seem adequate enough for my teachers that looked more favorably upon the family outings to the Eiffel Tower or Buckingham Palace or basking in the Hawaiian sun. So with that, here are 3 things teachers can consider doing that are not only culturally relevant but also will create a more inclusive learning opportunity for their students:
Rather than ask what students did over the summer, I encourage teachers to ask students to share “What new skills or experience did you acquire over the summer?” Then follow up this question with, “How can that be shared and utilized in our learning environment?”
Ask students to list their top two passions and at least one skill they have that their classmates may not be aware of? If you have access to technology, I recommend doing this on a platform like Padlet or Flipgrid (record a video response) to create a social awareness for all students. Bonus: have students take a selfie to go with their posting! Double bonus: have students use Snapchat to take the selfie, incorporate a cool filter, save to the camera roll, and upload that to padlet or flipgrid.
Have students create a graphic that is similar to the image below, to serve as a daily reflection of their accomplishments. All students should not only experience success, but ideally they can identify their own successes through daily reflection. The key here is each student should keep in mind success is very different to each individual so all that matters is they have identified this on their own by their own standard.
The more we can be both culturally responsive and culturally relevant the more our students will always feel a sense of belonging, importance, and that school is for all and not just some.