The “Front Porch” of Learning

PorchI recently had the opportunity to hear Gary Howard as the keynote presenter at the Michigan Association of State/Federal Program Specialists (MAS/FPS) Winter Institute. The topic was Cultural Competence and Culturally Responsive Practice: Working Together for Inclusion, Equity, and Excellence.  His presentation was very interesting and interactive; I had lots of great dialogue with the people at my table.

His biggest message: Relationships precede learning.

On of the visuals Gary used, “7 Principles for Culturally Responsive Teaching,” was adapted from Creating Culturally Responsive Classrooms (Shade, Kelly & Oberg, 1997). The seven principles are:

  1.  Students are affirmed in their cultural connections.
  2. Teachers are personally inviting.
  3. Learning environments are physically and culturally inviting.
  4. Students are reinforced for academic development.
  5. Instructional changes are made to accommodate differences in learners.
  6. Classroom is managed with firm, consistent, caring control.
  7. Interactions stress collectivity as well as individuality.

Gary grouped principles one, two, and three as the “front porch,” a welcome to learning, and posed the question: How are we preparing the house? Are our schools/classrooms culture-safe spaces where all are acknowledged and valued? Does a student feel like s/he must “hide” a part of their identity to be accepted? The importance of this is summed up in a student quote on a slide in Gary’s presentation: “If I lose me, you lose me.”

It’s all about relationships. Come, pull up a chair, and stay awhile. We have so much to learn from each other!



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