I 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:
- Students are affirmed in their cultural connections.
- Teachers are personally inviting.
- Learning environments are physically and culturally inviting.
- Students are reinforced for academic development.
- Instructional changes are made to accommodate differences in learners.
- Classroom is managed with firm, consistent, caring control.
- 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!