Culturally relevant teaching has the ability to break chains and eliminate barriers for all students; not just Black and brown ones. If done right and practiced with fidelity, more students can have access to different perspectives and ultimately change the stereotypes held as definitive truths about groups of people. Teachers have to consciously make an effort to celebrate all cultures, especially the historically marginalized and silenced ones. Here you will find 5 tips to enforce culturally relevant tools and strategies to help all students feel more accepted in your classroom.
  1. Expose your own biases
This does not have to mean saying that you did not vote for Obama or that you do not have any transgender friends. This could look like being open and honest about your perspective brought on you by culture. Perhaps the geographical location you grew up in did not offer any diversity so you understand it is important now. You can tell your students that you are still learning which could set a stage for them to open up about some things they too need help with learning. Avoiding the elephant in the room is compliance with the culture of racial disparities. If one says nothing they are on the side of the oppression.
  1. Diversify your classroom Library
Take a trip to your local thrift store and purchase some books from authors from all walks of life. Many students have had exposure to Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe so expose them to the likes of other authors like Amy Tan, Walter Mosley, and Khaled Hosseini. Showcasing these authors does not eliminate bias or racism but it does nonverbally suggest that people of color also have talent and that talent is worthy of celebration and acknowledgement.
  1. Allow students the opportunity to reflect
Reflection is huge because it allows for people to have some introspection on their own decisions and responses. Give students an opportunity to share with you aspects of their culture which again, shows that their culture and their differences are valid. This is really effective in English Language Arts because an author’s purpose can be tied to culture. In History, we can read informational texts and determine rhetorical strategies which can be caused by culture. Missing opportunities to attach culture to the curriculum unconsciously tells our kids who and what is important, oftentimes leaving many students feeling invalid.
  1. Have visible representation of cultural leaders and various schools of thought
Students need to have access to various schools of thought so that they can decide for themselves their perspectives. It isn’t enough to just have discourse of opposing views and perspectives. There has to be a constant reminder to students that there isn’t an inherently right or wrong viewpoint. Yes there are varying morals and codes of conduct but each perspective has value and allowing students to understand that would add richness to the classes dialogues. Also, visual reminders via posters, quotes, and other classroom decor can offer a nonverbal understanding that all perspectives and cultural differences have a place in you classroom.
  1.  Encourage Cultural Language or Student Vocabulary  
Increasing engagement can start with speaking the language of the students. Plan discourse where students can use their own vernacular or languages spoken at home which help build relationships between you and your students. This practice can open the door for challenging and rigorous  discussion about even more vulnerable topics that students face and you could be their trusted adult.