On this Mother’s Day as I reflect on the mothers that have helped shape me and helped form the culture that I call my own I am thankful. As I look back upon my childhood, I see how strong, and loving my mom truly was. Where my dad fell short she was there at least trying to fill that void.
I am also reflecting on how the culture I grew up in shaped me. The rural community I grew up it had a culture much different from metropolitan areas. Different from the small community down the road, Nicodemus, Kansas. This was a community of black people in the middle of white, midwestern America. The story of Nicodemus is very interesting if you want to pursue it history. Different cultures have always been a part of America before the white mans culture dominated.
The culture we grow up in shapes us as they shaped our parents. Our culture silently influences us as much as it does more outwardly. The culture reflected on TV growing up closely mirrored the one that surrounded me. The books in my towns library and my schools libraries mostly reflected me or people who shared a very similar culture as my own. That was not the case for other children. And is still not the case for many children today. I took for granted that children everywhere saw reflections of themselves in the books they were reading and was ignorant about what was being broadcast on TV.
Through social media and the shrinking of our world because of the internet and immigration from all corners of the world, kids are aware of more diversity then I ever was growing up. With this comes a great responsibility. Ignorance cannot be accepted so easily anymore.
As a teacher in one of the most diverse elementary schools in the state of Missouri I can not afford to be ignorant. I am reading a book called Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond.
Take this quote from her book and reflect upon it.
“As I said earlier, culturally responsive teaching isn’t a set of engagement strategies you use on students. Instead, think of it as a mindset, a way of looking at the world. To often, we focus on doing something to culturally and linguistically diverse students without changing ourselves, especially when our students are dependent learners who are not able to access their full academic potential on their own.
The true power of culturally responsive teaching comes from being comfortable in your own skin because you are not a neutral party in the process. You can never take yourself out of the equation. Instead, you must commit to the journey. This means we each must do the “inside-out” work required: developing the right mindset, engaging in self-reflection, checking our implicit biases, practicing social-emotional awareness, and holding an inquiry stance regarding the impact of our interactions with students. “
We have to be aware of our own culture and own it, biases and all Hammond’s says, before we truly understand another how another persons diverges. The culture I was immersed in as a child was not an evil one, but it was not the only one as it was often portrayed to be or the most important or superior as it still is portrayed to be by some. We just can’t do culturally responsive teaching to students. Just like we can’t constantly ask students to do reading tasks and not do any real reading.
As I stated earlier I lived a short drive away from Nicodemus, Kansas. A town that had a very difficult culture from my own. I found out about its history on my local PBS station. I did not grow up with cable or satellite TV. We have many cultures within our country as I do within my school. I have to do more than just acknowledge them by briefly talking about some of their holidays or traditional foods. I have to know my own culture and its biases so I can curb them as I observe, interpret and evaluate my students behaviors with me and each other.
Being aware and owning your own culture does not mean forcing it on others. Acknowledging your own culture can help you identify differences it has from others. We have to teach ourselves observe and describe culturally and linguistically diverse students behaviors before we react to them, keeping in mind how they separate from our own. Not react first.
At the same time she acknowledges that we cannot let cultural differences stop children from becoming aware and adapting their behaviors to fit different situations they encounter at school and will in public for the rest of their lives. We can still hold them accountable while helping them be true to their culture, by not reacting first. I have only just began this book and can’t wait to get deep into it.
I am very inspired by what a young lady by the name of Marley Dias has done. I belief she is now only 14 years old. She stated the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. Check out this video of her talking about why.
She has made it her mission to find books she can see herself in by authors that are black and often women. We need to find more books from authors writing about their own cultures , not someone of one culture writing their interpretation of another culture. This is being referred to #OwnVoice stories. Check it out: https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2019/05/07/ilachat-why-students-need-ownvoices-stories
I am making it my mission to provide my students access to books they can see themselves in. As I am reading more #OwnVoice stories, I am experiencing and understanding more and more about my students lives. I owe this to my students and my school.
Here is another resource: https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog%2fliteracy-daily%2f2019%2f05%2f09%2fownvoices-resources