the growing racial diversity of America’s student population has far outpaced that of our teaching and administrative professionals.
In the case of NAIS schools, during the 2014 –15 school year, students of color made up 29 percent of total enrollment. Yet roughly 83 percent of instructional support and 88 percent of administrators who work in NAIS schools are white.
“There is mounting evidence that aspiring school heads who feel unprepared to talk about racial and cultural perspectives and differences have limited ability to effectively lead in diverse social contexts.”
focus on the deficiencies of students based on the meanings we attach to race gives power to harmful stereotypes, which often lead to lower teacher expectations for students of color.
correlations between race and achievement — absent an understanding of the origins of race that we’re about to discuss —can lead us to incorrect conclusions, and even assumptions, about racial differences in schools.
But the practice of awarding aid to families who need smaller grants to attend definitely slows the diversification of independent school populations socioeconomically — an important dimension of diversity.
“In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success — without effort. They’re wrong,” according to Dweck’s website.
“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities,” according to Dweck’s website. (See graphic by Nigel Homes.)
The “All or None” myth teaches us that there those who are “with it” and those who are not.Under this myth, those of us who understand or experience one of the societal isms (racism, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism, heterosexism, ethnocentrism, etc.) automatically assume that we understand the issues of other isms.
This myth keeps us from asking questions when we don’t know; we spend more energy protecting our competency status rather than listening, learning, and growing.
In the growth mindset, we understand and accept that there is always room to grow.No one can fully master all aspects of cultural competency for all cultural identifiers, and mistakes are inevitable.With humble curiosity, we seek to better understand ourselves, understand others, develop cross-cultural skills, and work toward equity and inclusion.
The “Mistakes and Moral Worth” myth teaches us that those who offend or hurt must be doing so because they are bigoted and morally deficient, and good-hearted people do not speak or act in ways that marginalize.Under this myth, those of us who make an offensive comment, even if unintentional, are attacked as though we had professed to be a member of a hate group.
This myth leaves us afraid to speak our mind for fear of public shaming. It keeps us focusing on our intentions rather than on our impacts.We try to prove our moral worth by debasing others who have displayed shortcomings.
In the growth mindset, we understand that good people can make mistakes.Mistakes do not define us.
When others make mistakes, we are likely to respond with patience and desire to teach, understanding that it’s possible to dislike an action without disliking the person.
Under this myth, those of us who’ve had some training to understand another’s identity and difference assume that we have learned everything we need to be competent.
We also believe that relationships can “fix” our misconceptions about a whole group of people.
This myth leaves us slipping into complacency and clinging to a false sense of mastery, reluctant to look for authentic understanding and growth.It makes us think, “If we just find the right all-school read, the right professional development workshop, the right speaker for the MLK assembly, we can fix all the problems at the school.”
In the growth mindset, we understand that bias and prejudice, as Jay Smooth puts it, are more like plaque.There is so much misinformation in the world reinforced by history, systems, and media.If we are to keep the myths at bay, we must get into a regular practice, much like brushing and flossing every day.
An acknowledgment of the deep hurt of discrimination, racism, and injustice
Moving forward requires racial literacy, which begins when individuals share their personal stories about race. In his session, he asked us to “tell the person next to you what you heard about race in your childhood.”
A desire to draw out the unique gifts that lie within each one of us.
When it comes to retention, Jacobs and Bradley recommended that “a school prove its dedication to diversity through committees, professional development, its strategic plan, curriculum, and student groups; establish and support faculty of color groups; and support professional and personal development” for faculty of color. All their interview participants cited the importance of mentoring.
Having a diversity director in name only and a diversity committee without a clear mission or funding are examples of change that is merely symbolic, they noted.
At Marin Horizon School, critical thinking on inclusion and equity began by everyone asking investigative questions, including the following:
“What pictures are on the walls of your public spaces?”
“How do you refer to families?”
“What lesson plans do you describe or feature in open houses?”
“What holidays do you honor or ignore?”
“What do your calendar priorities speak to?”
“Who is on what committee?”
“What experiences/traditions/events cause students to be reminded that they are different?”
Unlike typical one-day workshops, immersion programs require being steeped in diversity and cultural proficiency work for a sustained period of time,
some faculty have formed a monthly book club; after reading part of a diversity book, participants come with a question and highlight something new they’ve learned. In addition, faculty can take part in summer institutes and the White Privilege Conference. They can design a freshman seminar focusing on cultural proficiency. Also, they can join the school’s cultural proficiency think tank.
Student immersion activities include holding four community-building assemblies and sharing personal stories.
A comprehensive understanding of history. We have to embrace all of history,
A design-thinking template to engage in difficult conversations about race. As discussed in one session, design thinking is outlined in four steps: explore, identify, generate, and learn. We explore by empathizing with others’ stories. Then we identify key issues and reframe with “How might we...?” Next we brainstorm answers to the question and suspend judgment. Then we learn and iterate toward improvement.
“How might schools and educators bring more voices into conversations about racism, privilege, and oppression?” Colorado Academy decided the answer was to screen the documentary “I’m Not Racist…Am I?” about how the next generation is going to confront racism. In these discussions, the group observed community norms adapted from NAIS. They include:
Be fully present.
Lean into discomfort.
Assume positive intent from all speakers.
Use the “I” perspective.
Take risks, be raggedy, make some mistakes – then let go.
As the facilitator in the documentary put it after a teenager got emotional and ran out of the room, “It’s OK to leave the room, but you must come back in.”
The teacher-student relationship has so many subtle nuances across race, gender, and class lines that opening our eyes to these nuances would make us better educators. Time and again, we see a growing number of educators willing to forgo the need to jump directly into teaching, educators who are more into getting to know the students.
A few teachers have said, "The student might not be able to read, but they can read you." That's powerful in the context of schools where teachers don't have the same cultural background as the students. When teachers have a passion for the students in front of them, and not just for the subject they're teaching, everyone wins.
many students find comfort in having someone who provides stability and structure.
To be effective in multicultural classrooms, teachers must relate teaching content to the cultural backgrounds of their students.
Engagement is the visible outcome of motivation, the natural capacity to direct energy in the pursuit of a goal. Our emotions influence our motivation. In turn, our emotions are socialized through culture—the deeply learned confluence of language, beliefs, values, and behaviors that pervades every aspect of our lives.
What may elicit that frustration, joy, or determination may differ across cultures, because cultures differ in their definitions of novelty, hazard, opportunity, and gratification, and in their definitions of appropriate responses. Thus, the response a student has to a learning activity reflects his or her culture.
motivationally effective teaching is culturally responsive teaching.
Because the importance of grades and grade point averages increases as a student advances in school, it is legitimate to question whether extrinsic motivation systems are effective for significant numbers of students across cultures. We can only conclude that, as long as the educational system continues to relate motivation to learn with external rewards and punishments, culturally different students will, in large part, be excluded from engagement and success in school.
It is part of human nature to be curious, to be active, to initiate thought and behavior, to make meaning from experience, and to be effective at what we value. These primary sources of motivation reside in all of us, across all cultures. When students can see that what they are learning makes sense and is important, their intrinsic motivation emerges.
We can begin to replace the carrot and stick metaphor with the words “understand” and “elicit”; to change the concept of motivation from reward and punishment to communication and respect. We can influence the motivation of students by coming to know their perspective, by drawing forth who they naturally and culturally are, and by seeing them as unique and active. Sharing our resources with theirs, working together, we can create greater energy for learning.
A growing number of educational models, including constructivism and multiple intelligences theory, are based on intrinsic motivation. They see student perspective as central to teaching.
Unfortunately, educators must often apply these theories within educational systems dominated by extrinsic reinforcement, where grades and class rank are emphasized. And, when extrinsic rewards continue to be the primary motivators, intrinsic motivation is dampened. Those students whose socialization accommodates the extrinsic approach surge ahead, while those students—often the culturally different—whose socialization does not, fall behind. A holistic, culturally responsive pedagogy based on intrinsic motivation is needed to correct this imbalance.
The framework names four motivational conditions that the teacher and students continuously create or enhance. They are:
Establishing inclusion—creating a learning atmosphere in which students and teachers feel respected by and connected to one another.
Developing attitude—creating a favorable disposition toward the learning experience through personal relevance and choice.
Enhancing meaning—creating challenging, thoughtful learning experiences that include student perspectives and values.
Engendering competence—creating an understanding that students are effective in learning something they value.
These conditions are essential to developing intrinsic motivation. They are sensitive to cultural differences. They work in concert as they influence students and teachers, and they happen in a moment as well as over a period of time.
Figure 1. Four Conditions Necessary for Culturally Responsive Teaching
1. Establish Inclusion
Emphasize the human purpose of what is being learned and its relationship to the students' experience.
Share the ownership of knowing with all students.
Collaborate and cooperate. The class assumes a hopeful view of people and their capacity to change.
Treat all students equitably. Invite them to point out behaviors or practices that discriminate.
Structures: Ground rules, learning communities; and cooperative base groups.
2. Develop Positive Attitude
Relate teaching and learning activities to students' experience or previous knowledge.
Encourage students to make choices in content and assessment methods based on their experiences, values, needs, and strengths.
Procedures: Clear learning goals; problem solving goals; fair and clear criteria of evaluation; relevant learning models; learning contracts; approaches based on multiple intelligences theory, pedagogical flexibility based on style, and experiential learning.