Tell us about a way you changed your curriculum or teaching practice to be culturally inclusive.
No More Homework Grades
One way I changed my teaching practices to be more culturally inclusive was to stop assigning my students homework that counted as a grade. I realized that just because I had resources outside of school did not mean my students or their parents did—not all of my students had access to the internet or to a neighborhood library. I had to take a step back and acknowledge my own cultural biases in order to become a more effective educator. I began providing more time in class for students to complete their homework and even held math nights with the purpose of equipping parents with the skills needed to help their children with mathematical problems at home.
—Amanda Austin, assistant principal of instruction, Plaquemine High School, Plaquemine, Louisiana
A Diverse Library Collection
For several years now I have been working to increase the diversity of my classroom library by including more authors of color. Every month I highlight one author by displaying their books prominently and reading some of them aloud. We’ve gotten to know lots of books by Carole Boston Weatherford, Jacqueline Woodson, and others.
—Jennifer Orr, teacher, Lynbrook Elementary School, Springfield, Virginia
Inclusive History Lessons
Much of our curriculum is based on general themes that all North Americans should know and hold dear. But we too often relegate the history and contributions of marginalized people to sidebars or separate units or lessons. I enjoy showing students the connections of these figures to major themes and the development of our nation. We use things like Black History Month to spotlight the contributions of black people to the United States and the drive toward equality. However, stories of such heroes as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Owens do not begin to explain the complexity of our struggle to guarantee civil rights for all citizens. In addition to Jackie Robinson’s historic feat as the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball, what about Willie O’Ree—the first black player in the National Hockey League? I make it a point to show that these contributions are part of the history of us all instead of a bit of trivia or side interest.
—Michael Stauffer, AP social studies teacher, North Thurston Public Schools, Lacey, Washington
Speaking Equity in All Languages
About a year ago, as a collective group of educators, we began aligning our world language standards and built a framework with guiding principles. Together, we created units, pacing guides, and curriculum maps for three languages. Each unit included essential questions, with a focus on using the target language in culturally rich, real-world settings. We broke down our cultural resources in three phases: product, practices, and perspective, so that our students would dig deeper into a cultural practice to gain a more profound and robust understanding. Each unit ended with an intercultural competence piece that challenged ourselves and our students to forge links between cultures based on equity and mutual respect. It was very important to us that our students could communicate in more than one language with respect and cultural understanding.
—Alissa Farias, data coach, Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, Washington
April 2019 | Volume 76 | Number 7
Separate and Still Unequal: Race in America’s Schools Pages 84-84