Culture is central to learning. Beyond shaping the way we communicate and receive information, research has shown that culture informs, crucially, the thinking processes of groups and individuals. Last year, our school began a partnership with Stanford University's Center to Support Excellence in Teaching, and with their guidance, we have started the incremental implementation of the principles of Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) in International High School classrooms.
Culturally Responsive Teaching is a dynamic pedagogy that recognizes and celebrates the importance of culture and students' cultural references in all aspects of learning. The approach emphasizes social, emotional and academic growth among culturally and linguistically diverse student bodies, such as our own.
"Thinking about my students' rings of culture allows me to consider how and why they move through the world the way they do," said Traci Everett, Learning Specialist at International. "The responses I see may not mean what I think upon first instinct. My culture also plays into the responses."
While some cultural behaviors are easy to see, such as the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the languages we speak, others are not presented as obviously. Concepts of time, patterns for handling emotions, non-verbal communication, clarity in expression, and even eye contact are all examples of less conspicuous cultural behaviors that impact student learning in the classroom.
Through Culturally Responsive Teaching, educators are encouraged to know students as individuals and contemplate how the many aspects of the individual informs a particular learning experience. At International, CRT ensures equitable access to education for all of our students.
"It's one more way to make school more engaging and will lead to better outcomes," Everett adds.
By approaching each student as an individual, we build a safe, joyful and inclusive environment for our entire school community.