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REDG 600-Curriculum and Instruction

Melissa Brandt

Becoming a Culturally Relevant Teacher


Gloria Ladson-Billings writes, Whether teachers think of their
students as needy and deficient or capable and resilient can spell the
difference between pedagogy grounded in compensatory perspectives
and those grounded in critical and liberatory ones (White Teachers
31). For me, this statement summarizes much of my approach to the
My Plate lesson, to the classroom, and to my philosophical approach to
teaching in general.
When deconstructing the My Plate lesson and seeking cultural
relevance, I found most of the lesson seemed appropriate. The lesson
offered different presentations of the information for visual learners,
audio learners, and kinesthetic learners. We offered a light competitive
aspect for the students to create some energy and engagement in the
classroom. We had a formative assessment to check in with the
students for understanding of what was presented. What was included
in the lesson wasnt the problem; the problem existed in what was
excluded. How do we meet the needs of the diverse population of
students in the classroom? The lesson needed more perspectives.
To help engage and meet the needs of students of color, students
of poverty, students with mental health issues, and students with

individualized learning plans, I incorporated a Prediction Guide into the


My Plate lesson. The guide presents thought-provoking statements that
will hopefully lead the class down the path of both healthy nutrition
choices as well as good life choices in general. Too often teachers avoid
topics that might bring attention to the challenges students face at
home. By addressing these challenges in the classroom, we are
creating tools for students they will be able to utilize in the real world.
In order to implement this theory in the My Plate lesson, the
statement prompts within the prediction guide offer opportunities to
discuss eating disorders (Can portion sizes be too small?),
opportunities to discuss food choices of low-income or no-income
families (Is it possible to eat healthy on a low-income budget?), and
opportunities to discuss foods from different cultures (Name one food
from another country that youve never tried). Each of these prompts
offers me, as the teacher, a chance to guide the discussion into
challenging, but important territory.
My unique experience with students experiencing homelessness,
in addition to my own experience of growing up in poverty, offers a
perspective on the lesson that other educators might not have, and
makes for an easy justification to an administrator. It is valuable,
because we would be giving students information and presenting ways
in which students would be able to provide for themselves, feed
themselves, and address their mental health needs through

distribution of information on local resources like Channel One and


Zumbro Valley Mental Health. The culturally relevant teacher does not
take the book (or in this case, the lesson) as a given, states LadsonBillings. I have not taken the My Plate lesson as simply an opportunity
to teach nutrition, and instead have created an opportunity to develop
resiliency and life skills.