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Reflection Point 4

Rachel Chadwick

George Mason University


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Reflection Point 4

When I first began this course, I did not feel knowledgeable engaging in discussions
centered around the diversity and cultural differences that exist in today’s schools simply
because it has not been my experience in teaching. My school is made up of primarily White,
middle-class, English speaking families and students. ESOL is not a highly populated service,
nor is it something I am very familiar with. Since I had not encountered a student whose
primarily language is one other than English until this year, my experiences teaching reflects a
perspective that is representative of my own culture. Therefore, my role did not seem to take into
account the diversity of backgrounds or an adjustment to society’s culture because it had not
been necessary. My communication style was also indicative of my cultural background and the
way I have been socialized, which was the same for my students. School expectations and
communication styles are not unfamiliar to these children, allowing learning to take place in a
straightforward manner. However, my definition and understanding of culture was challenged in
EDUC 606, Education and Culture. Through my investigation of culture, I was able to consider
the diverse needs of my students that are not apparent at first glance, and seek out ways to
capitalize on their background and experiences, even if they are more similar to mine. As a
teacher, I was also led to examine the practices that may or may not meet the needs of culturally
diverse learners, and how my school’s environment is contributing to this as well.

The process of gathering information about a puzzlement regarding my students was the
most beneficial part of this course. Data collection and analyzation in the Cultural Inquiry Study
(CI) allowed me to conduct action research with a cultural focus. This culminating assignment
provided a framework for me to explore different cultural aspects at work in my classroom. I was
challenged to look beyond the surface at what I observed as student deficits, and truly consider
the child as a whole; including the background, culture, experiences, and perspectives that they
carried into their learning. Throughout the study, I came to understand the influences that are at
work in students’ self-efficacy, and how to use my role as a teacher to provide strategies that
naturally engage students in productive struggle. Students’ concepts of success challenged me to
reflect on my own mindsets as an educator and individual, so that I am more aware of how to
best meet the needs of diverse learners.

Also beneficial were the journals, blogs, and discussion board posts that pushed me to
reflect deeply on where my students were coming from and what influences played a role in my
own cultural assumptions about them. I realized that it is important for teachers to engage
students in a way that highlights their strengths and emphasizes a personal relationship. One
Nieto quote that stood out to me was “Forging strong identification with teachers and schools is a
fundamental ingredient in student learning because it helps define schools as a place that can
give them an academic identity with which they can relate” (Nieto, 1999). This made me
consider the ways in which schools like mine could work towards making positive connections
between school learning and students’ backgrounds.

The coursework taken in EDUC 606 has furthered my understanding of culture and its
fundamental role in the classroom. Reading about other teacher’s experiences and perspectives,
as well as having my eyes opened to how cultural stereotypes are more common than we are
aware of served to expand my views. Hollins (2018) mentioned that understanding the
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relationship between culture, cognition, and classroom instruction has “the potential for
providing a basis for designing more productive school experiences for presently underserved
populations in the nation’s public schools (2018). Giving students the opportunity to make
connections and bridge the gap between their life and the content is crucial to promoting an
environment that is culturally responsive and sets students up for success later in life. Learning to
be more “practice-oriented” by including students’ prior knowledge and experiences in the
curriculum leads teachers to attend more to the cultural identities of students, and consider their
responses as they form instruction (Gonzalez et al., 1995). In my own classroom and as a
teacher, I am now challenged to develop a stronger understanding of who my students are as
individuals. Inquiry into students’ culture allows us to be “co-learners and co-constructors of
knowledge” in order to construct a meaningful learning environment. It is imperative to draw
upon the experiences students have and be sensitive to cultural factors at play outside of school.
As a result of this course, my goal is to raise my expectations of all students’ abilities so that I
can better engage them through their own cultural experiences.
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Resources

Gonzalez, N., Moll, L. C., Floyd Tenery, M., Rivera, A., Rendon, P., Gonzalez, R., & Amanti, C.

(1995). Funds of knowledge for teaching in latino households. Urban Education. 29, 443-

470.

Hollins, E. R. (2008). Culture in school learning: Revealing the deep meaning. (2nd ed.). New

York: Routledge.

Nieto, S. (1999). The light in their eyes. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.