I read the title of this week’s ECS 300 reading, “Culturally Responsive Classroom Management” by Carol Weinstein, and immediately said to myself, “That’s a thing?” This article was insightful–I never realized the ways in which classroom management strategies could be marginalizing or discriminatory. I have done a lot of research on my own time, and I am a firm believer in inclusive pedagogy, so I enjoyed this article because it made me broaden my beliefs about inclusive pedagogy to include classroom management strategies.
I would like to praise Weinstein for addressing the issue of “colour-blindness” in the classroom. Too often I hear from fellow pre-service teachers, “I don’t see colour”. As a teacher, referring to yourself as “colour-blind” means that you are failing to recognize and acknowledge the uniqueness in every one of your students. Before I continue, I would like to state that when I say “uniqueness”, I am not solely referring to ethnicity or cultural background. I believe that a student’s uniqueness encompasses their personality, strengths, social environment, developmental stages, abilities, interests, socioeconomic status, learning styles, etc. Personally, I believe that is it crucial for teachers to identify the uniqueness in their students, for once you know who your students are, you can supply them with the resources that they individually need in order to be successful learners. In this sense, I believe in equity, not equality.
I also believe that one of the best ways to get to know our students is through their families. As Weinstein states, “communicating and collaborating with families is an integral…component of effective classroom management” (2003). Teachers can communicate with families through ‘meet the teacher’ nights, monthly classroom newsletters, weekly emails, etc. I believe it is important to welcome families to be a part of the classroom environment because it creates a mode of communication. This is important, especially in culturally diverse classrooms in which you might not be familiar with every culture, so that you can ask parents for feedback on your teaching, allow parents to address their concerns, etc.
One of the main ideas that resonated with me from the reading was organizing the classroom in a culturally responsive way. It is difficult to grasp at first, the idea that the physical classroom environment could be marginalizing, but it is true–similar to the idea of hidden curriculum, the way a classroom is organized and decorated says a lot about a teacher’s own personal beliefs, without being openly communicated. I liked Weinstein’s suggestion of including students’ individual photographs in the classroom. In her classroom, my co-op teacher has a bulletin board with pictures of herself, her friends, and her family as a way for her students to get to know her. I think this idea could be adapted to create a ‘get to know you’ bulletin board for students that includes pictures, artwork, and other items that describes who your students are and what is important to them. I also think that the organization of desks is important in a classroom. While I recognize that it can be convenient for classroom management to have students sit in rows because it tempers chatting, I believe that it is beneficial for students to sit in small groups because it promotes communication and collaboration, and it is through communication that people become less judgemental and more accepting, empathetic, and understanding of others and their differences.
Ultimately, I believe that teachers are role models, and in order to create a culturally respectful classroom, teachers need to model respect for diversity, rather than claiming to see past it, and therefore teach past it. One aspect of the reading that I did not like was that the article only addressed diversity in terms of ethnicity or cultural background. I view teachers as student advocates, and I believe that they should advocate for student diversity whether it be ethnic diversity, gender diversity, diversity in sexual orientation, etc. That being said, the claim that it is solely the responsibility of teachers to create an inclusive classroom is very daunting. I believe that it is the responsibility of the education system as a whole to be inclusive through the curriculum that is implemented, the teacher hiring process and the demand for culturally diverse teachers, professional development practices, etc.