Caution, Educators are Educating

Cultural responsive teaching is a phrase that only exists because there must have been a lack of it in the first place. This reminds me a little bit of the coffee cups at McDonald’s (Not that I go there at all now but did once upon a time). The coffee cups now say something like “Caution, hot beverage”. There was a lawsuit that a patron sued McDonald’s because they burnt themselves while drinking a cup of hot coffee they ordered at a store. Because, at the time, the cups did not say “caution, hot coffee”, the patron did not realize that the hot coffee that they ordered was, in fact, hot. This fact was argued that yes, hot coffee is hot and that should be a given. But now, McDonald’s has to label their coffee as hot and to take caution when drinking and may cause a burn.

When the words culturally responsive teaching are said, to me it should be a given that a teacher should already be teaching in a culturally responsive manner and it does not need a prompt on the side of a teaching cup. I do understand, however, that there are unfortunately many teachers that do not teach about culture or in a responsible or responsive manner. Because of this, we must now label the teacher cup with a reminder that teaching in a culturally responsive way is important to students of all backgrounds.

In the MAT program at UAS so far we have been extremely lucky to have some great speakers and guests along with location learning to underscore the importance of culturally responsive teaching. This, along with the project based learning that is being modeled in the MAT classes is so powerful and helpful to us as students learning different methods to teach. The elders, culture camp, guest teachers, and science and math projects are much more concrete and real to learners which make the material and lessons really stick.

As a teacher of art and biology, I plan on including the Tlingit language into my lessons. I also plan on including other students, teachers, and guests into my lessons to broaden the culture base and breadth of knowledge and support. I believed that teaching a single subject is too isolated and in fact there are many subjects and disciplines that intertwine in real life. If a student can’t easily see how what they learn in school can be applied to real life, then that piece of information or project will be lost in the cracks and folds of the brain. I also think that this combined type of teaching and learning should be a given and come naturally. There should not have to be a reminder to teachers to teach in the most comprehensive, holistic and effective way.
Caution, educators are educating in a culturally responsive manner.

3 thoughts on “Caution, Educators are Educating”

  1. David, your McDonald’s coffee analogy was absolutely fantastic, and really healing for me to read. I think perhaps for those of us who have experienced the world as People-of-color, or as marginalized peoples, live daily experiences that constantly remind us that we are not living in a society that is aware of the oppressive nature of teaching irresponsibly, especially in regards to cultural studies, whereas those who have privilege must really examine the ways in which the dominant culture may negatively impact something as important as classroom learning for children. Just like week, I had a JSD teacher come up to me and ask me, “Hey Chris, what is your background?” When I asked what they meant by background, he proceeded to ask “you know, are you Native? Asian?” I told him that his idea of what background is was based on physical stereotypes and that was wrong of him to do so. In my opinion, he did not ask that question to truly learn of my background, but instead, to confirm his preconceived notions of who I was as a person. Would he have asked that question to someone who looked White? I am not so certain he would have.
    I agree that the MAT classes are a great way to provide opportunities for future teachers to transform themselves in order that they may help shape the climate of Alaskan schools to become more aware to issues of cultural appropriation or ignorance, by combining experiential knowledge and academic knowledge.

  2. The coffee reference is sooooo good, and also reminds me of the Seinfeld episode, but I digress.

    I grew up in a golf ball, rather there were no other minorities in my class everyone was white, so when I originally thought of CRT and how it would have been taught to me in a responsive manner, it would have reflected a totally White, Caucasian, euro-centric culture, and for me it did. So for me assuming CRT should be responsive to multiple cultures WITHIN the classroom just wouldn’t have made sense in the demographics I grew up in. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in Alaska, like other places, there are so many different cultures across the state, but coming from a childhood in rural Ohio, I never got exposure to multiple cultures in a classroom setting (besides my own). I think its really important to consider the lack of exposures those teachers who come with those experiences, and as you said,

    “unfortunately many teachers that do not teach about culture or in a responsible or responsive manner”

    Maybe consider these teachers, like myself, might have grown up without those experiences and requiring a CRT component would be necessary for them to create that opportunity to expand their experiences. Meeting others in their cohort like yourself and many others provide experience to grow and transform from!

    Sorry for the tangent

    I really appreciated your words and just wanted to share my initial thoughts, going a bit off topic, but thank you for your patience, and thank you for sharing.

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