I’ve really enjoyed learning about culturally responsive teaching, or CRT, this week. The way I understand it, CRT is teaching in a way that gets the students interested in and aware of their surroundings and the impact they have on their environment and community. In retrospect it seems so obvious that teachers should build their lessons around the place their students are learning–it silently answers the questions all kids wonder: Why am I learning this? When is it going to be applicable in my life?
The Math Trails lesson in particular made that clear–that we can, and DO, use math in our everyday lives no matter where we are. Giving kids a problem but not telling them the specific way they should answer it allows them to realize how much mathematical knowledge they already have, and how they can apply it to real life situations. Another example would be from the Moss vs Diaper experiments–the question was ‘find which one is better’ but the methods used were entirely up to us as students, requiring us to access the scientific problem-solver part of our minds. We’re smarter than we realize, and so are our students!
As an English teacher I was still able to glean a lot from the examples given this week in Math and Science, especially in the way that all teachers integrated their work with each of the core content areas. The kids studying glaciers weren’t just measuring things and making data charts, they were writing poetry and making art. I think there’s a tendency to pigeon-hole people (students and ourselves) as ONLY science-types or ONLY English-lit-enthusiasts when in reality human beings are complex and capable of multitudes! So as an English teacher I’m looking forward to integrating math, science, and history into each lesson–we can graph the number of whales in Moby Dick or create a map depicting cases of accused witches in Salem as we study The Crucible. It’s very exciting, and I think a great way to keep kids engaged in the lessons!
To add to this post after experiencing the English side of this story, I do think we Lit people have an easier time integrating multiculturalism into our classrooms–the key is to be aware of the texts we’re choosing, and make conscious decisions about picking supplemental material when we can’t deviate from the standard (white Euro-centric) ciriculum. Using myths or texts from other cultures can help frame or prepare the class to find parallels in more widely taught texts, and can only enrich the student’s cultural and educational understanding.