Do You Have “Culturally Responsive” Classroom Management?

Posted on September 18, 2015. Filed under: Anti Oppressive Ed, cultural, Ed800 |

I have been at the University of Regina’s internship seminar for the past couple days with my intern.  It has been ok.  I don’t want to be too critical, because I know  a lot of work goes into these seminars and I so appreciate the time that people have given to try and make these things happen. I do however consider myself a critical person/teacher, and so without sounding too jaded, I am going to tell you just a few things I have struggled with these last couple days.

Today within the IPP (Internship Placement Profile) I found some questions that pushed a few of my buttons.  The internship placement profile is a document where interns are supposed to be evaluated by their co-ops. They are supposed to be given a mark of outstanding, very good, good, fair, unsatisfactory, and not rated in the different teaching categories.  After taking an anti-oppressive education class this summer, my eyes have been open to ways in which I perpetuate systematic racism, and how I need to interrupt these ways of thinking and speaking.

Photo 2015-09-17, 5 36 38 PM

The first professional target under the heading, “Interaction with Learners” is Respect for ALL Students. (Note the manual’s emphasis and caps on ALL). An outstanding intern is gauged as, “Demonstrates a caring professional manner with all children regardless of developmental level, intellectual capacity, appearance, health, exceptionality, socio-economic status, gender, religion, race or cultural background.” Unsatisfactory is gauged as, “Discriminates or stereotypes or acts on personal preference.” The marks in between would be a balance in between those two extremes. At first look, this target seems like a great way to challenge interns on how they interact with and perceive race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. But thankfully, my anti-oppressive ed class has opened my eyes to ways this target is re-enforcing “colourblind racism.”

What intern or co-op in their right mind would rate themselves or their intern as discriminatory? How harsh is that! No one would seemingly admit to being racist! In fact, I bet if I went back and looked at all the other co-op’s books today, I wouldn’t see anyone who marked their intern as unsatisfactory in this area…  And there lies the problem. If the highest level of assessment is to not discriminate, we teachers are definitely not going to admit to acting on personal preference! We are all rule followers after all, aren’t we? That alone stops us from looking critically at ways we are all a part of systematic racism.

From what I could see/tell from the last couple days, the majority of our seminar group seemed to be white, upper-middle class, heterosexual, settler women. (Including me.)  Statistically speaking, most American/Canadian teachers are as well. Unfortunately, this produces a system that struggles to tackle racism.  This produces a system that allows well meaning teachers to participate in “White talk.” This also produces a group of teacher educators that create resources that might systematically reinforce racism.

Another category that I thought might reinforce racism is one that says “Culturally Responsive Classroom Management Approaches.”  The idea is that as a white teacher, you need to be culturally responsive to other, different cultures in your class. See what I did there? (I italicized “other” for emphasis if you are wondering.) The internship manual almost seems to be written from the white teacher’s point of view.  Everyone else gets “othered.”  It seems that white culture isn’t a culture, it’s the norm, and so we need to be culturally responsive to the OTHER cultures in our class. We need to be looking for classroom management approaches from THEM.  I want to challenge this understanding.  I want to challenge how we are writing about “culture/multiculturalism” in our teacher manuals and assessment books.  I want to be critical about racism being hidden in the well meaning multicultural days at our school, or the way we talk about EAL students in the staff room, or the way we casually suggest that First Nations children will not perform as well as our normal white students.

In what ways are we trying to impede racism within our own classroom walls?  I was challenged this week to read between the lines in the internship manual.  In what ways have you seen systematic racism permeate our education system? And how are you planning to confront it?

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3 Responses to “Do You Have “Culturally Responsive” Classroom Management?”

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I am just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding this very thing. When you are a part of the dominant, privileged culture, it is very difficult to see and understand just how oppressive the culture really is.

This makes me think of the “Invisible Knapsack” Peggy McIntosh discusses. It is so easy to overlook the privileges that you have been given simply because you were born with white skin. The first time I was introduced to the concept of white privilege and the backpack really opened my eyes. It makes me think twice about ways that I teach lessons at school.

Yes! That was an article that made a big difference in how I saw race the first time I read it in my undergrad. Although sadly, I had forgotten a lot of the things mentioned. It kills me that I so easily fall back into not knowing my own privilege and being a “fish in water.” Thank you for your comment!

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