Dear Lesson Plan Toolbox,
One of my goals for 2021 is to make my classroom more culturally responsive. After the events of this past summer, I know that I need to be doing a much better job of addressing other cultures, but honestly it makes me nervous. What if I say the wrong thing? What if parents get upset because of what or how I am teaching a topic? What if my students ask a question that I don't know the answer? All of these thoughts have been running through my head and they scare me. Could I lose my job if I have an error in my teaching? I definitely can't afford to have that happen!
Then, I think about the alternative and my students not knowing the true history of what I teach and that isn't right. It's just not! I feel it is my duty as their educator to explain the truth of what happened. I don't want to hide behind the truths our society and textbooks teach. I want them to know the authentic reality of what this country has gone through.
What should I do?
Dear Culturally Doubtful,
After reading your email, I think you already know the answer to your own question. It is time for our educational system to be revamped in the perspective of teaching historical accuracy. Is this going to be easy? NO! Does it need to happen? YES!
You raised several good questions that I think many teachers may also have. I think the important part of this is to educate yourself. Read the books, join webinars, ask questions. I can almost guarantee you that if there is a question that your students have that you can't answer, simply turning to the world of Instagram will open a whole new window of opportunity. Every teacher I have encountered on Instagram has been nothing but overwhelmingly helpful! The #teachergram is full of teachers willing and able to help. Plus, you are always welcome to pose questions here and we will do our best to track down answers or resources.
Parents may very well be another component that you will have to overcome. My suggestion is to be sure that everything you teach can be supported with your curriculum. If you have the evidence that you are teaching a standard and students share facts that may be new insights for their parents, then I would refer to your administration for guidance. Keep in mind though, that when you teach some of these topics, you need to be mindful of your audience and what is appropriate. When I taught junior high, we read the book Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals. Prior to reading this, we sent home permission slips because it was a very mature topic, but one our school felt needed to be taught in a safe setting. If you teach younger students, there are many nonfiction picture books that can be used to help guide you.
I am so happy that you are making a culturally responsive classroom your goal this year. It may not happen overnight, but with time we can begin to see great change. Also, be aware that it is not just what we teach, but the books that are in our classroom libraries and the posters we hang on the walls. There are many parts and pieces to creating a classroom that promotes diversity. Please feel free to reach out to us if you need help gathering resources or information (@lessonplantoolbox). We may not have the answer, but we're happy to help you find it.
Click below to receive your FREE guide to 3 Highly Effective Student Engagement Strategies: Student Engagement FREEBIE
Lesson Plan Toolbox