Session 8 (online)

For this online session you will need to watch this video of a speech given by Gloria Ladson-Billings on culturally relevant pedagogy. While watching, please consider our class discussions; however, also push yourself to raise new questions based on what she has to say.

Then, please select one of the following articles to read:

Finally, you might be interested in checking out this article about Kendrick Lamar’s recent visit to a NJ classroom.


After reading/watching the videos/articles posted here please leave a comment on this post in which you reflect on how this reading/watching relates to the thoughts, ideas, and questions, that came up in our last class. Also feel free to pose new questions to the group.


Looking forward to our Twitter chat tomorrow night at 8PM! We will discuss the following questions. Please be ready to share your ideas.

How can teachers really know their students?How can knowledge of students drive instruction?


25 thoughts on “Session 8 (online)

  1. When I started teaching at the beginning of this school year, culturally responsive instruction was one of my primary goals. I had raised money through Donors Choose to buy books from different cultural perspectives in US History about topics ranging from Civil Rights to baseball to jazz music. I had students in my Global History class meditate when we learned about Buddhism. I had them make webs about their multi-cultural selves and share them with partners. Most days, the Do Now asks a personal question of students that somehow relates to the historical trend we are studying (Example: Would you be willing to give up your rights to a dictator if it meant you would always have a job and food on the table?) However, over the course of the year, I grew to feel less and less able to be the culturally responsive teacher I wanted to be. Mandated curricula and instructions to align everything we do directly to the Regents exam makes it very difficult to use the types of strategies discussed last night and in the readings. Schmidt’s “Culturally Responsive Instruction: Promoting Literacy in Secondary Content Areas” observes teachers that bring in culturally relevant texts, which I am as a general rule not allowed to do, at least not as a main activity. I mentioned last night in class that I wasn’t able to bring in a text about gay marriage, and that my students make comments that reduce Africa to the single narrative of poverty and corruption. I DO continue to have informal conversations with students about these topics when they come up in the classroom, but I wonder if that is really effective at all. Unpacking biases that have been ingrained for a lifetime is a much bigger task than what could be accomplished in a 5-10 minute discussion. When my students pronounce the word “Arab” wrong, I correct them and try to discuss with them why mispronouncing someone else’s ethnic identity matters, but I’m not convinced it really gets through. I think that in order to be a truly culturally responsive teacher, curriculum needs to be modified as it was in Schmidt’s study. If biases are subconsciously taught through our euro-centric schools and systems, we need to combat them by intentionally integrating these materials and discussions throughout the curriculum, not by having short, unplanned conversations as the issues arise.

    I deeply believe in the importance of involving families, as Schmidt recommends. The parents that I communicate with regularly have been hugely impactful in supporting their children/my students, and they have been the victims of bias when previous teachers have neglected to reach out because they assumed there would be no productive response. That said, a reality of the population of students at my school is that a lot of parents will be totally unresponsive. My question is, what do I do when parent outreach doesn’t work?

    To end on a more positive note: I’ve bemoaned the fact that mandates, both from the state level and my administration, have created obstacles to reaching my goal of culturally responsive instruction. That said, I believe the Danielson Rubric supports a few of Schmidt’s characteristics of culturally responsive Instructions: High Expectations, Active Teaching Methods, Teacher as Facilitator, Healthy Hum, and Instruction around Groups. Every NYC school administrator has to support these types of instruction because they are considered “effective” or “highly effective” on Danielson.

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  2. Kathryn H. Au’s article, “Culturally Responsive Instruction as a Dimension of New Literacies” and the Billing’s video had some great points, but I am having difficulty focusing whole classes on hip-hop education. To me, both the women seem hypocritical. They too are forcing students into one way of expressing their understanding when we have worked so hard for multiple intelligences and diversity to be a part of our classroom.
    Au brings up a good point that there are literacies, but students should be literate across contents and have the ability to express their understanding in many ways, not just one.

    I definitely agree with Au when she discusses the unfair link between standardized testing and household income. Tests should not define out students, but their ability to write a focused paper will translate to the skills they need in the future. Writing raps will most likely not translate to the skills the students will need to perform in the workplace. And although the video looked down upon the emphasis that we place on students to look forward to work life, it’s a reality. When students graduate they will need to get jobs so they can afford the cost of living.

    There needs to be a balance between hip hop education in the classroom and teaching to a test. If rap can be used as a bridge where students first gain the knowledge they need to then write a paper or answer questions on a test, that’s great, however, a rap cannot be their only assignment. Testing and papers are a part of life that will stick with the student past the classroom. If we do not prepare students for this, we are ultimately failing them.

    Instead of focusing fully on wrap or fully on testing we should give our students options on how to express themselves. Special education is in a great place right now where students have the option to express their understanding in multiple ways (writing a poem/rap, writing a paper, making a film clip, painting, etc). There are also multiple levels of scaffolds in place to help students reach the success when given a specific task that is not able to be compromised (ie they must write a paper, not a rap). Instead of focusing strictly on raps we should be expanding the idea of multiple ways of expression. I found giving my student the option to express himself in multiple ways has gotten him excited about tasks. Assignments that were once intimidating are now fun and exciting. Also knowing that he will have scaffolds in place when needed helps to alleviate the stress of tests and larger tasks. A great way to utilize multiple expressions while sort of “tricking” students into completing more standard tasks is to create a tic tac toe board for them to complete after the assignment. Each box will have different ways they can express their understanding (ie one box says draw a picture of the main idea, another box says write the main idea in a paragraph, another box says summarize in words, another box says act out a a quick summary). Then students must play tic tac toe (cross off 3 boxes). If you strategically place writing activities so that they will need to be crossed off in order to win, students will get to express themselves in a way they find fun, but also will practice their writing skills that they’ll need for tests.

    Overall we can’t focus on just one way of teaching. We need to open up many opportunities of expression for our students. Do you think teaching just rap to your students would be beneficial or is it another form of tunnel vision that would benefit certain students only?


  3. After watching the Ladson-Billings video and considering our recent class discussions, I’m in the teacher’s lounge at my school having a discussion on hip-hop pedagogy. Our school is very culturally sensitive to our diverse population and supportive of our many english language learners (approximately 90% of the teachers in my school are under 30). However, the overwhelming consensus of from my sample of teachers was the following:
    – yes, it sounds interesting
    – yes, it may help some students learn and connect to content
    – this is not something that will necessarily help them in their transition to college or career (unless they are studying something specifically related to hip-hop)
    – it may seem disingenuous, and even insulting, depending on who is delivering the lesson and how it is messaged
    – it’s presumptuous to assume that all students of a particular minority group know and would respond to hip hop

    I was thinking about the video from last night when the author talked about having a single story and only understanding the single story of cultures different from their own…most likely from lack of exposure and awareness about other cultures (similar to her experience with Mexico). Some of the students with whom I work have never ventured far beyond their own neighborhood. So while it’s critical to connect with them in a way to which they can relate, I think it’s also important to expose them to multiple perspectives of people, places, and cultures beyond their own.


    • We have talked a lot about being culturally responsive, but Schmidt’s article about Jerry’s physics class brought up an excellent point about the need to focus on gender equity issues as well. I’ve had a few interesting/disturbing conversations with my students recently regarding the upcoming Presidential elections. Some of the male students could not fathom (somewhat horrified really) the possibility of a women becoming President.


  4. While both the Gloria Ladsen speech and the Kathryn Au article touch upon very important concepts and ideas for the importance of culturally responsive teaching, I didn’t find anything particularly new. Ladsen presents an inspiring story about reaching the students that populate her school and connecting with them in a non-traditional way. While I too teach in an urban area where many students are interested in hip hop culture, if we were having a discussion about innovations in really reaching students nation-wide, I think we would have to re-craft our conversation. It’s unrealistic to imagine that the use of hip hop in the classroom will revolutionize learning for all students because we’re forgetting about massive populations of students who maybe just don’t like rap and gravitate towards any other genre of music.

    Ladsen spoke about three components of a culturally responsive pedagogy- supporting students learning, cultural competence, and socio-political consciousness. She makes a strong case for a well-rounded learning environment and relates it to the implementation of hip hop in her classroom. However, she spoke for 3-4 minutes about how supporting students learning means making sure every student in the room is an achiever, but never connected it directly back to “culture.”

    Au makes some statements about the most common trajectory of students who come from multicultural backgrounds. While my first reaction was to say, “well you can’t say that!” I realize that most of the things she’s said are the things most of us don’t want to admit, or say explicitly.

    Some things I’m left wondering… Could these innovators of education walk into a school in rural Texas or South Dakota and figure out how to implement an effective culturally responsive pedagogy there? Is it fair to only have this conversation about low-income urban students?


  5. One key point that was significant to me was Ladson-Billings statement that students of color must have the opportunity to develop a “Deep understanding of their own heritage, history, and culture.” Since various forms of media, including movies, newspapers, and history textbooks either fail to show people of color in a positive light, or at all, I agree that an essential aspect of effectively educating children of color, in particular, must include exposure and affirmation of their various histories.

    Unfortunately, many history textbooks and teachers fail to acknowledge the achievements of people of color in math, science, the arts, etc. By not acknowledging the achievements of people of color these textbooks and the teachers that teach them, convey a powerful message (though it may be unintended): that these achievements simply do not exist. In other words, if children are not exposed to the wealth of achievements of people of color, they can infer that no such achievements exist. As a result, many children of color begin to see personal achievement within these areas as not possible or normal. If children of color are not exposed to textbooks and literature that acknowledge the value of the various cultures of persons of color, they may begin to fail to see the values in themselves, or at worst, they may internalize racism and view themselves as inferior or “bad.” For example, if all the history textbooks that an African American child has been exposed to have portrayed Africa or black people in general, as dirty, poor, uncivilized, and inherently inferior, then that African American child will grow up with a negative view of not only Africa but themselves.

    This truly affects students like our own because if children have never been exposed to black scientists or Latina mathematicians they may not view math or science as something people like them “do.” In fact, this is very real as some children of color view doing well in school as “acting white.” Part of this perspective is the result of children not being exposed to examples of people of color achieving in the areas of math, science, etc. However, in general, they can easily see themselves begin musicians or athletes, because these are the images they are consistently exposed to through popular media. There is a saying that children can only be what they can see, and if we want our children to excel, we must provide them with examples of persons with similar experiences, achieving excellence.

    As educators, we must recognize the very real need to not simply teach students the value of X or the value of reading but also the value of who they are as human beings, within a society that at times suggests they are not; part of that starts with teaching children their rich and valuable histories. Part of the way students develop a sense of self-worth and value is through having opportunities to be exposed to the positive images and the incredible contributions that people who share their heritage have accomplished. The more this becomes a reality, the less students of color will see their academic achievements as “acting white” and the more they will see their ability to excel as simply apart of long histories of achievement and excellence.


  6. Earlier in this conversation, Alicia echoed a claim made in the piece by Au that culturally responsive teaching must be seen as a bridge to an understanding of multiple cultures. Likewise, this we hear this sentiment pop up in Ladson-Billings’ speech where she states that teachers must aim for students to leave high school multi-culturally (or at least bi-culturally) literate. It is not enough for teachers to engage students in their education- that education itself must be guided to give the tools to understand the world in which they live. However, something that bothered me in Au’s article was the use of the word “mainstream” to describe the dominant American culture. To me, the use of this word not only marginalizes those that are “outside” of the mainstream, but also gives those “in” the mainstream an intrinsic divinity. This is dangerous because a culturally responsive worldview as black and white as “ethnic” v. “mainstream” is just as reductive as that of the status quo- and potentially just as alienating an educational decree.

    The question then turns to this: how can educators teach their students to be multi-culturally literate in a way that recognizes the very real differences that exist between different groups of people in a way that does not reduce individuals in those groups to those very same differences? I’m not smart enough to answer that, but I do know this: it is very close impossible to achieve this perfect balance in an educational landscape shaped by standards and testing alone. I count myself, Osbani and any of those fortunate enough to teach in a Consortium school to be very lucky indeed.



  7. Culturally relative teaching is an important aspect and should be involved in all schools and inside of every classroom. When students are able to relate to the topic they are learning, they are able to understand more than when they are unable to relate to it. We all remember the days when we did not relate to a topic and it was almost ten times harder to remember, engage in, and understand. As students are more engaged during a lesson, the less classroom management strategies a teacher must input. If students are excited to be in that classroom, they become eager to learn, and one of the most effective ways of making this happen is by having culturally relevant material for each lesson plan.

    A teachers instruction cannot represent every home environment, however it can definitely draw upon various elements to engage students. Student engagement is extremely crucial for learning, as participation and attentive learning is a key indicator that a child is learning and growing. Practicing verbal skills while participating in conversation with peers about an academic topic can also be very important and crucial for student growth. Students will only participate if they are engaged and actively listening, and for them to do so the lesson must be interesting and relevant to their daily lives. Most teens, especially emerging teens, feel isolated and are unable to relate to many faculty and teachers. If a teacher is taking their culture or race or gender into account and using that to facilitate learning, students recognize this and become much more comfortable in the classroom and with the teacher. It is very difficult for a child to learn if that child does not like the adult teaching them.

    Culturally relative teaching has been difficult for me personally because many of my students are of mixed cultures. I have a mix of Middle Eastern, Spanish, and Haitian students. Some are interested in rap, some in hip hop, some in electronic, some in rock and some in jazz. It is quite difficult to incorporate music, even in the background, as they are constantly fighting over what they want to listen too, and when using it in a lesson, they often space out and many who are not interested in music shut down and do not complete the assignment. My favorite unit I taught was the religion unit, in which we explored 5 different major world religions. This is when I saw my students become most excited about learning, as they were excited to learn about their religions more, as well as their friend’s religions. In 6th grade social studies, we study a various amounts of cultures, but to really understand their cultures we dive into material about religion.

    A sense of community is extremely important for students to have. For younger ages, having a class pet, having frequent “class meetings” or “class parties” during lunch, or even just using the “homeroom” as a safe place for the students makes learning for my homeroom students much easier and much more effective. Having a class pet was the best decision I made, as they each took a role in feeding, cleaning and taking care of the turtle. They were excited to show people the turtle, they were eager to take care of it, and many times they have referenced our homeroom as a “family.”


  8. In her video, Gloria Ladson-Billings discusses one element of culturally relevant pedagogy that she feels is most often misunderstood–cultural competence. She defines this as “the ability to be grounded in his or her own culture of origin, and fluent in at least one other culture.” She also maintains that this should apply to both to students of color and white middle-class students. I agree that this is a frequently misunderstood element of culturally relevant pedagogy, as evidenced by the example Osbani gave in class on Tuesday (the bodega anecdote). I also really appreciate her definition as a way of reframing our understanding of how this should be applied in the classroom.

    In her speech, she also mentions her frustration with the banning of cell phone use in classroom, and asserts that “it is not a cell phone, it is a computer.” She discusses a list of characteristics of generation “new century students” which underscores the divide technology has created between generations. While I understand her argument for greater integration of technology, social media, etc. in instruction, particularly as they are modern forms of literacy, I’m still left wondering how this can be effectively used without spiraling out of control.

    One way in which Kathryn Au discusses culturally responsive instruction is as delivery that accounts for students’ cultural norms, such as children being able to speak only when they had their hands raised vs. children being able to speak when they had something to say, without waiting for the teacher’s permission. As Au states, “This mix of participation structures, some typical of the home and community and some typical of school, creates the bridge to school success.” This supports the same ideas laid out by Ladson-Billings regarding cultural competence–it is not just the ability to be literate in one’s own culture, but also the ability to be fluent in another culture. For a teacher to marry the values of the dominant culture with the values of individual students’ cultures is to be a truly culturally responsive educator.

    Overall, while I appreciate and understand what both Ladson-Billings and Au are discussing about culturally relevant pedagogy, I’m still left wondering how we can approach its execution without making broad assumptions about our students, based on a particular cultural identity or generational identity. For example, many of my students are very attuned to technology and social media, others do not have cell phones or internet at home and therefore do not have the connection with technology or the technological prowess of their peers. It would therefore be wrong for me to assume that all of my students would benefit from the integration of social media into their classroom, simply because they meet the generational description. Any thoughts?


  9. Culturally relevant pedagogy appeals to me as a teacher and a social activist because of its three propositions: 1. Supporting student learning 2. Developing cultural relevance and 3. Encouraging critical consciousness (Ladson-Billings). I think it is important to bring issues that are related to intersecting crosses of identity to the attention of our students, so they can be aware of what needs to be changed in the world. Our students are the next generation of social-justice activists and culturally relevant pedagogy allows us to elicit that activism and innovation from our students.

    To play devil’s advocate as well, Au brings up a good point, “While culturally responsive instruction is a powerful construct, it is certainly not the entire answer to bringing students of diverse backgrounds to high levels of literacy.” Additionally, we cannot address all intersecting crosses of identity. As we discussed in class, it is almost impossible to address different facets of identity, especially when given a curriculum that you must abide by. But attempting to address different facets is much better than the one-note celebrations of identity (ex: Black History month, Women’s History month, etc.) While it is important to celebrate different identities, it neglects the idea that the rest of the year is often dedicated to older (if not dead), white men of European descent, which is often what our students are not.


  10. Both Billings and Au talk about culturally relevant instruction as providing an entry point for students. The idea is that this allows students to feel represented and, therefore, more motivated to engage with material and push themselves to grow through their academics. Billings states that culturally relevant teachers have a goal of mastery for all their students. It is not about getting through the curriculum but rather mastering a skill so as to feel empowered.
    Billings: education is much more than getting a good job, about the empowerment and liberation of each student. Au talks about using a students’ culture as an entry point to engage students and to then expand from their, building on their strengths while broadening their horizons.

    This for me is a connector to our students with learning disabilities, whether severe or not. These students of course have their own home cultures and personal backgrounds that they come to class with. But they also have added challenges which are part of their story and part of our students’ “culture” that we have to be aware of and incorporate into our teaching. My students have many different backgrounds but they can all engage around the commonality of having learning disabilities. We and they are open about their challenges which allows us to be very clear about what we are teaching, why we are teaching it a certain way, and what we expect will happen using particular strategies. In many ways, I see this as culturally relevant instruction. My students feel represented because they recognize they all share struggles and they see that their teachers are actively working to provide strategies to aid them. I think it is important to remember that culturally relevant does not always have to focus on race, ethnicity, socio-economic factors, etc. Of course these are important to bring into the classroom as often as possible. But recognizing who are students are and providing entry points for them can look very different.


  11. Culturally relevant pedagogy is something that all teachers should consider using. It is extremely hard to incorporate since our new generation has evolved tremendously since we have been in school. What worked well for us in the classroom may not be the best for our students. The motivation we had may not work the same way for our young ones. We need to really get to know our students in order for us to know what they like. Once we figure that out, we can find ways to use these things for better instruction. Richer discussions come from topics that our students are interested in. Gloria Ladson Billings did a great job explaining how certain things that were not accepted as tools for learning when we were growing up may now be appropriate in the classroom. For example, cell phones and computers. Our new generation is greatly dependent on technology, so we as culturally relevant teachers need to find ways to incorporate technology in the classroom. I enjoyed reading the article about how a classroom teacher was able to use hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar to allow students to understand a lesson. In the article “Culturally Responsive Instruction as a Dimension of New Literacies,” the author mentions how teaching to the test may have a negative effect when teaching literacy to students with diverse backgrounds. This is another thing that makes being a culturally responsive teacher so difficult. High stakes testing effects so many minority students negatively because they do not understand how it will help them in life. Yes it may help you get into a great college, but what if college is not something that the student is interested in? Yes I know college is important, however, I do not think it is the only “good” way to become successful. When we teach students different alternatives of how to be successful, they will feel like they have a chance.


  12. One of the highlights that I got from Kathryn Au’s article “Culturally Responsive Instruction as a Dimension of New Literacy” was that culturally responsive teaching helps foster a greater sense of community. In high school the classroom dynamics can be very sensitive. Cliques emerge based on wealth, image, status, race, ethnicity, etc. I personally know, as a first year teacher, that it is hard to balance all the crazy dynamics that happen both within and outside the classroom. I’ve been startled numerous times throughout the year with how my students refer to each other and generally can treat other cultures as a joke. One example that broke my heart was when students began to laugh at a certain scene during Selma where several children died as a result of someone bombing a church. In the moment I had a mix of embarrassment, anger, frustration, and self-defeat that I created an environment in my classroom where these students thought that this moment was funny.

    However, it helped me realize that when teaching, I needed to be more upfront and direct about how we would be addressing future topics. After this moment of honesty with my students, they took lessons on assimilation, gentrification, and racial segregation in America more seriously. I know I can be especially hard on my students at times at how they view their peers and themselves, especially when they do so through this “single-story lens”, but I often forget how much of an impact a teacher can have on influencing how they respond to other cultures.


  13. I found the article on culturally responsive instruction particularly interesting. While it was aimed mostly at literacy and focused mostly on reading the main point to me was that “culturally responsive instruction fosters new literacies that make connections to students’ home cultures.” I have found that the math lessons I have done including basketball, football, and sneakers have had the highest engagement. Students immediately feel connected to the lesson and truly dedicate themselves to the material. One lesson that comes to mind is we discussed which video rental company (Netflix vs. its competitors) makes the most sense for each student to use based on their movie rating tendencies. They had to create linear equations for three different companies and determine which company provided them with the greatest value.

    While culturally responsive teaching is a great change-up and creates excitement we must be careful as educators. Each one of our students is different and has different likes and dislikes. While we may think we understand what is mainstream and what is popular some of our students may not be as intrigued by hip-hop or basketball. We must find topics that all of our students find interesting not just most students.


  14. Many of the points made by Au and Ladson-Billings in their respective works are similar. They both argue that culturally responsive instruction has the power to make education accessible and relevant for students of all types of diverse backgrounds by both reflecting and giving value to the cultural norms and knowledge that they exist in. Both Au and Ladson-Billings remark upon the current trend towards “covering” the material” in order to prepare students for “success” on upcoming standardized tests. This “narrowing of the literacy [or other] curriculum” leads inevitably to the dominance of the mainstream culture’s literary & other academic and social norms and expectations.

    I agree with most everything Au and Ladson-Billings say, but I am still not sure how to integrate their conclusions into my own teaching practice. Most importantly, I wonder – how can we leverage the principles of culturally responsive teaching into our practice specifically as SPECIAL EDUCATORS? Much of the time, our struggle isn’t just to get kids to see the importance of the material but to help kids access the material in any way at all. I very much enjoyed many of the ideas and points brought up by my colleagues in tonight’s twitter chat, but I want to push us to think about how we can combine our role of working specifically with students with learning disabilities and our goal of providing instruction that is culturally relevant. Obviously, the two are not by any means incongruous (in fact, being a culturally responsive educator and integrating students’ many identities into our classrooms might even by MORE important for the SWD who are already alienated from education in so many ways than general education students), but I do think we may need to tweak our perspective on CRT for our specific population of SWD. For example, many of my students with IEPs struggle to master a mathematical concept when it is displayed in the simplest of terms – how much more confusing for them would it become if I also layered on the complexity of census data, data analysis, and an interdisciplinary discussion? How can we intertwine differentiated instruction with the complexities of culturally responsive instruction? I struggle with this question every day.


  15. As an International and Global Studies Major, I came into teaching with Culturally Relevant Pedagogy very much in my mind. I wanted my students to understand each other and the world that surrounds them. This was easier said than done. I walked into a classroom where the students have looped together and half of them despised the other half. I was seen as an outsider, despite being a minority like all of them, they were not quick to relate to me. To them I was seen as an outsider, and sadly the lightness of my skin made them think of me more as a “white person” than as a “latina”. The importance of that one story line plays perfectly here, they assumed that because I was not like them, I could not be a Latina, I was too white and I “looked” like someone from the city. Nonetheless, after many tries, my students began to see me as someone they could relate to. We had different experiences but they caused the same pain, same difficulties, and same happiness. Having them share themselves and being pushed and reminded by my co-teacher and I to avoid passing judgment has helped them become as accepting as they are of each other and the rest of the world. As I mentioned in class, I was extremely proud when they did not pass judgment on our transgender characters and instead where more interested in knowing the “scientific” reasons as to why it happens. This is not to say that my class is a perfect example of CRP, but that we are trying.

    While watching the speech by Gloria Ladson-Billings, I started very much agreeing with her statements regarding culturally relevant pedagogy. However, in regards to her position on cellphones and hip hop, I kindly disagree. I felt enamored with her following statement: CRP “Helps student understand that learning can be and should be connected to the everyday problems of living in a society that is deeply divided along racial, ethnic, linguistic, economic, environmental, socio-political lines” and more importantly, how by focusing on this, we can solve and even avoid, some of the problems our society is currently having.

    Concerning her position on cell phones, I’m not sure I share her stance. Although yes, a cell can be used as a computer, this is only if they have a smartphone with Internet capabilities. Many of my students do not have this and if they were to have access to their phones while in class, it would mean more texting than researching. Unfortunately, my students have not learned how to successfully multitask.

    In regards to the “Hip Hop as Common Culture” I understand where she is coming from, trying to make relevant activities; however, just as she said “they [our students] do not fit neatly into rigid categories of race, gender or national origin”, my students do not fit into the category of loving and being completely immersed in hip hop. Perhaps just “music” would be a better connection to our students.

    As mentioned, the practice of trying to raise the test scores has caused deficiencies in literacy instruction. Focusing on just raising test score robs our students from becoming well-rounded individuals. Ladson-Billings mentions, “creating maximum competence from students, not coverage from professors.” Our society needs to develop individuals capable of having what we call academic knowledge but also a cultural knowledge, as Ladson-Billings would say, “multicultural competent/fluent students”.


    • Maria, I agree with your point about cell phones. Although cell phones are now allowed in schools, my building has still placed a ban on them. Despite the ban, cell phones unfortunately still find their way into the classroom, acting as quite the distraction to students. While I am not able to do this given the building policy, I wonder if rather than fighting with the phone policy by confiscating phones, etc, it would be better to somehow embrace them as a tool for learning in the classroom. I imagine if done correctly it would reduce the issues with phones and could also add a really interesting layer to instruction.


  16. In the Au article, one of the lines in particular that stuck out to me was, “Part of culturally responsive instruction involves creating a sense of community in the classroom.” This sentiment was echoed tonight in our Twitter chat. It is crucial that in our classrooms we build a community. In developing a community, we are able to create a mutual trust between teacher and student. With trust, students will feel more comfortable opening up with each other and with us. The more we know about our students, the better able we will be to incorporate culturally responsive instruction that our students are genuinely able to connect with. Additionally, one other point that the article made that I feel is important, is that after we have an understanding of our students, their interests and background, it is crucial that we find literature that they are able to connect with, because, “Given a steady diet of mainstream literature alone, these students are unlikely to understand that their own experiences are worth writing about.” We need our students to know that every story is worth sharing, and learning about.

    In the Gloria Ladson-Billings talk, I really connected with her point about students always hearing that the point of education is to be able to get a good job. I heard this countless times throughout my schooling, however, she makes a valid point when she says that when the diploma is granted, there is no guarantee that that good job will be available. Thus, she says that we need students to see education as a form of empowerment and liberation which I wholeheartedly agree with. It is so important to me that I don’t just teach my students content, but that I instill in them a life-long love for learning. I want my students to work hard, explore their interests, discover their passions and follow the path that that leads to. I think one way to do this is with culturally relevant pedagogy. In knowing and understanding our students, we are able to design CRP that can help our students to find that path and become life-long learners. I really like the parallels that this had with the points made in the Au article discussed above.

    I love the idea from both Gloria Ladson-Billings and Science Genius to use hip-hop as a form of engagement and CRP. The stories of reaching students who were previously turned off to education are quite powerful. I would love to learn more about what this looks like in the classroom during the day to day.

    Another question that I have is how I can better incorporate culturally responsive pedagogy into my math classes in authentic ways. Next year, I am revamping my units to be ‘Authentic Learning Units’ as so named by the Learner Active Technology Infused classroom model which I have received extensive professional development on. An Authentic Learning Unit is one that is explorative in nature and set around a central theme/ big picture question that students will be exploring throughout the course of the unit. While I think the themes that I choose can be an excellent way to include more culturally relevant pedagogy, I would love any other suggestions for best practices of CRP that I can use in my classes.


  17. As I was reading Au’s article, there was one part in particular that resonated with me. She points out that “Unlike their mainstream peers […] students of diverse backgrounds generally do not understand the long-term benefits of doing well in school. The reason is that these benefits often have not been illustrated in the history of their own families. In this situation, students are not likely to comply with teachers’ requests because they want to be seen as good students or because they want good grades. Instead, they need specific and immediate reasons – reasons that make sent to them – for engaging in academic tasks.”
    I think this is such a powerful idea. I remember thinking about this a lot at the beginning of the year. I felt like my students didn’t care or at least, that I cared more about their grades and success than they did. I talked to one of my mentors about their indifference and she sent me an article/video (I wish I could remember the exact source – if anyone recognizes this let me know!), that talked about how many students in underprivileged areas don’t feel like they deserve success. It something that contrasts with the mindset of college educated teachers. At some point in our lives, maybe because of privilege or some other experience, we decided we were worthy of success. That we deserved good grades, deserved to go to college, and deserved good jobs. Not all kids have the same perspective because such thinking relies on a ripple effect – you see your family member succeed and expect the same success or better, or experience success yourself and continue to expect. Children who have struggled academically or behaviorally in school begin to expect the opposite and a negative ripple effect results.
    In her speech, Gloria Ladson-Billings says “We have to help our students understand that the reasons that they should seek education are much larger than a job. They are linked to their own empowerment and their own liberation.” This is key because it breaks it gives students an aim. And if presented well, a student can feel that they are worthy and capable of this empowerment.
    My question however is, how do we refrain from imposing culture on our students? How do we define success in a culturally sensitive way and still give students everything we deem valuable under our own constructs?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. In the Gloria Ladson-Billings talk, I was struck when she talked about the high standards for students in medical school and how it’s about mastery and not coverage. I feel that, during this first year of teaching, even though the data reads “% mastery”, on a daily basis my co-teacher and I are always stressed about not having enough time to “cover” all the tested standards. It is not that we do not want our students to master these skills, but I feel that the time is always pressing and it is so hard to spend enough time on one topic for them to actually digest the concepts and practice the skills. Also, it doesn’t help that my students think they are learning these skills because they need them to pass the unit tests and the state test. They hate tests so much and even though we try our best in incorporate real-world examples into our lessons, at the end of the day, they still think it’s all about passing the class and the test. Just like she mentioned, kids think of education as the gateway to “good jobs”, but they have little idea about what having a job really entails and how to get there and why they have to take these tests so that they can get there. For most of these kids, it is absolutely pointless to learn how to find the surface area of a triangular based pyramid, but because the test says they need to know it, so they have to learn it without knowing how it actually applies to their future.
    Regarding the Hip Hop/Hip Hope movement, and this might be repeating some others’ points, I do not think that it applies to all or even most of my kids. I understand that she is trying to have an engaging activity as an investment/engagement strategy, but there are also so many different personalities and talents in a classroom, and it’d be a shame for teachers to only utilize those who are rhythmically-talented and like to perform and write and overlook the other skills in which our students pride themselves.


  19. Culturally responsive teaching is such a topic of controversy I feel. I think it is very easy to forget how limiting being “culturally responsive” can be at times. The “culturally responsive” term has been thrown around consistently in the system that we (teachers) just take it and assume to understand it but we haven’t really discussed the disadvantages there could be to being “culturally responsive.” For example, Ladson discusses how hip-hop is used to motivate students in the classroom in an urban area but there are sooo many kids who may not relate to hip-hop at all. Also, just because they are in an urban area it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be exposed to other kinds of genres. Ladson makes great points about being culturally responsive by taking into consideration the fact that students’ learning needs to be supported, their socio-political situation, and their culture itself, and even though she was very persuasive in her discussion, I think that her position on being culturally responsive wasn’t really a discussion, there was sort of a disconnect.

    On a slightly different note, there is only so much that educators can do to help motivate their students. I think that there has to be some student accountability as well. Our jobs should not be to beg them to do their work (this is after including games and engaging activities to keep them engaged) and figure out a crazy number of strategies to try to keep them engaged and take the fault for their lack of learning (and be graded on it!). At least in high school, teachers should not have to carry the weight of responsibility that the students should carry themselves for their own learning. I am sure this is another topic for discussion.


  20. I found that the Au article touched on many of the ideas that we discussed in class on Wednesday. I found Au’s explanation of culturally responsive pedagogy as a “bridge” particularly important. I think this speaks to the conversation that we had on Wednesday regarding one teacher’s advice that culturally responsive pedagogy should look like teaching students to find the area of a bodega. This approach is limiting and stifling to students. It allows their understanding of the world around them to remain very narrow, and it doesn’t allow them to use their own culture as a means of learning about and engaging with others. Au points out that teachers should never try to recreate the home environment completely, but should instead weave elements of it into the classroom to make students more comfortable with the school environment. Similarly, we should not interpret culturally responsive pedagogy to mean that we must keep our classroom discussions and activities about culture and ethics limited to those ideas that students have already been exposed to due to their cultural backgrounds. Rather, we must view culturally responsive pedagogy as a tool for leveraging students’ understanding of and experience with their own culture to help them engage in classroom discussions and other activities that ask them to think about cultures that may be unfamiliar to them.

    Additionally, I thought it was interesting the Au focused mostly on the type of activities that students engage in rather than the nature of the material being taught. This is something that I hadn’t thought about very much before, although it seems intuitive that students will be more willing to engage in class if the rules of engagement are similar to those they are familiar with. That said, I do not know what that would look like with my students. I think this is a limitation on my part. Although I’ve worked to learn about their cultures this year, I have not put much thought into the question of how their culture influences the ways in which they interact with peers and adults. My school is very diverse, so I’m not sure that this is as simple in my case as in Au’s example of the Hawaiian talk story. However, thinking about links between students’ culture and the ways in which they are comfortable participating in class is important, and it’s something I would like to consider more carefully next year.


  21. I really enjoyed the New York Times article on Kendrick Lamar’s visit to a high school in New Jersey. When watching the video from a Columbia professor on incorporating hip hop into a science curriculum, I was pretty skeptical. Fusing such different worlds felt forced or even corny, and would likely only work in very specific circumstances (in which the teacher has a fairly extensive background in rap culture).

    Reading about the use of Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” album in conjunction with a global literature curriculum, on the other hand, clicked for me. TPAB is a rich, complex, and controversial album that hits on some very relevant themes and ideas with its poetry: historical oppression (and its psychological toll), police brutality, conflicting values and priorities, and much more. Breaking down and album like this in conjunction with a text such as “The Bluest Eye” strikes me as a powerful way of blending different artistic modalities, and gain deeper insight into the parallels in things such as tone, message, and expression. Looking to next year, I definitely want to find ways to incorporate this combination of literature and hip hop in my English instruction (“Black Star” comes to mind, which was a duet between Talib Kweli and Mos Def).

    Lastly, I found the fact that Kendrick Lamar himself went out of his way to work with this teacher’s students genuinely inspiring. The vast majority of my students listen to hip hop at every opportunity they have, and many idolize their favorite artists. This creates a tremendous opportunity for these musicians, who can directly communicate with a young, impressionable slice of the country through their rhymes. The problem is, of course, that the message being communicated is often self-absorbed, violent, sexist, and materialistic (among other things). There is obviously a strong market for music and lyrics on this kind of subject matter, but it has always struck me as a disservice to these children and the larger community that many artists (who are fully aware of the role model figure they serve for many of these kids) continue exclusively perpetuating this kind of material.

    Kendrick Lamar is definitely someone who has broken this mold, and returned to the more socially conscious and jazzy roots in hip hop. And by actually attending a class, discussing the powerful themes in his music, listening to student performances, and actually doing a song, I think he likely made a real impact on the lives of these kids. I hope more rappers follow his example, and use their creativity and influence to help foster positivity and education, rather than the self-congratulating depravity so endemic in mainstream hip hop these days.


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