While there is a global change of culture, there is also a change in the classroom. Much of what students relate to culture is from each other in class.
At that moment, you have the opportunity to build a community in the classroom of mutual respect and assimilate to each other’s cultural diversity. What is more important than to teach students the need for cultural awareness?
Even though you find it overwhelming to adjust cultural awareness to lesson planning, it is much easier than you think. To my surprise, students engage the most in learning activities when lessons incorporate cultural diversity.
Cultural Awareness in the Classroom
With a class of many diverse students, I often wondered how I was going to build a cultural awareness to engage the learning experience for all students. One of the most challenging tasks as a teacher is to motivate students to learn.
But how was I able to do so when many of my students came from different cultural backgrounds and life experiences? It is not an easy task.
In fact, the resources to accommodate students with learning disabilities, cultural differences, or gender inequalities issues are not there. Many educational programs lack the support for teachers to integrate cultural awareness in the classroom.
A simple way to incorporate more cultural diversity in the classroom was to acknowledge there are discrepancies in the school. Although the majority of students are non-English speakers, the need for ELL programs was evident.
So, I started to use more role models in my lessons in simple reading passages, video clips, or career-oriented videos. Eventually, cultural events such as the Hispanic Heritage month, Mariachi bands, and the Day of the Dead appeared in most schools.
But teachers need more than holidays to build a yearly community of learners.
Strategies for the teacher’s toolbox
Focusing on cultural awareness has its advantages since it encourages students to respect one another’s cultures. Even if it is as simple as learning students’ names, it motivates others to respect other traditions.
I used a simple seating chart with everyone’s names on it. The seating chart was not just for taking attendance or remembering names, but it was also a tool to recall specific names based on cultural preferences.
Many students preferred to be called a particular name. It may sound simple, but it makes a world of difference. Learning students’ names bring together the community of the class, regardless of how different they may be from each other.
What’s in a name?
It may sound simple enough, but pronouncing or knowing students’ names can completely change the outlook of a student. Knowing every name in a class develops trustworthiness and respect among everyone.
Empathy, respect, self-esteem, and acceptance are all valuable characteristics teachers implement in the classroom. Building a community in the class is more natural when students accomplish skills of value and assimilation for other cultures.
If professional development workshops are available for you in cultural awareness, then it is essential to attend these classes. While there may be simple information to know, these workshops encourage to practice and learn how to motivate students.
In fact, there are many professional classes for you to learn more about using cultural diversity in the classroom. More than cultural awareness, these workshops also focus on teaching students with disabilities and gender-based inequality situations.
Importance of building cultural diversity
While it is crucial to learn about cultural awareness as a teacher, schools are more apt to consider implementing cultural programs to raise awareness. The need to have cultural diversity events is essential from an academic perspective.
Students value when you use parts of the lessons to address different components of diversity. In fact, studies show that when teachers use cultural awareness in the classroom, it activates prior knowledge.
In addition to building a community in the school, lessons with cultural diversity integrate insightful meaning to a student’s learning experience. When students associate what they learn in the classroom to what they know from their culture, they are more apt to recall and retain that information.
So, teachers usually implement simple activities to encourage cultural diversity.
Implementation of cultural diversity activities in lessons and school events, students feel connected to what they know from previous learning experiences. Students themselves are more aware of assimilating their prior knowledge to their new learning.
Particularly, teachers who incorporate diversity and maintain respect among the class show students more interested in the subject and tend to learn more. Is this an easy task?
By all means, it is not. It takes a set of curriculum planning from a department perspective and as a school to commit to incorporate cultural awareness.