Cultural Responsive Teaching: Grow Your Knowledge Base

As an educator, I understand the importance for continuing education. Some workshops provided by the district are not directly related to my professional practice as a speech language pathologist. I do my best to draw what I can from these workshops and adapt it for my own practice. But, how can SLPs grow their cultural knowledge base even without a workshop? Here are some ways:

Check Your Community Calendar
Look around your community for events. I live in a largely diverse and populated area which allows me the opportunities to experience events within the community. Take a look and try something outside of your comfort zone. Visit an art exhibit, film festival, or local market and try some things. It doesn't need to be professionally related, just choose something to expand your own experience.

Discover New Holidays
This summer I became slightly peeved with some neighbors who where generally very quiet, because they suddenly started setting off fireworks in their driveway every night. Honestly, the noise didn't bother me much, but it scared my cat. Then I discovered that it was the Indian celebration of Diwali. Diwali is the festival of lights. Once I realized this, I no longer had negative thoughts about my neighbors. This experience helped me reflect on aspects in my own culture that might annoy my neighbors.

Chat with a Teacher
I have learned so much from my colleagues in the school system. When I assess a student, if they speak another language I will research in depth the aspects that might affect their assessment. But, remember that culture is not only related to language, ethnicity, or race. Some of the most enlightening conversations have surrounded students who have experienced a different home life that I didn't know about. Chatting with their teacher revealed that their family is struggling or that their older sibling is gifted and talented and their parents expect them to achieve the same. Have you ever gone to an IEP meeting and the parents are not at all what you expect? I have avoided many awkward encounters because I talked with the teacher prior to the meeting.

There are many more ways to expand your knowledge base through cultural experience. I have been surprised on how I have learned to be more culturally responsive with my students. How have you grown your cultural knowledge base?

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