Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

What does it mean to be Culturally Responsive?

We've just been through a process of appointing our Leaders of Learning and this was a question that caused some robust discussion amongst our team.  Often, the answer you expect to hear is influenced strongly by your own personal experiences.

For me, my most recent experiences have been in a Decile One school, where 80% of our students were Maori.  When thinking 'cultural responsiveness' I reflect on Te Kotahitanga, the Treaty of Waitangi and the importance of valuing and validating what each student brings to the classroom.  Also the importance of being responsive to students experiences and co-constructing the learning around their views and knowledge.  Working in this environment my focus was largely on lifting Maori Achievement - not just academically, but also about finding ways for school to be a successful place for Maori.  The evidence was clear, that what is effective for Maori students is effective for all students.

This clip from Andrew Solomon, talking about 'Love, no matter what' reminded me that being culturally responsive is more than just valuing and validating the views and beliefs that learners bring, but also about accepting their identities.  

I love how he talks about Vertical and Horizontal Identities.  Vertical Identity is what's passed down through generations - ethnicity, nationality, language, sometimes religion.  While some of these things are difficult, no one attempts to cure them.  Horizontal Identity refers to the things that you often have to learn from a peer group, things that you don't have in common with your family and what often makes you quite alien to your parents.  These are the things that people almost always try to cure.  Andrew Solomon makes reference to being gay, the deaf community, to families with down syndrome and autistic children.  These are all examples of identities that form cultures.  The challenge is how others accept individual identities.  Solomon talks about three levels of acceptance:  self acceptance, family acceptance and social acceptance.  They don't always con-incide.  Children who don't 'fit' into what their family deems as 'normal' often feel that their parents don't love them.  Solomon talks about the idea that a parent's love for their children is unconditional, the issue is that often parents don't accept them, and that acceptance takes time.

Being responsive isn't just about acknowledging, but also about being accepting.

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