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The Great Debate - Culturally Responsive Teaching

Imagine a classroom where every student has the opportunity to see themselves in the curriculum and instructional practices that take place in that learning environment. Imagine the possibilities that abound when students are able to make meaningful connections to the lessons being taught. Imagine a learning space where there are high expectations for all students, the lived experiences of students are incorporated into the learning tasks, positive relationships are built with students, and multiple opportunities for developing critical consciousness, including student discourse, are the foundation of the work taking place in the classroom. These are just a few of the valuable contributions that culturally responsive teaching provides for our students.

I have been floored by the message being communicated that culturally responsive pedagogy is critical race theory. This lets me know that research has not been done. I don’t mean researching by simply clicking the internet or social media outlets. I mean research where one reads a book or article written by one of the experts in this field. Critical race theory is not culturally responsive teaching. As a principal, I worked hard to create a culturally responsive teaching and learning environment where all students could see themselves in the learning tasks. Every student that walked into the building needed to know they could bring their lived experiences into our school without feeling like they would be silenced. The goal was to create a space where every student and teacher could be their authentic self without feeling like they needed to wear a mask.

The individuals that have researched culturally responsive pedagogical practices know and understand these practices belong in schools. The focus on creating a space where high expectations are the norm and students can see themselves in the curriculum cannot be taken for granted. Instructional practices grounded in the notion that all students can and will learn must be non-negotiable. After implementing culturally responsive practices for several years, I have seen how these practices can transform teaching and learning, resulting in increased student learning outcomes. It is important people take the time to research this topic by reading the work of the experts, including Dr. Geneva Gay, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Zaretta Hammond. Our students cannot afford for people to operate in fear, they must operate in facts. The facts can only be discovered by reading the words of those that actually created the term. Knowledge is power!

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