As difficult as it may be to admit, we all have cultural biases. No one is as culturally sensitive or aware of everyone else in the world all of the time. Educators have the unique responsibility to be unbiased as part of the job description, but it’s not always an easy task. In order to manage cultural biases, it is first important to acknowledge what those biases are.
How can teachers and schools recognize cultural bias and cope with the difficulties they present? Below are a few tips for identifying and managing cultural biases, and for helping students to do the same.
- Research your own cultural background. Know your own heritage. Encourage your students to do the same..
- Practice self-reflection. Journal about how you see yourself, your students, they way that you teach. Reflection produces awareness. Once aware of your own thoughts and biases, you can re-direct them..
- Care about your students. Take the time to let students know that you care about them. Show it. Do and say things that illustrate to students that they matter to you..
- Share with students – be vulnerable with them. Let them know your cultural traditions. This can be a little tricky in public school settings. When you share, teach your students to be open-minded and respectful. Create an environment that values an awareness and appreciation for the backgrounds of others..
- Set aside time for students to talk about their own backgrounds. Use small groups or share as a whole class. Allow time for questions..
- Encourage students to work with students different from themselves..
- Do not expect one student to represent an entire culture. Do not assume that their personal experiences and traditions are true for everyone of that culture. They are individuals..
- Investigate carefully the texts chosen for classroom use. Make sure they are culturally inclusive..
- Differentiate lessons. That is, create lessons thoughtfully – appeal to as many different learning styles as possible. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic, cooperative, tactile, verbal, artistic, linear thinkers, non-sequitur thinkers (abstract), etc. Incorporate the use of Multiple Intelligences (http://www.thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.php) in the classroom. The more learning styles appealed to in the lessons, the less the chance will be for cultural bias to develop..
- Dispel stereotypes. Talk about them. Prove them wrong. Share how they make people feel. Stop students when they display this behavior..
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