Ladson-Billings, G. (2011). “Yes, But How Do We Do It?”: Practicing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. In Landsman, J., & Lewis, C. W. (Eds.), White Teachers / Diverse Classrooms : Creating Inclusive Schools, Building on Students’ Diversity, and Providing True Educational Equity (pp. 33-46). Sterling, VA, USA: Stylus Publishing.
When encountering students of colour who are struggling with school, the author suggests teachers should consider their thinking and practice, “about the social contexts, about the students, about the curriculum, and about instruction” (Ladson-Billings, 2011, p. 34) instead of what kinds of activities to put into lesson plans to ‘help’ the students. She calls this self-reflexivity culturally relevant teaching.
Sometimes, teachers that are solely concerned with academic achievement do not attempt to understand their students or who they are. Rather “they are most interested in the cultivation of students’ minds and supporting their intellectual lives” (Ladson-Billings, 2011, p.39). Conversely, “culturally relevant teachers think deeply about what they teach and ask themselves why students should learn particular aspects of the curriculum” (Ladson-Billings, 2011, 39). By drawing connections between content and student relevancy, these kinds of teachers are still focused on academic goals for their students, but long –term ones that are built up through relevant scaffolding. They share these goals with students, explaining to them the relevancy of their activity at hand and how it relates in the long run.
Teachers who foster cultural competence understand that “they must work back and forth between the lives of their students and the life of school” (Ladson-Billings, 2011, 40). However, enacting sociopolitical consciousness in the classrooms can be faced with resistance as teachers may not have come to sense of understanding sociopolitical consciousness of their own (Ladson-Billings, 2011, 41). Teachers must expose themselves to sociopolitical issues in order to familiarize themselves with the social realities around them locally, and then even on a larger scale. Once having a grasp of these issues, teachers begin to see how larger institutional structures function and intersect, impacting their lives, the school, and the lives of their students. Teachers can also talk about these issues in the classroom to raise awareness and recognition, but to also respond to ongoing social conditions. Doing so creates a more socially just classroom that recognizes that the classroom is not a neutral space. Indeed, the classroom does not function in a vacuum without relation to the outer world, but arguably is a reflection of societal reality. This suggestion is particularly useful in the context of my humanities classroom that will be largely discussion based. For example, in social studies, students will be expected to participate in current events activities. While this is a formal exercise of enacting sociopolitical consciousness in the classroom, it’s an effective start for both students and the teacher to increase their social awareness.