Culture Counts! The effective management of any classroom starts with a solid understanding of who the students are. Schools today are diverse groupings of children, youth, and adults who see the world through their own lenses of experience, culture, and ethnicity. The teacher who fails to take into account the profound influence of these human differences can never expect to truly reach his or her students in a meaningful way. Effective teaching and effective classroom management means recognizing that the classroom is full of “other people’s children,” and the teacher’s first task is to learn who they are.
The many suggestions in these guidelines must be taken in the context of cultural competence. What may be an effective behaviour management procedure for a classroom of middle class, European-American students may be wholly inappropriate for students of Haitian descent. Similarly, second or third generation Hispanic American students bring a different set of experiences than do more recent immigrants, and middle class African-American students see the world differently than do students who live in pervasive poverty.
Among their recommendations for the teacher to understand:
•    Family background and structure: Where did the students come from? How long have the students been in this country? What is the hierarchy of family authority? What responsibilities do students have at home? Is learning English a high priority?
•    Education: How much previous schooling have the students had? What kinds of instructional strategies are they accustomed to?
•    Interpersonal relationship styles: Do cultural norms emphasize working for the good of the group or for individual achievement? What are the norms with respect to interaction between males and females? What constitutes a comfortable personal space? Do students obey or question authority figures? Are expressions of emotion and feelings emphasized or hidden?
•    Discipline: Do adults act in permissive, authoritative, or authoritarian ways? What kinds of praise, reward, criticism, and punishment are customary? Are they administered publicly or privately? Are they directed to the group or the individual?

Becoming a culturally competent classroom manager is a journey, not a destination, and the effective educator is always on that road. Teachers should access as many opportunities for professional development as possible, and school district administration should provide them.

By: Lourdes D. Martinez | Teacher I | Carbon Elementary School | Limay, Bataan

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