Cultural Awareness and Inclusive Learning in ESL Teaching
Urban education can be described as a complicated topic for school reformists in America. With critical issues, such as inadequate funding, lack of resources, and uncertified teachers, the myriad of problems with public education has reached a new high. Many big-city public education systems have turned into melting pots by bringing together members of different racial, social, economic, and ethnic groups.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Crystal H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The problem of Public Education
Per the Bureau of International Information Programs (2011), the "Incomparable Melting Pot" is a likeness that inferred blending of various social orders, tongues, social class, and religions have turned into the standard in schools across the nation. Instructors must recognize and acknowledge this phenomenon is taking place across our country and that all individuals feel a sense of belonging and ownership inside the learning environment. With this ever-changing dynamic, school leaders must create an inclusive environment where all students feel included in the school community. However, the mere fact students of differing backgrounds attend school together does not guarantee a positive multicultural experience. In this current era of modern education, teachers are held accountable for ensuring all students have access to a high-quality education, which is often measured by student academic outcomes.
This accountability is of concern to urban educators because urban schools serve a disproportionate number of minority and poor students at risk of school failure (Bryk, 2010; Rodriguez, 2014; Washington, 2008). Particularly in middle school, educators naturally serve hormonal individuals in the stage of self-discovery while also dealing with issues around race, culture, ethnicity, and socio-economic backgrounds, which can also be significant contributors to student outcomes. School leaders' attempts to diminish minority gaps in accomplishments have frequently focused on social insufficiencies and social shortfalls because of environmental factors, underserving schools, and lack of student nutritional needs being met (Washington, 2008). Urban environments are often thought of as serving one profile student and rarely reflect on policies, procedures, and strategies that may negatively impact students. As such, many urban districts have policies in place that were developed long ago.
American Educational Scheme
According to Jones, Mixon, Henry, and Butcher (2017), American education has several monocultural enclaves. "…it is a situation in which school structures, policies, and curricula and pedagogical strategies are representative of the dominant culture… (p. 3). While this district serves an urban and minority population, most cultures and practices are prevalent. Educators in such a section should practice intercultural competence to meet such a diverse community's needs sufficiently. To combat some factors plaguing students in urban areas, teachers must create an inclusive environment that celebrates differences and similarities among students in the learning environment. This capstone project has developed strategies and activities within classrooms, exuding inclusivity, creating an environment where educators can focus on student achievement as a priority. Teachers will have an opportunity to use culture as a tool to build confidence in students while creating a space promoting academic risks and student-centered learning. The essential focal point of state-funded instruction is to give a chance to all enrolled to raise their satisfaction; education has been known as an immense equalizer. Another focal point of public education is preparation for all to become civic-minded citizens and contribute to the greater community.
Also, educators have focused on closing the achievement gap for students to level the playing field of opportunity for all students. Boykin and Noguera (2011) expounded on the achievement gap, which has existed between affluent and more impoverished school districts, noting the structural inequalities and biases that lead some schools to be successful while others fail. Howard (2010) suggested we not view the achievement gap solely based on the basis mentioned above, which forced one to conceptualize students of color from a deficit perspective. Identifying how these gaps work or how they affect students could change established attitudes. Teachers have the power to view culture as an additional teaching tool and begin to focus on student achievement.
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To conclude, educators must take time to learn how to be culturally responsive, especially when teaching another language. There must be a learning environment that is welcoming and encourages all students to take academic risks. Educators must also be willing to learn from each other and their students. Education is robust because it allows us to expand our understanding of ourselves, our world, and the possibilities of what the future can bring. All students should have access to an eminent learning platform that celebrates student cultures, languages, and experiences by valuing these attributes through the journey of learning. Educational equity can be measured by the degree to which people feel empowered, valued, and a strong sense of ownership and accountability.
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