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Preparing for Cultural Diversity: Resources for Teachers

This has been repeatedly confirmed; if educators do not have some knowledge of their students’ lives outside of paper-and-pencil work, and even outside of their classrooms, then they cannot accurately know their students’ strengths and weaknesses (Delpit, 1995). This theme is also echoed by Pedro Noguera, who concludes that, in order to engage urban students, teachers must adapt their teaching to the way in which those students learn rather than the reverse (expecting students to adapt their learning to the way in which they are taught). Therefore, teachers need to know how to make ideas and knowledge meaningful to urban students and how to use students’ culture and interests as tools to teach them (Noguera, 2003).

The CREATE model requires that teachers make a concerted effort to learn about their students’ individual cultures and interests: language, sports, music, and so on. To achieve this, consider using surveys and questionnaires, or build relationships by informally talking to students and asking about their interests.

We must teach the way students learn, rather than expecting them to learn the way we teach.
—Pedro Noguera
During the first week of school, I begin building relationships with my students by using surveys and questionnaires to learn about some of their interests, I make time to talk with each of them, and I encourage them to share information about themselves. I have my students describe what a “good teacher” does in the classroom, and I then ask them to tell me what I can do to be the best teacher for them. Finally, I encourage them to share their negative experiences with previous math classes and give me ideas about how they would like to be taught.

As a result of talking to students and learning about their individual needs, I successfully convince them that I am an ally and willing to listen to them on their own level. This communication tends to make students feel hopeful because they recognize that their teacher is willing to adapt his or her teaching to their needs. I make an assertive effort to talk to students with a history of failure, behavioral challenges, or suspensions from other teachers’ classrooms, as well as to students at risk for future failure.

We must keep in mind that education, at its best, hones and develops the knowledge and skills each student already possesses, while at the same time adding new knowledge and skills to that base.