Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Teaching Middle School Students With Diverse Cultural Backgrounds

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Teachers have a huge responsibility inside their classrooms. They are entrusted with the job of teaching children skills that they will need for their futures. In order to do their job well and with success, teachers must be prepared to teach in all kinds of environments with different types of situations. A teacher must take into account all of the student’s different learning styles, how quickly or slowly a student takes to understand a certain subject, and nowadays, a teacher must understand and adapt to how a child was raised and what culture they grew up in. In the article, “Teaching Middle School Students with Diverse Cultural Backgrounds“, Walter Callahan, discusses different techniques and strategies when teaching a diverse group of students.


In order to teach students, a teacher must understand where they come from and what their beliefs are. Callahan worked in Florida so the article mainly focuses on Hispanic and Haitian cultures. He writes that Haitian and Hispanic cultures might not be accustomed to sitting at individual desks or thinking critically and independently. He also states that in Hispanic cultures it is considered polite to arrive late for an event. This obviously would upset a teacher who does not know this because those students would not think that they were doing anything wrong by attending class tardy. If a teacher were to reprimand the students or mark down their grades, they are more than likely to be confused and not comprehend why they are being treated that way by their teacher. Also in most Hispanic cultures, it is believed that when a child looks directly into an adults’ eyes when they are being spoken to, they are being disrespectful. Callahan writes, “New students from the Haitian and Hispanic cultures have their expectations and behaviors deeply rooted in their cultures- in what is valued as a response and in the respect given the teacher as an imparter of knowledge (Callahan p1). In order for a teacher to be successful in a classroom, they must learn how to teach children from all different backgrounds and what would be most helpful for their students.


A teaching technique that Callahan uses is cooperative-learning groups. In these groups, the students are expected to share ideas and work together. Because Hispanic and Haitian students are not used to sitting at individual desks, the cooperative-learning groups may aid these students in not feeling isolated. Cooperative-learning groups have also been shown to increase self-esteem. Callahan also mentions strategies that permit the teacher to spend extra time with the students individually. This is very important for those students from other cultures.


Our nation, especially in California, is getting more and more diverse everyday. It would be easy to ignore that fact and not learn how to work together. When in a classroom, however, it is imperative for teachers to adjust to the diverse cultures that they may have in their classrooms. Just like their students, teachers are constantly learning, too. If they are a good teacher, they are learning about the different cultures and how to accommodate their students so that all of them have the same opportunity to learn. Teachers have a very important job. They, along with the parents, are responsible for shaping young peoples’ minds. In order to do this, they must realize that not everyone learns the same and not everyone comes from the same background, culturally or environmentally. If teachers learn how to adapt to this, then they have successfully learned how to create an excellent learning environment for all of their students.


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