The Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo, commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. While it is a holiday that many Americans enjoy, it also inadvertently reinforces cultural stereotypes. Let’s take the opportunity this Cinco de Mayo to think about how we can foster culturally responsive teaching in our schools and classrooms.
Eileen Whelan Ariza, author of Not for ESOL Teachers, shares the following culturally responsive teaching strategies that are based on recommendations from Brown University’s Education Alliance for Culturally Responsive Teaching:
- Get to know the culture of your students.
- Try to make home visits.
- Attend neighborhood and local cultural events.
- Use inquiry-based teaching that is culturally relevant.
- Scaffold for students by activating prior knowledge.
- Call on students regardless of English proficiency, modify your questioning strategies.
- Integrate multicultural views into daily instruction.
- Learn about diverse learning and teaching styles and culturally appropriate behaviors.
- Incorporate the students’ native language within class learning situations.
- Seek to understand parents of English learners.
- Use a variety of learning strategies and have high expectations for all students.
- Use cooperative and collaborative learning on a regular basis
- Aim to increase academic language proficiency, orally and in writing.
- Be conscious of your own ethnocentric attitudes.
Effective strategies for English learners are effective strategies for all students. While it is impossible to be fully aware of all of the nuances associated with every culture, it is possible to care about how culture impacts teaching and learning. Culturally responsive teachers have a natural interest in the lives of their students. They use this interest to motivate students toward success.
Culturally responsive teachers recognize that stereotypes don’t define the children they teach. While they recognize that stereotypes exist, they strive to learn more about the culture of their students in order to dispel the myths and clarify reality. As with any school, or classroom, great teaching is about relationships.
So, feel free to enjoy and celebrate Cinco de Mayo today. Just don’t forget that it’s only one small part of Mexican culture. Maybe you can celebrate by asking your students to share a few others.