Culturally Responsive Teaching

By Deb Heim Martinez, MEd
Faculty and Student Teacher Supervisor, College of Education  

Children sharing in classroom setting

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, this is a perfect time to celebrate diversity. Thanksgiving is a time of coming together to share and appreciate our families, friends and gifts from God. Although inclusive practices should be part of our daily routine, taking the time to celebrate the cultures and families in our classroom comes naturally at this time of year.

In National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice, the importance of the early childhood community is stressed because it is often the first one outside of the child’s family. It should be one where each child is respected and they are able to build positive relationships within this community. By welcoming families into the program, we bridge the child’s worlds together and assist them in finding positive social emotional connections.

We can welcome and embrace each family’s unique traditions by opening our classrooms to parents. Inviting each parent into the classroom to share their traditions is enlightening for all and helps children to understand the importance of families, their uniqueness and similarities.

I have enjoyed having parents over the years share a replica of a traditional Dine (Navajo) hogan (home), a reading of a favorite bedtime story in pajamas, photos from when the child was born, German waffles, piñata making and intricate pumpkin carving from a trained chef. The opportunity for parents to visit their child’s classroom is often a special experience for both parent and child, and it shows the family that you value their culture and them as a partner in their child’s learning.

Another strategy is to display a family bulletin board by your door, as it not only provides a stimulus for children to talk about their families, but it also helps them to understand that although family make-ups look different, we all have someone who loves us and keeps us safe.

Encouraging families to regularly add to the board with pictures of recent trips and celebrations helps the child to connect family to school and other children to share in the joys of new family births, parties and trips while getting a glimpse at other cultures.

We, as teachers, are so blessed to be surrounded by diversity. Consistently embracing all peoples is critical to helping children understand that they can, too.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Education celebrates diversity and unity by providing an education to students based on the principles of learning, leading and serving. To learn more about the College of Education, fill out a form to request more information.

National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice. Retrieved on October 22, 2015 from org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDAP.pdf

More About the Author:

Deb Martinez has taught at the collegiate level since 2002. She brings 15 years of classroom experience with her, including preschool, kindergarten and first grade. She now enjoys teaching at the collegiate level and being a student teacher supervisor so she can see students put research and best practice into action. She holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction of early childhood from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s of science from Lewis and Clark College. She has taught at Grand Canyon University since 2010. Her research focuses include play education, literacy and physical education. She currently resides in Phoenix with her husband, seven year-old son and one year-old puppy.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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