Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Other Side of Culturally Responsive Teaching

I have spent a lot of time working on achievement gaps and culturally responsive instruction.  Most often this means addressing the needs of lower quartile students.  But what if we look at these issues from another perspective?  What if we consider the needs of students at the top?  Here in Silicon Valley that often means students who are children of immigrants, often from India, China, Korea and Eastern Europe.  In the bubble of Silicon Valley, particularly in its private schools, these students often achieve at amazing levels.  They go often to Cal, the Ivy League, USC, the University of Chicago and other elite institutions.  What will they encounter?  Will their backgrounds be respected?  Will they be prepared for a different sort of diversity in Chicago, Manhattan or New Haven?  How will they react the first time someone assumes they’re Japanese or Latino or African-American?  What will these experiences mean to them?  How can we better prepare them for diversity and adversity?  Will they be prepared to appropriately interact with peoples they’ve only seen on TV?  What stereotypes do they harbor that we must address before they take the next step to adulthood? 

The I, Too, Am Harvard project highlights some of the issues students of African-American backgrounds experience when they reach Harvard.  What issues might our Silicon Valley students encounter?  How can we help them navigate the minefield of race, culture and ethnicity?

I don’t have the answers, but I am spending a lot of time thinking about it.  What thoughts do you have?