Diversity Blast: Culturally Responsive Schooling

Happy first day of spring!


This week, I’ve been assisting an extraordinary colleague, Fallon Wilson, with an abbreviated session of Freedom School at Glenn Enhanced Option Elementary School in East Nashville (see here for information about the national program and here for information about the site at Glenn in Nashville). Being at Glenn fills me with so much hope, pride and joy. Most of the children live within a couple miles of Glenn, and many walk to school. Just this morning, I saw two third grade girls carefully crossing the street while holding hands as I pulled up to the school! Glenn’s library is filled with texts that speak to children’s respective cultures and experiences (pictured right). The school is one of the few in Metro Nashville Public Schools with pre-kindergarten classrooms, and the pre-k teachers’ classrooms are enough to make you weep for all the time, energy, love and money put into them. There’s also a parent room, signalling the school’s welcome to parents. This week of Freedom School is special in that regard: in place of the usual college student or community volunteer, underemployed parents are the Servant Leader teachers for this round of the program. At all levels, Freedom School at Glenn feels and looks like what a culturally responsive school and education could do for all children. I often find it hard not to get emotional when I think about Freedom School because all that it offers stands it stark contrast to all the things culturally assaultive schools lack, schools where many children go day in and day out throughout a formal education. Seeing the children–bright-eyed, caring, creative and passionate children–makes me wonder what it take for all children to receive the same loving, warm and respectful education. The topic of this blast is culturally responsive schooling: what it is, what is isn’t, why we need it and what it takes!


Resources on theories and building background knowledge:


  • (essay) What Is Culturally Responsive Pedagogy?: this is a great place to start if you want to know what exactly CRT is. From Dr. Lynch: “Culturally responsive pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world.”
  • (website) Overview of Culturally Responsive Teaching using a number of theorists from INTIME: “Culturally Responsive Teaching is emancipatory. It guides students in understanding that no single version of ‘truth’ is total and permanent.  It does not solely prescribe to mainstream ways of knowing.”
  • (essay) Why Educators Need to Step Up and Address Racial Inequality. From the essay: “Teachers, if you see my son and all the other children of color in America who are systematically targeted by racial injustice as your children, then you must speak up and take action. White allies and activists, if you’ve ever used ‘…disproportionately affects students of color’ to shore up your education reform argument, then you must speak up and take action. The lives of these students may depend on it. The integrity of their education will depend on it.”
  • (document) CRT: The Knowledge Loom: more case study style that looks into the practices and mindsets of the best CRT practitioners out there
  • (video) Culturally Responsive Leadership in Schools: Part 1 and Part 2. Lots of info on teacher demographics, highlighting the importance of attracting more minority teachers to the classroom. If this rings your bell, check out DreamRiseDo!


Resources for instruction and practice:

  • (web database) Teaching Tolerance: I could plug the FREE and WONDERFUL resources from Teaching Tolerance everyday.
  • Human Rights Defenders Curriculum from Speak Truth to Power: full lessons and resources on over a dozen individuals from various cultures who’ve fought for human rights across the years
  • (blog) Lee and Low Books blog: Common-core aligned lesson plans that drive towards social action using culturally responsive texts

Social justice work is for all of us, and each and everyone of us can help children have an empowering, transformative and just education. And if you’re ever feeling a bit overwhelmed or intimidated by the tall order of being culturally responsive, just remember: 


With love,


PS–Nashville folks, if you’re thirsty for deeper engagement with CRT, reach out to Chris.George@Teachforamerica.org or Kessa.Scott@teachforamerica.org, leaders of the region’s first ever Culturally Responsive Teaching Fellowship.


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