How culturally relevant teaching can build relationships while students are at home

How culturally relevant teaching can build relationships while students are at home

Teachers submitted resources and lesson plans relevant to the times and students’ experiences. There were resources to understand the virus and to interpret pandemic data. Coronavirus has once again paid attention to systemic racism because black, indigenous and Latino people died from the infection at an excessive dose. The Black Lives Matter protests stemming from George Floyd’s assassination by a white police officer in Minneapolis have also heightened the need for systemic change. Mental health was a top priority as students saw trauma unfold around them.

Turning to Student Pandemic Journal

Before the coronavirus outbreak, keeping a journal was not exactly part of the curriculum for English teachers. Anthony Voulgarides. He presented a lesson plan for a pandemic journal to ‘Connect over the distance“, And it was an essential way to help students stay connected to each other and during the crisis. Students have published weekly journal entries in a document called “Unprecedented times. ”

“As a teacher, I feel it is my job at this moment to try to understand what is most relevant to our students and to try to utilize it,” Voulgarides said. Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School in New York City. At the time, the city was a focal point for coronavirus infections, and his students’ families were not spared. Some had to go home with an infected family member; others had a parent on a ventilator for a month. Uncle of senior Diane Arevalo has died after contracting the virus.

“My family, we call him ‘The Newspaper’ because he knows he knew everyone and everyone knew about him,” she said of her uncle. “And he would go through the whole neighbourhood that morning. He would have the wake up in the morning, go to his mother’s house, feed her, and then he will go back home and take care of his children. ‘

Safety measures meant family members were physically cut off in hospitals and loved ones during funerals. Arevalo, who could not say goodbye to her uncle or send him one last message, decided to write him a letter as part of her journal assignment. Last spring, she wrote:

When I told you I was entering Brandeis, the first thing you did was come to me and bring me a cake. That was the last time I could see you, Tío. I want to say that it is unfair that you have been taken, but I know that you have been in pain and now you are better with Tía. Your children were raised as if they were my siblings. I got two older brothers and a wonderful big sister through you. All I want is that with your loss it can bring us all even closer. Thank you for the love, laughter and support you have given us all every day.

The journal entries took many forms. Some students submitted drawings. Some shared on Netflix what they were watching. Someone wrote an essay on shelter-in-place from the perspective of a domestic cat. Others had very vulnerable and shared details that they normally keep to themselves.

“Even when I face my friends for hours, you know, we don’t just sit for hours about our feelings,” senior Yohely said. Includes. “And so I read their journal for English and learned more than I learned in the FaceTime call.”


Comprés in the journal entry was about how she had to stay away from her family members in their home. In March, she wrote:

Today my mother did not wake up so well. I had not touched her warm skin since Friday and I could not hug her in the mornings either. To see her, I have to open her FaceTime or open the bedroom door just enough so I can peek. My aunt yelled at me for opening the door without a mask. I just wanted her to see that I was awake. We are now waiting for the test results and it haunts me to think about it. Tía tested positive last week. I hope mom does not do it.

A moment after he was published on the class journal website, Yohely received a text message from the concerned Mr Voulgarides. He lodged with her after reading her journal entry. He offered to bring groceries to her house and let her know she could reach out to him if she needed anything.

Senior Julio Jimenez’s father contracted coronavirus and spent a month in the intensive care unit. The family could only see him through a telephone connection. Suddenly, Jimenez was placed in a medical translator position for his family while being strong for his mother and siblings. As the eldest son, he was now preparing to become the head of the household and think differently about his future. The everyday activities in high school and the beginning of college further felt like his family needed him most.

“It took a huge toll on me every day,” he said. Before the pandemic, Julio said writing was not exactly his favourite thing to do at school. Still, the journal seems to be a way to sort out his emotions, calm himself, and focus on building emotional strength for his family.

“It helped me write it down,” he said. “Getting my emotions on paper – it helped me. You know, it built up a little bit of endurance in me to get on with my day. ‘

Usually, writing a journal entry is a private activity. But publishing on a classroom website for trusted classmates and teachers who have been building relationships for years has helped create an opening for help. It also strengthened the community.

“The fact that the children could comfortably share the magazines says a lot about what the teacher did beforehand,” said Tia Madkins, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Education at the University of Texas at Austin.


Culturally relevant teaching and trust

Teachers at WHEELS spend a lot of time on activities outside the more traditional curricula, which seems to be a success. WHEELS are part of the EL Education network and an Outward Bound School. At the heart of the school is creating authentic learning experiences for students, some of which are grounded in the three principles of culturally relevant teaching: academic success, cultural competence and critical awareness. Gloria Ladson-Billings developed the three pillars of CRT after observing teachers who successfully taught African-American students.

“Every class has culture,” Professor said Felicia Moore Mensah of Teachers College Columbia University, researching CRT in science education.

‘What teachers need to realize is this [culture is] there and it is present, but how do you make it much more part of the learning process if you have a classroom full of African-American, Latinx children or children with racial, ethnic, linguistic diversity within the classroom? ‘CRT can help address the inequalities created by schooling that centres a white world-class worldview, which is important to address when more than half of the students in public schools are coloured.

‘It takes a lot of white teachers extra to be able to do that, to focus on who the students are, to bring them in and to ask about aspects of their lives as part of the curriculum because our curriculum is not written in this specific way. ”

For WHEELS students like Diane Arevalo, cultural proficiency can seem like discussing the differences between Ecuadorian and Dominican cultures while knowing how to write a professional email to teachers. It also means that they have the critical consciousness to plead for the change she wants to see in her community.

‘It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to my brother, my family, to the people who live here that we’re sitting in the middle of a highway along the George Washington Bridge, and that we’re dealing with all this do not get stuck. Pollution, ”Arevalo said of her surroundings.

Diane and her classmates formed a group to address local environmental issues. The group looked specifically at the health of trees in their area. The students noticed that trees in other neighbourhoods look more beautiful and are protected by tree guards.

“It’s quite sad because our tree guards are being destroyed,” Arevalo said. “We do not even have it. And they are full of cigarette butts, needles and needle caps. And it’s unfortunate to see it because we have to go through it every day to go to school. ‘

The students attended community council meetings to plead for a Clean air / green corridor. They also applied for grants from local organizations, which are not unusual for WHEELS students passionate about causes relevant to their lives. They succeeded and recently received funding for new tree guards in their neighbourhoods.

The school also goes to great lengths to appreciate the cultural identity of students. When Yohely Includes was a sophomore, she and half a dozen students travelled to Peru for a week to learn more about critical theory and Afro-Peruvian culture.

“And through that, you know, I was able to find the Afro-Latinx culture that I knew had in me,” he said—includes, which is Afro-Dominican. ‘There are programs [at school] who helped me, with lessons that helped me in terms of my identity, ”she said. ‘Although my teachers are mostly white, they are very much there. I feel that they have become an ally of our community and do their work in our school because they care. “

Includes is also aware of the cultural ability she needs when she goes to study at Wesleyan in the fall. Since high school, she has been at WHEELS, so it’s a challenge to start studying in a new community. She feels like the teachers prepared her for this transition, and one way to do that is to let students know they are there, even after graduation. “They always offer their help,” she said. Referring to another teacher, David Lenzner, Includes said, ‘He’s always like,’ you know when you leave, we’re going to be here, and we’ll be here to support you no matter what. ”

Support is essential for students who have achieved high school during extraordinary times and will start with the university in the midst of great uncertainty. WHEELS students have the support network they built in school, and some have another new tool:

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