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(See “critical literacy.) Focus a great deal of positive attention on the groups in the class that have the power to influence their peers.
Ladson-Billings explains that one of her participant teachers “challenged the [African American] boys to demonstrate academic power by drawing on issues and ideas they found meaningful.” Setting high expectations for all students has also been shown to be an effective strategy for developing aspirations for academic success.
National statistics reveal that the population of the United States is becoming more ethnically diverse, but the teaching force remains mostly white, mostly female (see National Center for Education Statistics).
Teachers must to accept the reality that many of their students will come to their classrooms with cultural, ethnic, linguistic, racial, and social class backgrounds that are different from their own.
Starting with small goals and scaffolding upon student knowledge, teachers can create opportunities for students to experience academic success.
Once students realize they can achieve academic success, they may feel that they are taking less of a risk with a more challenging task.
When faced with the heterogeneous mixture of students in their classrooms, teachers must be prepared to teach all students.
For example, a teacher in Ladson-Billings’ study invited a parent known for her ability to make sweet potato pie to come in and teach students how to make these desserts.
Another way to provide for the development and maintenance of cultural competence is to involve parents in the classroom.
Teachers can find out the talents and gifts of parents and invite them into the classroom as “in-residence” experts in areas in which teachers may not be that skilled or knowledgeable.
Many African American and other non-white students perceive school as a place where they cannot be themselves because their culture is not valued in American schools.
Ladson-Billings contends, “Culturally relevant teachers utilize students’ culture as a vehicle for learning.”.