Check out this newsletter, Go, Engage, Connect: Welcome Student Identity & Improve Equity for powerful information regarding culturally responsive practices in schools, in particular as it relates to PBIS. Below are just a couple impactful pieces from the newsletter, however, we encourage you to read the entire newsletter!
As Dr. Christopher Emdin would say, culturally responsive schools are ‘ratchetdemic’ – a phrase he coined. Take a listen . Check out Dr. Emdin’s video: https://youtu.be/4QmFREcXri0
These excerpts below were taken directly from Go, Engage, Connect: Welcome Student Identity & Improve Equity. Wouldn’t it be awesome if all schools had ratchetdemic spaces!
Dr. Emdin describes ratchetdemic spaces as spaces that tell students, “You can be as you are, but I won’t lower expectations; the rigor is still high the standards are still high. If you come in a little loud, that’s ok. If you dress a little funny, that’s alright. If you speak with a voice inflection, that’s ok. If you’re an English language learner and you have a thick accent, that’s ok. You can be who you are and I will accept you as you are even if it makes me uncomfortable in the pursuit of our academic attainment.”
When you imagine your own school, isn’t this the kind of place you want it to be? A place where every student succeeds and finds greatness in who they inherently are. What we often build instead are places that reflect our own belief systems, our own values, our own vision of acceptable behavior and communication styles. When we set up systems like this, we only see brilliance in students who behave like we do. Embedding culturally responsive practices in PBIS implementation is one way to deliberately create a space where all students’ identities are affirmed and validated from the moment they walk in the building.
Another powerful point to reflect on pulled from the article:
Dr. Emdin suggests when schools today expect students to learn under a specific set of norms – especially if those norms run counter to their cultural identities – students experience the legacy of deculturalization that happened in The Carlisle Indian School.
“Urban youth who enter schools seeing themselves as smart and capable are confronted by curriculum that is blind to their realities and school rules that seek to erase their culture. These youth, because they do not have the space/opportunity to showcase their worth on their own terms in schools, are only visible when they enact very specific behaviors. This usually means they have the focus of the teacher only when they are being loud and verbal (often read by educators as disruptive), or silent and compliant (often read by educators as well behaved)… Students quickly receive the message that they can only be smart when they are not who they are. This, in many ways, is classroom colonialism; and it can only be addressed through a very different approach to teaching and learning.”
- When a student is loud, are they disrespectful or are they excited and enthusiastic about the things they’re learning?
- When he questions a teacher’s rule publicly is he defiant or does he value knowing the purpose of a rule before he’ll follow it?
- When she can’t stop tapping her pencil on her desk, is she disruptive or does she use rhythm to helpher learn?
The goal of implementing culturally responsive practices is to see excellence in students’ identities and create spaces that validate their experiences and values. The PBIS Cultural Responsiveness Field Guide says that by doing this, practitioners seek to understand how their own identities influence their classrooms and begin to acknowledge that their experiences are not universal. Dr. Emdin offers us a 3-step process in his chapter called “Content + Context” for how to get to know your students’ cultural identities.