It has been a school year for the history books. As schools around the world wrestled with how to teach in remote and hybrid environments, teachers saw first-hand just how different every student's learning environment was. They saw a broad range of their students' cultures: how they interact with family, what their personal space looked like (if they had any), and how they acted and sounded outside of school.
I sat down virtually with Dr. Sharroky Hollie and asked him about how that shifted our views on resilience, and what it means to truly teach in response to a student's language and culture.
Richard Blankman: Your particular brand puts language as equally important as culture. Is cultural responsiveness possible without linguistic responsiveness?
Dr. Sharroky Hollie: My history in this work began through the window of language, with a focus on students who come to school with what would be considered “non-standard” English: Black English, Chicano English, and so forth. Then the phonics controversy hit, and people wanted to know how they could be more linguistically sensitive around home languages that were not accepted by the institution.
I've always been a big language proponent. My background is in language. What happened is that behavior became such an issue, particularly around Obama’s Race to the Top. All of a sudden, we had everyone focusing on behavior. The need changed from language to culture, and helping people understand that some of these behaviors that we're looking at, they're cultural. They're not bad, they're not wrong.
It's always been culture and language for me, but it's just what's been hot or most necessary. I don't think you can talk about culture without language.
I think that it's also how we've branded culturally responsive teaching in the broad sense. It's looked at superficially. It's kind of become a buzzword. Over a 30-year period, it's lost its meaning where you could think of it as inclusive of language. But if you go back, most of the research would say culture and language.
RB: Would you be willing to share an example of you interpreting behavior through your own cultural lens that turned out to be inaccurate once you accounted for another person's perspective?
SH: Oh yeah. I have so many examples of that. I can share one in the context of me working with indigenous teachers and students in New Mexico and not really understanding the power of resilience. I was working in particular with Navajo educators. We throw around that term resilience all the time, and I'm thinking of it in terms of circumstances. Then I had an educator, her name is Dr. Belinda Begay, say, this is who we are. This is not about our circumstances.
When she said that, it totally flipped my mindset. It's not a cause and effect for us culturally. It's not because we’re dealing with high levels of poverty that we become resilient. We are resilient. Even in relation to my own culture, within Black culture, there is a sense of resiliency in the same way that she was talking about it, but I never related it to indigenous cultures.
Be the first to read the latest from Shaped.