A bold, brain-based teaching approach to culturally responsive instruction
The achievement gap remains a stubborn problem for educators of culturally and linguistically diverse students. With the introduction of the rigorous Common Core State Standards, diverse classrooms need a proven framework for optimizing student engagement and facilitating deeper learning
Culturally responsive pedagogy has shown great promise in meeting this need, but many educators still struggle with its implementation. In this book, Zaretta Hammond draws on cutting-edge neuroscience research to offer an innovative approach for designing and implementing brain-compatible culturally responsive instruction.
The book includes: *Information on how one’s culture programs the brain to process data and affects learning relationships *Ten “key moves” to build students’ learner operating systems and prepare them to become independent learners *Prompts for action and valuable self-reflection
With a firm understanding of these techniques and principles, teachers and instructional leaders will confidently reap the benefits of culturally responsive instruction.
Zaretta Hammond is a former classroom English teacher who has been doing instructional design, school coaching, and professional development around the issues of equity, literacy, and culturally responsive teaching for the past 18 years. She teaches as a lecturer at St. Mary’s College’s Kalmanovitz School of in Moraga, California.
In addition to consulting and professional development, she has been on staff at national education reform organizations, including the National Equity Project and the former Bay Area School Reform Collaborative (BASRC). She has trained instructional coaches in reading development, especially targeted at students of color and English learners. She has also designed national seminars such as the three-day Teaching with A Cultural Eye series for teachers and school leaders. She is regularly invited to present at regional and national conferences. She has authored articles that have appeared in publications such as Phi Delta Kappan.
Along with a focus on culturally responsive teaching, Ms. Hammond has a strong research agenda around literacy, vocabulary development, and equity. She has designed culturally responsive tutor training programs aimed at volunteer reading tutors for a variety of non-profit organizations. She currently designing a literacy program to accelerate low reading skills among high school students. She holds a Masters in Secondary English Education.
She also writes the popular ready4rigor.com blog. Zaretta is the proud parent of two young adult children, both of whom she taught to read before they went to school. She resides in Berkeley, CA with her husband and family.
If you teach, read this book. If you are white and work with anyone of another race, read this book. If you are middle class or above and ever interact with anyone in the working class or working poor, read this book. If you have read Buddha's Brain and want to know how to apply it to ed work, read this book. If you are working on mindfulness, read this book. If you want to build productive relationships with students so they can learn more with you and succeed in college and/or career, read this book. If your students ever make you feel angry, stressed, disappointed, or like you're losing hope, read this book. If you want or need to be a more effective teacher of every single one of your students, read this book.
It's hard to write a book on culturally responsive teaching. I'm not quite sure what an excellent one would look like but this one also seemed a bit too... "fluffy" for my taste. For example, there is no way I would do a "verbal battle"/ "trash talk" in my class to capitalize on African American culture, even if I wasn't teaching math.
One thing I really did appreciate, however, was the Individualism-Collectivism Continuum list. It is a list of 65 counties ranked by how individualist or collectivist their cultures are. I teach a class of mostly Guatemalan newcomers and I cannot stop thinking about how the U.S. scored #1 on the individualist culture end and Guatemala scored #1 one on the collectivist end. I have been thinking about the implications ever since. How many times has a student gotten in trouble because they didn't understand the expectations of the individualist American classroom? Compound that through all the classes they go through and how many students have we labeled "remedial" because of how much trouble they get into due to differing cultures?
It has taken me years to figure out my own cultural differences that have gotten me into trouble. (South Korea also scored closer to the collectivist end of the spectrum.) The book suggests to pause and think about what kinds of cultural differences could come out in the classroom, but how do you come up with those differences if you only know American culture?
So here's a list of a few things I've thought of that were CULTURAL differences for me (not a personality difference) that can affect the classroom.
1. Agreeableness. When you disagree with someone, is it culturally encouraged to speak up or is it considered rude to do so immediately? 2. Eye contact. When being disciplined, is it culturally considered defiant to make eye contact or to avoid eye contact? 3. Directness. when you need something (like help) or want something, is it okay to ask directly or do you drop hints passively in order to allow the other person to act first? 4. Sarcasm. How prevalent is it in various cultures and how is it used differently? Is it considered a way of humor? Or a means of hinting at a command? 5. Participation. Is the student who speaks up in a whole class discussion considered confident or arrogant? How does that direct behavior? 6. Failure. Is failure tippy-toed around because you view it as shameful or is it openly dealt with because it is viewed as a means to an end?
Other buckets include beliefs around sharing, talking over each other, walking around classrooms... what are the norms around these and how do they affect class culture?
I've read about a dozen professional development texts about culturally responsive teaching because I am very committed to this pedagogical concept. I particularly liked this text because it offered a new angle. Zaretta Hammond weaves neuroscience with both traditional and contemporary ideas of culturally responsive teaching. She doesn't just say how we can practice this pedagogy, but she tells what is happening in students' brains when we do and do not use culturally responsive practices. Hammond provides an excellent layout for her ideas, and if anything, I would even love for some of the chapters and ideas to be expanded further. That said, her work connects well with other scholarship, so I would likely use this text in an education class and pair it with another more traditional text about the subject, such as Geneva Gay's landmark Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice.
I was fortunate enough to read this text with preservice teachers enrolled in a Multicultural Education class. While I have much experience with the ideas taught in this class, I am taking the course as a doctoral student with the intention of integrating the ideas into future courses I might teach. Therefore, from my discussions with peers, I have gotten an insider perspective of this text and how it might work in a classroom. They have enjoyed it very much. It is not a long text (falling just under 200 pages), but the ideas promote fantastic classroom discussions. Our discussion boards have been brimming with students' thoughts, and there is no shortage of topics to discuss. I include a few topics I've discussed below.
As stated previously, Hammond discusses some of the main ideas featured in other culturally responsive texts. She argues that culturally responsive pedagogy is a mindset--not an easy list of tips or tools. However, she does provide many strategies, such as how to make our classrooms visually engaging and responsive to students. Instead of stock posters of MLK, Jr., she argues that teachers might include framed art from different cultures. I liked this idea a lot and agree that it is more culturally responsive. She also discusses the differences between cultures, such as oral versus written traditions and the role these play on student learning. She addresses myths, such as those about poverty and access and colorblindness.
A few chapters into the book, Hammond begins to introduce neuroscience and marries these concepts with culturally responsive practices. For instance, she describes the ways an individual's brain reacts with the student feels fearful versus feeling accepted. This reminded me a bit of my 7th grade science class. I had a teacher who was quite cruel to me and very strict, overall. I don't think I learned very much in that class because my brain felt a bit frozen. Then I think about all of the wonderful teachers I've had who were very open and accepting. I think I learned twice as much in these classrooms, and it shows the value of creating responsive rapport with students.
I could write pages upon pages about this book. It would be a disservice for me to summarize some of her sections, such as how the neurons in your brain fire, create new pathways, and connect to culture or the ways individualistic and collectivist positionings differ or how microaggressions impact students. So instead of summarizing and commenting on the whole book, I will recommend that you read it. It is excellent. The text offers ideas that are quite different from others I've seen about the topic. Hammond fills a gap in research that needed to be filled, and I look forward to reading other publications by her.
After 18 years teaching in a high-privilege private school, I moved to an urban public school. My school population is 99% economically disadvantaged and about 95% African-American. I am struggling with the effects of trauma in the classroom. Many of the things I did well at the private school are either not working or are much harder to do. Also, my school has been in and out of remote learning three times since I started there in the fall of 2020.
Chapter 1 notes
Page 14 has a table identifying the differences between independent learners and dependent learners. This chapter is mainly an overview. It introduces a few terms, but it's a quick read.
Good description of the levels of culture. The graphic on p. 24 is helpful. Discussion of individualist vs. collectivist cultures. The table on p. 27 is eye-opening. All the white/European influenced countries are on the individualist end, and basically the rest of the world is closer to the collectivist end. Central America would be the most collectivist area.
This chapter mentions a few other concepts (structural racism, implicit bias) that were not news to me, but I was surprised that Hammond had to address the concept of a "culture of poverty." There is culture, and there is poverty, but I'm surprised that anyone would think that poverty is a culture unto itself. As Hammond correctly states, poverty causes unhealthy, dysfunctional behaviors, but these behaviors do not constitute a culture. Poverty/trauma related behaviors that I have observed include: violence, screaming, stealing food, refusal to put a coat or backpack in a cubby, refusal to discuss wrongdoing even when caught red-handed, leaving the room without permission, hiding when in trouble, and fighting younger children who have wronged a sibling or cousin.
I think the practical aspect that I got from this chapter is a better understanding of how students move through the room if they are from a collectivist culture. If a student asks for a pencil, another student will hand them one before I can respond. Because most students come to class without pencils, this causes a ripple of pencils being requested and handed around the room. It is disruptive, and it is hard for me to get the students to understand that I can provide them with pencils and they should just ask me instead of distracting each other during work time. I still think they should speak directly to me when they need a pencil, but it helps me understand why other students are constantly hopping up to fetch things while I am trying to teach.
This chapter also lays out the difference between oral and writing-focused cultures. I need to think about expanding my oral communication. I notice that many African-American professionals lecture for much longer than I do when the students are misbehaving. I need to think about whether my brevity is working against me.
Chapter 3 notes
This is the heavy brain-structure chapter that I was looking for. It features a great description of the areas of the brain and the function of neurons. There is an excellent chart starting on page 45 that explains three different nervous system responses (Avoid, Approach, Attach) that for some criminal reason is split across two pages instead of being placed intact on page 46.
There are a series of six specific practices for implementing this brain knowledge. Most of them boil down to "scared people won't learn" and "activate prior knowledge."
I learned a lot about the brain and especially about cortisol from this chapter.
The thing I took away the most is that I need to activate the students' reticular activating systems (RAS) in order for them to learn. The best way to do this is through attention-grabbing strategies including music or call-and-response. My reliance on calmly explaining our lesson objectives is not going to do it. Next, I need to engage the parasympathetic nervous system by pointing out a genuine benefit of the learning activity so that endorphins including dopamine and seratonin are released.
This partly explains why my students bomb standardized tests. They have no reason to care if they pass, so there are no endorphins being released.
Action items *Increase RAS-activating practices to lessons. *How will this activity please the students' brains or meet their needs?
Chapter 4 notes
This chapter focuses on teachers identifying their cultural assumptions, including the assumption that diverse students are at a deficit and need to be fixed. It includes a lot of specific steps and questions to help you do this. Hammond does an excellent job of providing important recommendations instead of a laundry list of every possible idea.
The chapter also speaks directly to the triggers that teachers may have and gives advice on responding to these triggers.
This chapter was hard to get through. Chapters 1-3 discussed a lot of information that was either already familiar or unsurprising. Beginning with Chapter 4, this book started poking some sensitive areas that I don't enjoy thinking about.
I rely heavily on offering choices in disciplinary situations. Something I have recently come to understand is that I do this a bit too much. If there is a choice that I genuinely do not want the student to take, I need to say so. Hammond points out that this is a middle-class white tendency.
Also, the list of questions on page 57 caused me to consider how emotions, authority, respect, conflict and communication with adults were handled in my culture growing up. It was an environment in which dialogue was not rewarded and the best response to conflict was silence. I am coming to recognize that when I treat the students with a brief redirection and silence over their behavior that I am not communicating in a culturally responsive way.
When I look at the list of triggers, I think that my triggers are mainly Control and Certainty. This was not the case before I worked at an urban school. I had a more relaxed attitude about these elements until I had weekly fistfights in my classroom. I now regard my job as fight prevention first and education second, which means that I need a high level of control and certainty.
I think my triggers are aggressive behavior between the students and also insults to my family. I get called racial slurs all the time and it doesn't upset me that much, but if a student makes a sexual comment about my wife I get pretty upset. Also, I am obviously concerned about preventing my students from harming each other.
I have been credibly threatened, shoved and punched in my classroom, and it is reasonable to say that I associate that physical space with danger.
When triggers occur, I can feel myself going to my "downstairs brain" or as this book would call it, the "amygdala hijack."
* Use more direct language instead of offering the choice of compliance or consequence. * Hammond gives the following advice for coping with amygdala hijack: ** Notice the physical cues (in my case, raised heartbeat and deep breathing) and name the emotion. ** 10 second SODA: Stop, Observe your own response and the situation neutrally, Detach from the power struggle by refocusing or taking a swig of water, Awaken to the other person's perspective and practice empathy
SODA will be very hard. However, I can reflect that just two days ago I engaged in a power struggle that could have been avoided. I can tell that this is work I need to do.
Chapter 5 notes
Cortisol blocks all learning for 20 minutes and stays in the body for up to 3 hours. Trust deactivates the amygdala and stops the release of additional cortisol. There are four factors that generate trust: selective vulnerability, familiarity, similarity of interests, concern and competence. I would say I successfully practice one of these four things (concern).
Most of this chapter consists of action items.
As with Chapter 4, this was a rough read. It is clear that I have a lot of work to do.
The information about cortisol was a huge eye-opener. I am usually expected to go straight back to teaching after breaking up a fight, but that is not reasonable. Everyone in the room, including myself, is flooded with cortisol and we need to focus on mindfulness and trust before we can get back to business. I applied this just two days ago and it was successful.
The information on cortisol also explains that if a fight occurs and 11 AM, the students are still jittery at 2 PM.
* Apply information on cortisol and trust to return myself and the students to learning readiness after an amygdala hijack. * Build the trust factor of vulnerability by telling stories about my learning and my schooling. * Build the trust factor of familiarity by visiting sports practice after school. * Build the trust factor of similarity of interests by sharing my personal investment in Black History Month. * Build the trust factor of competence by helping the students identify areas of growth. This will be hard because only 1/3 of them met their expected growth on the January standardized test. * Choose 3-5 students and track all my interactions with them. Code interactions by positive, negative, or neutral. Analyze the data weekly, use rapport-building strategies and track their effectiveness. * Rapport strategies are mostly things I already do. I could do more fist bumps and affirmations.
Running total of action items: 9
Chapter 6 notes
Lowered expectations decrease trust because they send the message that the teacher does not believe in the students.
Being an ally requires acknowledgment of sociological barriers and critical hope. Critical hope is different from false hope because it focuses on taking concrete steps to counter barriers.
Shared goal setting and mutual agreement on how to meet the goals. Standard recommendations for teaching metacognition and self-monitoring.
"warm demander" "hard caring" warm/strict
Receiving actionable, constructive feedback releases dopamine and causes the growth of dendrites.
The best feedback is "instructive and corrective," which means that it tells the receiver exactly what to do in order to be more successful.
This chapter was so upsetting that I had to put the book down for two weeks. The chart on page 99 forced me to confront the teacher I used to be vs. the teacher I have become. When I worked at a primarily white, high privilege private school, I practiced Active Demandingness and usually Personal Warmth. I think I sometimes drifted over into Professional Distance. This would put me solidly in the best or second-best quadrants (Warm Demander and Technocrat). On my worst days, I was delivering solid instruction and I was respected by my students.
My current students have had such extreme trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze) to high expectations that I have lowered them way too much. I often treat disengagement like a skills deficit and overscaffold when I should be focused on motivation and clear expectations instead. I am currently functioning solidly in the bottom two quadrants, both of which are quite bad. Both of them involve lowered expectations and permitting students to fail. The Sentimentalist is seen as a pushover by the students and the Elitist is seen as cold and uncaring. If anything, I have managed to fail in both of these ways at the same time.
My feedback is usually corrective and actionable, but it could be a little sharper.
* Provide examples of mastery-level work * When a student gives an undeveloped response, tell them how to develop it more. * The chart on page 105 describes a full feedback meeting that would probably take about 10 minutes. I do not have the opportunity for that at this time.
Running total of action items: 11
This chapter was mostly information about self-efficacy, growth mindset, etc.
Page 117 discussed the concept of creating a counter-narrative using Giovanni's "Ego Trippin" or Cisneros' "Only Daughter"
It also recommended using visuals, songs, and poems to activate RAS.
Students learn to interrupt negative self-talk using facts and fighting never/always statements.
This was a gentler chapter to read because I do a lot of these things. I am jazzed by the idea to use Giovanni's poem because I listen to the Blackalicious version a lot when I'm driving to work.
* Use Ego Trippin to teach a lesson on counter-narratives. * Build on the counter-narrative lesson to teach ways to interrupt negative self-talk. * Try more poems as bell-ringers.
Running total of action items: 14
* The brain actively processes new information for 12-20 minutes depending on age and then "cycles down" for 10 minutes to consolidate. * During consolidation/elaboration time, students should seek connections between new and old knowledge, compare/contrast, connect it to a larger idea, and identify points of view. * Students should have internalized thought routines that are prompted with cues. * 60% of new information retained after 20 minutes, 30% after 24 hours, 80% if practiced within 24 hours.
Some of the information was interesting, but most of it was unsurprising. The practices in this chapter are a good fit for any teacher in any classroom, so I was already aware of most of them. A big chunk of this chapter is a list of brainstormed instructional ideas, and some of them are a better fit for my classroom than others.
* Be more recursive during the vocab portion of my lessons. * Give students a menu of brain strategies during lessons.
This is another challenging chapter because it targets some of my weakest areas- classroom decor and creative verbal participation. I am comfortable with traditional think pair shares and small group work, but having cues for students to speak without raising their hands is new on me.
* Discuss with students: What is a core value of this collective group? Choose artwork to support that value. * Add additional steps to the beginning-of-class routine for re-centering and group verbal participation. This one will be hard and I'm not 100% sure how to do it. * Get a copy of the Academic Conversations book to look at.
Running Total of Action Items: 19
I can't remember the last time a single book gave me so many things to work on. This book is essential reading for any white teacher working with diverse students.
Read this with fellow educators as a book club at my school. I learned the “why” behind perceived student apprehension to learning and was truly able to contextualize the neuroscience in a tangible and approachable manner. The concepts in this book serve as a reminder that cultural responsiveness in the classroom requires a commitment to embracing conscious incompetence in order to truly teach through a lens of equity.
Very thankful to be part of a community of learners who continually push me to think about how to best educate ALL learners ... I learned so much from reading and will continue to “build [my] will, skill and capacity to engage in ‘courageous conversations’ about race, implicit bias and structural racialization that limit the learning opportunities of culturally and linguistically diverse students.”
I read many reviews on this book before starting it and folks were quick to point out it’s not a road map on how to be a culturally responsive teacher. However, Zaretta Hammond makes that quite clear from the beginning. She tells readers this book is not going to be a “bag of tricks” and even acknowledges readers may “feel frustrated that [she] didn’t give...a step-by-step guide for creating culturally responsive lessons”.
With that said, I personally enjoyed this book. I feel I’ve been a culturally responsive educator for 16 years, so I was able to use much of what Hammond wrote about in my lessons. For instance, the author discusses how to correct your feedback so it’s more effective. I did not need a lesson drawn out for me to be able to apply her suggestions to my current teaching practices.
ONE THING that I found very strange (hence the 4 instead of 5 star rating) could be found on page 110. Hammond writes “because we don’t understand how to develop a positive mindset or shift a negative one, many of our efforts are just trial and error with little lasting impact”....WHAT??? This one statement seems to negate the entire purpose of the book. I read the entire paragraph over and over, and I did not understand what the purpose of this line was.
Other than that, solid read that I definitely learned a lot from.
An introduction to the concept of culturally responsive teaching which gave me a lot of interesting ideas about how to better support my students, while also frustrating me at times. I found my experience reading this book to be most positive when I picked through it for useful concepts and viewed it as a starting point for conversations around addressing the inequities within our educational system, rather than as a road map for doing so. A fairly accessible read that I would recommend to all the educators out there.
I’m so torn on this review. Beginning with Chapter 6, I really learned a lot from Zaretta Lynn Hammond’s book; however, before that point, so much of what Hammond wrote is stuff that any teacher interested enough in this topic to pick up this book would already know — including her unnecessary foray into brain anatomy. So I’ll take the coward’s way out, forget about the first five chapters and give this book the five stars that the rest of this slim book deserves. Seriously, start with Chapter 6, and you won’t be sorry.
An okay introductory book on culturally responsive teaching. I would have loved to see less of a focus on closing the achievement gap in order to raise test scores and more focus on inner work educators can do or at least moving the conversation beyond standardized testing, which sets kids up anyway. The way this book is written also mirrors the rigidity of the K-12 system, and it would have been exciting to see her transcend that framework. But maybe CRT is meant to be more of a rigid, reformist curriculum-focused pedagogy in the first place—I don’t know enough about it to comment fully. But if that’s true, then the author did her best to explore the realms of this limited pedagogy.
I felt affirmed by Zaretta Hammond's book. It's one of those reads where I kept reading and nodding my head. I'm glad she's getting good press and that her take on the importance of creating independent learners (instead of dependent learners) is getting a lot of play in education right now. The only downside is that it's very conceptual and theory based. There's no practical chapter of strategies that work. Maybe that's coming next?
It’s common knowledge that at the root of great teaching lies a commitment to fostering strong relationships with students. This universal adage makes culturally responsive teaching seem like another obvious educational fad capitalizing on a historical trend.
But I have to admit, this book is one of the best I’ve read that explained why—to a neuroscientific degree—relationships, especially with marginalized students, are so important in the classroom and their exact placement in the brain’s learning process. Though Hammond’s tips and tricks for nurturing relationships didn’t provide anything new to the table (I struggled in knowing how teachers and administrators force these practices with kids in ways that range from the awkward to the disastrous), she had me lured on every word while methodically breaking down the structures of our brain and how we collect and process information. I’m a pen and pad kind of reader when it comes to resources like this, but rarely do my annotations extend beyond a page. I have five single spaced pages of notes, questions, ideas, etc. here ready for review as I begin my summer planning.
CRT & the Brain will certainly impact my practice in what I anticipate will be a challenging year for students and teachers like. No text has made me think more about how I manage my instructional time and perhaps there is no better summer to be reminded of the value of positive, culturally responsive relationships with students.
I read this book for a position I'm applying for at work. I was very engaged and it definitely made me think. While I was kind of wondering why alllllll the detail about the brain, it really did click for me and it's incredibly powerful information to be armed with in the classroom. Many of the practices and approaches outlined in the book are things that I have done for years, as have many of my colleagues. But understanding more about WHY those things are so powerful, and how they are functioning, is really valuable.
As with all teaching books, I want examples. I want to know specifically what this looks like in the classroom. And this didn't have enough of it for me. They never do :D
Professional Development books about teaching can be really dull and full of buzz words and fads that are already out of date by the time of publication, but this book isn’t like that. It’s incredibly well organized and I love how it looks at some educational psychology and teaching methods and really focuses on (you guessed it!) the brain and culture and how we can be more mindful as educators to take these into account. I loved the charts and lists that really broke down the info presented and gave some tangible action steps to get started. I felt like I was relearning everything I went over in my motivation and classroom management course I took for my teacher certification, but through a cultural lens. At its heart, this book definitely shares a “Let’s reflect before we react” theme, which is never a bad thing to continue to hit home with educators, especially now.
So. Good!! Reading this in prep for my role as Diversity, Equity, & Inclusiveness Coordinator at a summer training institute for new teachers. It taught me so much about the brain science behind many aspects of CRT I already embraced as best practice - and pushed me in a whole new way to consider CRT as a mindset rather than a set of strategies or practices. Highly recommend to teachers and school leaders everywhere!
Textbook for school, but actually really interesting and helpful! Specifically how they talked about and broke down brain functioning in culturally responsive classrooms vs unsafe classrooms for children. Would recommend and will be referencing!
I think every educator should read this book. The ignite-chunk-chew-review framework has totally changed the way I plan my lessons. This book presented so many concrete examples to actually bring back to the classroom and to integrate into my practice, which I appreciated greatly. If I'm taking the time to read a book like this, it is because I notice a deficit in my instruction and want to improve. So, it gets on my nerves when books for teachers just lecture and preach (ie; telling me what I'm doing wrong) without giving me any actual advice about how to actually better my teaching! Hammond had a phenomenal way of explaining the neuroscience of how our brains learn to me, someone who doesn't know anything about neuroscience. I really really loved this book and genuinely learned a lot. I also enjoyed that Hammond included built-in discussion questions throughout the chapters as a way to stop, digest, and reflect. I will absolutely be reading this again.
This is a great resource for educators. I appreciate that Hammond offers a framework for thinking about Culturally Relevant Teaching, rather than simply offering a random list of strategies. A key takeaway from the book is that Culturally Relevant Teaching is not merely about behavior management or classroom engagement, rather, Culturally Relevant Teaching is about cognition.
Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the second to last chapter where Hammond explains information processing and offers the "ignite, chunk, chew, review" framework. In the future I will use this framework as a check for understanding in my lesson plans to see that I am being attentive to Culturally Responsive practices, particularly as they relate to information processing. Very useful!
I am grateful to have read this book while learning alongside colleagues from across the district and with Stella Villalba as our leader. This is an important read for all educators. So much to think about!
A quote from today’s reading: “Children grow into the intellectual life around them.” -Leo Vygotsky
I wanted to like this more than I did. It didn’t feel concrete enough for me, and at times some of the suggestions felt too young for my students. There’s some really good info here, but I just can’t help but feel that after reading this, a bunch of white teachers are just going to start doing rap battles in their classrooms 🤦🏻♀️
Read this for work. I agree with much in the book. Wouldn't recommend for people outside education. Not a tool book, more a mind-set; if that's going to feel like less road map than you want, look elsewhere.
Here are some FIRE quotes which the bookd idn't quite get to in the same way for me: "You can’t begin to be culturally responsive if you don’t have racial literacy. Because you don’t understand why this is happening.Then the myth of meritocracy takes over (“I don’t know why those parents…”)… those parents came from the same broken system. And we’re blaming the parents. This is not on the backs of black and brown educators. White people set up white supremacy. Only white people can dismantle it. This idea of looking at people of color..."
Here's another nugget, this time on the the White Savior: “We all have a journey. As an African-American teacher, if I have a lot of Latino students, I need to learn about their culture … White teachers don’t do that: there’s no PD for this. If you’re waiting for your school to do a PD, then you know you are not down for equity. Peoole of color are already spending their own time learning about and studying white folk, and white supremacy culture, … and they are swapping notes. Most white people will not spend their leisure time on this. The reality is, you need to make it your own study, meaning not just reading a book- going out and seeing this."
And... “Information is not transformational. I see this around white educators. You can’t get culturally responsive from afar. If you are not used to being around communities of color and your amygdala is telling you it’s dangerous... no amount of reading that book (when you’re in that environment with those children)...is going to lead to anything (because those kids suss you out pretty quickly). It’s not a technical thing, you have to humanize your relationships.
The book is just the first part. You have to be an anti-racist educator to be on the road to be a culturally responsive educator to be on the road to an abolitionist educator. That’s all a state of becoming. And if you don’t understand what it takes to be on the adventure, if you haven’t prepared your mind and that amygdala to do a new thing, you’re just going to go to your default and you’re going to pick a couple of strategies and you’ll call yourself culturally responsive. Those kids will suss you out."
Culturally responsive teaching is often miscategorized as merely including culturally-relevant material when possible or worse, lowering expectations of learners based on cultural assumptions and stereotypes (and racial stereotypes for that matter). As such, it's an approach to teaching and learning that is often taken up by educators who have a stronger sense of implicit bias, stereotype threat, racism and ethnocentrism along with the implications of each for teaching and learning. Contextualizing the importance and value of culturally-responsive pedagogy (CRP), Hammond moves into discussing exactly how the lens and approach of CRP actually blend seamlessly with everything we know about learning and the brain. She adds to the discussion by highlighting how CRP can go further in enhancing the learning of all students and create more meaningful teaching experiences. Overall, I loved how she chunked her material (practicing what she preached) and made sure to provide clear explanations and strong (i.e. culturally-relevant) examples on how the concepts work but also in how to enact the recommendations she offered. The biggest challenge that I found with the work was that so much of what she talked about was grounded in having additional space and additional time, something that many educators are hard pressed for. Regardless, this book should be something any educator or anyone thinking about to be more inclusive should be reading.
Chapter 1 introduces the concept of dependent learners, the causes of their dependency, and the path to independence. Chapters 6 and 7 have some really helpful ideas about social-emotional learning and building helpful relationships with students who lack self-efficacacy and may have given up on themselves as classroom learners. Chapter 8 connects to what we know about how to move from surface to deep learning and transfer - just good pedagogy.
I happened to read this alongside Fisher and Frey's Visible Learning for Literacy and was very excited to see the the same concepts of strong, evidence-based pedagogy present in both texts. Hammond often refers to what "Culturally responsive teachers do" or "must do," but when highlighting key passages of the text, I found myself leaving off "culturally responsive," because what she's describing is just good teaching. It just what what teachers need to be doing. And as she says elsewhere, "All teaching is culturally responsive, the question is whose culture?"
Culturally responsive teaching is a fine idea, though it isn’t nearly as revolutionary as it’s advocates claim. As educators hold high academic standards they need to ensure their classroom is safe and empowering, focus on building intent relationships, and embed their teaching in situations that are meaningful to the students. I’m down with that.
BUT, neuroscience has nothing constructive to tell us about CRT. Any finding about how the brain processes information/learns better in different settings is only meaningful to educators by providing a causal pathway behind performance differences on tests. The important questions are often embedded in psychological research, and sadly psychology itself remains very disconnected from education.
If you are interested in neuroscience read an accessible text book. If you are interested in CRT read some of the early academic articles. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can get both by starting here.