The Importance of a Culturally Responsive Educator

Last Updated: 17 May 2023
Essay type: Reflective
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Being A Culturally Responsive Educator


The method to being a culturally responsive educator is not a simple one. It is a multi- faceted process that requires dedication and persistence, but it is quite rewarding. Culturally responsive teaching is defined as "using the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for them; it teaches through the strengths of these students" (Gay, 2000). The keyword in this phrase being "responsive", because it accurately sums up the appropriate (re)actions necessary when educating students from a plethora of different cultures. The difference between a good teacher and a great one is marked by how inclusive and involved they are with the individual student, meeting their educational needs through the use of cultural inclusion.

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My Points of Reference:

Ever since I was little, I always liked being around younger children. When my baby brother was born, I had to be the one to feed him his bottle. Three years later, when my sister was born, it was my personal duty to ensure that she would always be entertained (until I got bored). When the summer days grew too long and I began missing my elementary school classroom, I would round up my siblings and play school, with me always being the teacher.

In fact, I vividly remember a time when both my sister and I loved Harry Potter, so I would go on the computer and create quizzes with questions from the book series before printing them out and giving them to her. I always loved the idea of being a teacher, even if I didn't start to consider it as a potential career path until halfway through high school. I took a Red Cross babysitter's course when I was twelve, and had started volunteering at my town's Parks and Rec day camp by the summer after my freshman year. That was the first job I ever applied for, and to this day it is the one that matters most to me.

I have stayed as a camp counselor for every summer after the first one, and my boss will still people the story about how I came into her office and, as part of my job interview, proceeded to teach her how to fold a paper crane to help demonstrate my patience in teaching and my eagerness to interact with the campers. Three years later I would still come home from work every day tired as a dog, yet still be excited to go back the next morning. Halfway through my second summer working there, I realized that while being a camp counselor for the rest of my life wasn't a feasible career choice, I could do something just as fulfilling.

While my own points of reference might not be considered particularly special, they are diverse in the way that every single culture is different from the next, making mine special by comparison. A more appropriate summation would be saying that my cultural points of reference are more common in the society we live in, and therefore not very diverse in my own community, yet still very different from many of those around me. While this does inhibit me from connecting on a personal level to many of the students I see in the classroom in Hartford, it has the potential to aide me when trying to connect with students from similar backgrounds.

I am grateful to have been raised by culturally aware parents, which in turn has allowed me to be more culturally responsive. When people talk about their different cultures, I find myself reacting with nothing short of interest and excitement at being exposed to new walks of life, rather than the disgust and bigotry these people might have to face in their day to day. For being one of the most diverse nations in the world, Americans are infamously close-minded when it comes to accepting those of other cultures. I share some points of reference with the students in my classroom, such as being from the same state, knowing the same landmarks and attractions, and just generally being a part of the same larger culture. However, I am already learning to incorporate new things from the cultures of these students that I may not have been exposed to fully before, thereby beginning my career as a culturally responsive educator.

Students' Points of Reference:

At the Global Communications Academy, the children definitely come from all walks of life. There are children who come from wealthier backgrounds in my classroom, as well as those who live with less economically successful means. Many of the children wear crisp, freshly washed uniforms to class every day; however, I have seen a couple students looking fairly disheveled by comparison. The fact that these children are unfortunate in this way saddens me, but I notice how this does not usually affect their ability to make friends with the other students and participate actively in the classroom. It is for this reason that I really enjoy working at the Global Communications Academy.

This school thrives on the diversity of its students, each one bringing more new points of reference than the last. If there's one thing I know about kids, it's that they love to share about themselves. The other day I had a conversation with a young boy whose father was currently in jail, resulting in financial struggles for his mother; he didn't seem to think much of it, but this perspective gives him an entirely new point of reference to bring to the table, albeit an unfortunate one. This really gave insight to the differences in parental relations from student to student, a specific point of reference that I feel I need to look into with greater depth, seeing as it is not something I have a lot of experience with.

I'm not really familiar with home situations other than those of kids living with their parents, whether they be divorced or not. I've never had another family member live with me who wasn't part of my immediate family, whereas many of the children I've spoken to live with a grandparent or aunt/uncle. As an example of a circumstance completely different from the previous one, I spoke to a student three desks down who was planning her vacation to Disney World over Christmas break. Aside from their economic standpoints, these students both happened to be from different ethnic backgrounds, just another difference that allows them to bridge the gap between cultures.

Although there isn't much discussion about it in school, I'm sure the topic of religion will come up soon, seeing as we are nearing the holiday season. With students from so many different ethnic backgrounds, I'm sure their paths will diverge in terms of religious beliefs as well. It's important for the classroom to be a non-judgemental zone when it comes to exploring different cultures; every student must feel safe sharing details about their own points of reference, both for the sake of the other students, even the teacher, and themselves. Religion is a foundation for many different cultures, and it is essential that students can discuss it as a means of expressing their points of interest, and the teachers must be culturally responsive in order to include said points of reference within the classroom.

This happens to be yet another point of reference that I lack experience with, seeing as I grew up in a non-religious home. My parents weren't against religion by any means, and while they encouraged us to explore our own faith and spirituality, neither of them really spoke too much about religion, particularly my father. I find religion to be fascinating, and I see the appeal of believing in a higher power and allowing faith the be a cornerstone for your mental and emotional stability. Some aspects of certain religious communities almost make me wish that I had been brought up in a religious household, yet instead I must actively strive to learn more about different cultures and their religions so that I may broaden the points of reference I am familiar with.

Inclusion of text:

The segregation of classrooms, whether they be formal or informal, have provided many points of reference for students over the years. While being of a certain race may provide a person with plenty of points of reference already, the fact that they are treated differently in the public school system creates an even clearer divide between certain learning communities and the children that inhabit them. The apparent connection between race and economic status is also especially stark in Hartford, Connecticut, described in Susan Eaton's "The Children in Room E4" as "the poorest city in the wealthiest state in the richest country on earth" (Eaton 6).

This is a factor that definitely contributes to the learning deficit in these communities, where thirty-one percent of its residents are poor, yet an astonishing forty-one percent of its children are poverty- stricken. In a country where equality is supposedly promised to all, the realization that these integral values are not upheld nationally is quite unsettling. The Children in Room E4 serves as a means of opening the eyes of the American people to the unsustainable living conditions being endured by some of our young best and brightest minds, such as Jeremy himself.

Jeremy is a student in Ms. Luddy's classroom, and prides himself on his commitment to his own education. His drive to receive the best education possible coincides with the reason for the book's conception; the result of the Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation lawsuit that addressed inequality of access and opportunities to a quality education amongst districts. Jeremy's classroom in Simpson Waverly Elementary School is a place where he can put his troubles at home aside, such as his financial difficulties and negative social environment, and instead focus on his own learning.

The book itself provides a prime example of this stark contrast when it talks about how Ms. Luddy took her classroom and visited their sister-school in the suburbs. She declared that she would "never, ever' sacrifice the sister-school program that took her kids for a day to the tranquil suburban hamlet of Marlborough nearby," (Eaton 252) because she wanted them to be able to experience a warmer education setting than what she had to offer. This is one of the clearest examples of Ms. Luddy maintaining her role as a culturally responsive educator, because she wants her children to be exposed to a whole different subculture in the suburban area. For this one day a year, kids from the downtown Hartford schools were able to safely go outside and play on a playground, a luxury that suburban children and parents everywhere take for granted.

Ms. Luddy, as well as the parents of many students in her classroom, felt that the children deserved to receive this sort of education every day, not just once a year. The Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation lawsuit likely helped give Ms. Luddy and the other parents of the classroom the courage to speak up about the injustice and inequality of the situation. One child, Jeremy, injured himself because he didn't even know how to slide down a slide or swing on a swing.

I need you to stop and think about that for a moment. A third grader from Hartford was incapable of playing on a jungle gym or using its equipment because he had never been given safe access to a playground once in his entire childhood so far. The Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit may have sparked a movement, yet decades have passed and children everywhere are still not receiving an equal opportunity for education based on their race. If that doesn't ignite within you a passion to change the educational environment, whether it be for this generation or the next, then I don't know what will.

What I've Learned:

I've learned a lot this semester. A lot about being a better educator, a lot about being a better learner, and a lot about just being a better person. Teaching is much more about attitude and how you interact with the students than what you're actually teaching them in the curriculum, especially at an age as young as this. Not that this means the curriculum should be disregarded; rather, more teachers need to realize that there's more to the job than reading, writing, and arithmetic, and start learning how to be a culturally responsive educator. I learned that students thrive off of schedule and routine, two pillars of stability that help constitute a warmer and more familiar educational setting.

Because of this class, I now know how to properly address my students, the importance of remembering their names, and the best methods for communicating with them in a way that they can easily understand. Before this semester began, "Points of Reference" was not a term that I was familiar with, and I never truly thought about how different every student is going to be from the next one. Nor did I think that my own Points of Reference could ever be of value in a world as diverse as the one in which we inhabit, since I considered my past to be rather boring. One of the first steps to becoming a culturally responsive educator is learning to utilize your own Points of References, in addition to those of your students, to improve the classroom experience for all.

One of the benefits of this class is that I was able to learn how I better comprehend and remember information, specifically through developing a deeper understanding of the subject. I learned in Psychology that the best way to encode a material into my long term memory was through establishment rehearsal, which refers to "learning about the information as a whole rather than just repeating certain fragments to myself over and over in an effort to memorize them (maintenance rehearsal)" (Grison, 127).

The best way that this method of learning was applied in my EDF 120 classroom was through the presentation of different chapters by each group of students. Simply reading six chapters of the textbook would've been an example of maintenance rehearsal, which would result in a shallow encoding of the information and weak storage of the topic. Instead, each group focused on a single chapter and taught it to their classmates, allowing everyone to ask the appointed "experts" any questions that came to mind, instead of just having to try and decipher the text themselves. Not only did this ability to ask questions help me retain more about each individual chapter subject, the fact that I had to gain a vivid comprehension of the topic in order to present it to my classmates meant that I knew the information like the back of my hand.

I think that I learned some of the most valuable information from the group that presented about Chapter 13, Teaching Strategies and Instruction. These were all examples of how I will soon be applying my knowledge in the classroom in order to instruct students, and a clear and concise breakdown of four suggested teaching strategies was quite helpful. I undoubtedly possess a firmer grasp on "the methods of lecturing, questioning and discussion, grouping, and role play" (EDF 120 Class Discussion, November 2, 2015). However, I am also confident that the four other groups bestowed great knowledge unto me about their own chapter topics, such as integrating technology into the classroom or assessing student learning and results. There are a plethora of important things that I need to learn before I can step into the world as a licensed educator, and this course has set me on a surefire path in that direction.

The Impact of What I've Learned:

Coming into my freshman year of college, I like to think of myself as a sponge for all knowledge concerning the teaching profession. I hope that I can incorporate everything I learn into my future career as an educator, including both my dispositions and how I learn. Yet that isn't to say that I haven't already come into the game without some know-how under my belt already. I can't quite speak for how I will change based upon the information that I learn in the future, seeing as I haven't obtained it yet. However, I know that what I have already learned has definitely impacted how I'm going to carry myself as an educator in the future. A lot of being a culturally responsive educator has to do with Global-Mindedness, and this program has done nothing if not open my eyes to this aspect of being a teacher.

The Global Communications Academy is a school where children from all over come together and interact with one another. You pretty much have to be globally aware if you're going to work in a school like this, but it is an environment that allows the diversity of its students to truly shine. When you first step into the classroom, it's important to distance yourself from the children for the sake of Professionalism, but not in a way that might send the wrong message.

It is imperative that the students understand that while you are their friend, you are a professional educator primarily. This specific disposition goes hand in hand with the final member of the trio, Engagement, because you need to be able to engage with the students while maintaining your Professionalism. You cannot be a bystander in the classroom, and a teacher who doesn't constantly interact with their students isn't a successful one. In fact, I might even wager that I have learned more about being a culturally responsive educator from my students than I have from my classroom, albeit in a broader sense of the term.


To be a culturally responsive educator and to be a good teacher are two sides of the same coin, and you cannot have one without the other. By entering the workforce with this idea at the forefront of my brain, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be vigilant in my efforts to embrace the many cultures of the world in my own classroom. The greatest challenge of this aspect was coming to terms with the fact that the foremost component of being a culturally responsive educator is being a culturally aware learner. If there's one thing that I've learned from this class so far, it's that I'll never be done learning about how to be a better teacher, and there'll never be the perfect answer for how everything is supposed to be done. All strategies used in my classroom in the future will be a direct result of the knowledge I have obtained over the years from my students, peers, and instructors.

The idea that I remain a learner, as well as an educator, has resulted in the fact that I am now a more reflective practitioner who will engaged solely in evidence-based practices. I will constantly strive to remain atop the wave of change so that I may reflect on my past self and determine how I must change to become a better instructor in the future. To identify these changes, I will be looking at the evidence concerning the results of my teaching and the success of my students, measured in a multitude of ways. I am a learner. I am a reflective practitioner. Above all else, I am a culturally responsive educator.


  1. Gay, G. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, & Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.
  2. Eaton, Susan. The Children in Room E4. Chapel Hill: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2007. Print. Grison, Sarah, Todd F. Heatherton, and Michael S. Gazzaniga. Psychology in Your Life. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  3. D'Annolfo, Suzanne (2015) Resources, class discussion provided in EDF 120, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut

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The Importance of a Culturally Responsive Educator. (2023, May 17). Retrieved from

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