EducationHabits of Mind

Dialogue & Cultural Competency

By September 19, 2015 No Comments

This week, I heard Rosetta Eun Ryong Lee speak about what it means to be a culturally competent educator. She is an unusually dynamic teacher who doesn’t hold back or attenuate her message about the responsibility that adults who work with children have to create classrooms where difference is not just tolerated, but celebrated.

One of Lee’s important points is that what teachers don’t talk about can have as much of an impact as what we do discuss. The absence of dialogue around a topic can be significant. When we don’t talk about issues that students are thinking about or facing, we can give them the impression that we don’t think they should be concerned with those things in the first place.

Which I think is true. And which is why I was so impressed with this week’s video out of Durham Academy featuring students singing a brilliant a capella mashup of top 40 songs called “Lost in the Game: A Musical Story of Relationships, Sex, and Gender Politics.”

As the students explained, their video was “a meditation on the unhealthy sexual relationships and gender stereotypes contained in the messages of popular music and culture.” Conversations about these topics, so commonly expressed in mainstream music and culture, are vitally important to have in and out of the classroom.

As this video suggests, when students are asked, and feel empowered, to engage with these issues, powerful messages can take shape.



Jessica is a doctoral candidate, education consultant, writer and editor. She is the founder of bookclique, a collaborative of English teachers and students working to promote book culture, and a co-founder of Well-Schooled, the site for educator storytelling, dedicated to sharing first-person educator stories. All Rights Reserved - What I Learned Today in School.