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Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

Culturally responsive pedagogy and culturally relevant teaching begin with an understanding of “the self,” “the other,” and the context. An important starting point is recognizing that we are all cultural beings, with our own beliefs, biases, and assumptions about human behavior. We need to articulate and examine the values implicit in the western, White, middle-class orientation of U.S. schools, such as the emphasis on individual achievement, independence, and efficiency. By bringing cultural biases to a conscious level, we are less likely to misinterpret the behaviors of our culturally different students and treat them inequitably.

A critical second step is acknowledging the cultural, racial, ethnic, and class differences that exist among people. A desire to be fair and impartial sometimes leads teachers to strive for “color-blindness” (Nieto, 1994), and educators are often reluctant to talk about cultural characteristics for fear of ignoring heterogeneity among group members and “essentializing”—seeing groups as static, monolithic, and homogeneous. However, scholars contend that to be culturally responsive, we must acquire “cultural content knowledge.” We must learn, for example, about our students’ family backgrounds, their previous educational experiences, their culture’ s norms for interpersonal relationships, their parents’ expectations for discipline, and the ways their cultures treat time and space. Cultural knowledge should be used as a bridge to eliminate stereotypes that result in inappropriate categorization that limits our understanding of another’s cultural beliefs and world view (Mishne, 2000). Teachers that acquired cultural knowledge demonstrate an openness and willingness to learn about the aspects of culture that are important to students and their families.

To fully understand culturally responsive classroom management requires that teachers understand the ways that schools reflect and perpetuate discriminatory practices of the larger society. We must understand how differences in race, social class, gender, language background, and sexual orientation are linked to power. We need to recognize that the structure and practices of schools privilege select groups of students while marginalizing or segregating others.

IINII uses an innovative Design Thinking process to help school districts create culturally responsive behavioral management plans and procedures that allow students and staff members to gain an understanding of one’s sense of self. Having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown it is linked to better well-being, less stress and delinquency, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed. Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience.

The IINII, culturally responsive classroom management model, creates a vibrant restorative practices process that encourages relationship building. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a safe and dynamic learning environment that honors your school community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

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