Giving Compass' Take:

• The author explains why parents should be aware of how their children's teachers are incorporating lessons on cultural identity in the classroom. 

• What are the benefits for students to discuss cultural identity?

• Read about why cultural responsiveness matters in personalized learning. 

There are few things in life that are certain when you become a parent — infants teach us the true value of a whisper; guilt, panic, and worrying automatically go into overdrive every day for the rest of your life; and we have never wanted the world to be a better place as much as we do as parents.

However, as a mother of two black males, numbers 2 and 3 on the list of parental certainties have a distinct meaning for me, my life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for my children.

In Washington, D.C., where I live, I often find myself joining other parents seeking the best schools, the best neighborhoods, and the best opportunities for my children. And in doing so, unfortunately, I also find that I am almost forced to ask those extra questions of “How will this opportunity, place, or person impact my children’s cultural identity? Will examples or samples that look like my children show up in the learning and/or experiences? If so, how? And is this culturally affirming?”

I can imagine that other parents of color probably ask themselves similar questions for their children when it’s clear that our kids will be the minorities of the group — in numbers only. I have to add my personal disclaimer here that I abhor the word “minority.”

I am sensitive to the fact that in education, everyone may not be tuned in to their cultural biases that preclude them from automatically considering whether the lessons being taught are inclusive of diversity.

I encourage you to be a resource for teachers who may be so culturally unaware that they believe that waiting until February to celebrate black history is OK and Latino heritages can only be celebrated in September. Perhaps they don’t know that women can be celebrated throughout the year — not just in March.

Here some suggestions on how to incorporate the conversation of cultural identity into conversations at your school:

  1. Take an impromptu tour of your school and make note of the physical surroundings. What visuals do you see? Are they diverse?
  2. . Talk to your children’s teachers. Ask them culturally relevant questions. Are the books they assign and/or read to the students culturally affirming to every child in the class?
  3. Utilize your PTA and host a series of conversations around cultural diversity throughout the school year.
  4. Find guest speakers to come in and teach students about their heritage and/or culture.

Read the full article about cultural identity in the classroom by Tanzi West Barbour at The 74