The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Dreamkeepers Revisited

About two years ago, I wrote a personal review of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings’ groundbreaking book, “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Students.” In my review, I was critical of some of her language regarding students of colour, but I was also impressed with the suggestions for implementing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy is not a method of teaching. It is not something you can find in a book and then just do. Rather, it is a philosophical framework that says, among many other things:

  • Teachers presume that all students have the capability to learn
  • Teachers clearly outline what it means to be academically successful
  • Teachers know the content, the learners, and how to teach them
  • Teachers support critical consciousness of the curriculum
  • Teachers understand their students’ cultures
  • Teachers take responsibility for learning about these cultures
  • Teachers use students’ cultures as the basis for learning
  • Teachers plan and implement academic experiences that connect to a larger context
  • Teachers know the larger socio-political context of the school and community
  • Teachers believe that success has direct consequences for life
  • Teachers have an investment in promoting the public good

I had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Ladson-Billings yesterday morning during her keynote address at the University of Illinois’ 2013 Chancellor’s Academy. This is a five-day professional development workshop for teachers in Champaign and Urbana. The focus of the Chancellor’s Academy this year is on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. I was excited, because I have wanted to learn more about this framework so that I can better use it in my own teaching.

I was so glad to hear what Dr. Ladson-Billings had to say! She resolved many of my concerns that I shared in my initial review of her book. One of the things that she said that really struck me was this: “While African American students were the subject of my research, they were not the object of it.” The object of her research has always been a quest for the answer to this question: “How do teachers successfully reach out to students from diverse populations and help them become multicultural, in that they know and understand more than just their own cultures? This is absolutely something I believe in doing. Whether the students come from the majority or the minority, each and every single one of them come from a unique culture that is the combination of race, ethnicity, religion, politics, socioeconomics, and family structure. Yes, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings focused her research on African American students, but her purpose was to identify the best practices that apply across the board. As I continue to develop my own philosophy of education, I will definitely be implementing Culturally Relevant Pedagogy!


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