Such connections foster the cognitive processes that allow the learner to actively associate new ideas to existing ones.

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Sep 19, 2022

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Introduction If not carefully designed and monitored, a school’s instructional and curriculum structures could be built on a shaky foundation, to the point of collapse if the necessary (but possibly overlooked or unappreciated) elements of home-school synchronization are not purposefully guarded. A school without home-school synchronization could be tantamount to a House of Cards. Instructional and curricular practices that employ a one-size-fits-all approach are destined to frustrate teachers, disillusion students, and disappoint parents. Therefore, school leadership programs are charged with offering their emerging leaders applicable curricula and experiences that help them understand the confluence of culture and academic achievement on their roles as instructional and curriculum leaders (Green, R., 2001; Marx, G., 2006; Murphy, J., 1992). Rationale In K-12 academic settings children are, too often, held hostage by the home life from which they emerge. This is particularly the case for children from less than stellar home environments. One case in point is that curricula illustrations and examples are typically based on the home life of children who have the privilege of living within mainstream America (Irvine, 1990, 1997, 2001, 2003). Students from rural towns, inner city rings, economical impoverishment or cultural diversity are hard pressed to hear their stories or see their greatness in everyday instructional and curricular demonstrations. This oversight is egregious considering that the average child in many public schools is not living a middle class existence (Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 2006; Lapkoff, S. & Li, R., 2007; Payne, R., 1996; National Center for Education Statistics, 2005; National Center for Education Statistics, 2007; School Matters, 2007; US Census Bureau, 2000). Even when teachers emerge from humble beginnings, their collegiate and professional experiences catapult them into the middle class. That exposure affords teachers a similar purview as curriculum designers which, in some cases, isolates them from their students and fractures the necessary emotional connections needed for optimal learning environments (Kunjufu, 2002). Meaningful learning occurs, however, when the instructor relates new ideas to the student’s life, previously learned information and to the future (Ormod, 2006; Snowman, McCown & Biehler, 2009). Such connections foster the cognitive processes that allow the learner to actively associate new ideas to existing ones. Ostensibly this instructional practice has strong implications in schools where academic distress reveals a relationship to cultural and economic diversity. Therefore, training in instructional and curriculum leadership should include preparation that identifies instructional practices that consistently afford all students equal opportunity for participation in the instructional program of the school, regardless of the household means of the student. House of Cards Internship Experience This exercise is recommended as an internship project that accompanies an instructional leadership or curriculum leadership course. It is designed to help emerging educational leaders identify and develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions needed to evaluate teachers for culturally responsible pedagogy. This experience challenges emerging school leaders to observe classrooms that serve students with cultural, socio-economic and geographical diversity and determine whether teachers provide instruction that reaches students regardless of their families’ household functioning. They are requested to examine instructional practices for integration of family styles of functioning vis-à-vis housing, transportation, geography, school type, financing and entertainment based on students in the respective classrooms. Candidates could select their school of choice, with the understanding that the students in the school should have as much cultural, socio-economic and geographical diversity as possible. Candidates should be encouraged to observe at least one teacher from each grade level of their current licensure, assuming that they will become leaders in those particular grade levels. Candidates should note teachers’ skill in comparing and contrasting general curricular principles with culturally-specific knowledge. For example, September 16 is to Mexicans as July 4 is to Americans. Teachers could exemplify their knowledge of cultural learning differences such as allowing verbal and visual representations of work so that students in cultures with a keen sense of story telling, for instance, could sometimes present their work verbally or visually rather than in writing. In addition, teachers could demonstrate their disposition toward cultural differences such as in the way many Caucasians are time-oriented while people of color are acculturated to be people-oriented. As another exemplar, teachers of students living in rural America would draw on examples of the rustic lifestyle in their instructional practices. Candidates would look for additional ways teachers connect curricula with student household functioning. The following categories (Kunjufu, 2002) could serve as a guide for distinguishing variety observed in instructional illustrations: HOUSING – public, substandard, rental, ownership TRANSPORTATION – reliable vs. unreliable, bus, friends, pre-owned, luxury GEOGRAPHY – urban/central, outskirts, suburban SCHOOL – neighborhood, magnet/optional, parochial, independent FINANCES – cash, money orders, checking account, CDs, stocks, bonds, trust funds ENTERTAINMENT – TV with rabbit ears, HD Plasma TV, TV with VCR, TV with DVD, TiVo, I-pod, MP3, video games, personal computer, lap top CULTURE – mainstream American, Native American, American of African, Latino, or Asian descent. Candidates would record and reflect on the following: Classroom demographics in classrooms observed (i.e. cultural, economic and geographic diversity) In what ways teachers demonstrated culturally responsive pedagogy? (i.e. economic, geographic, cultural or transportation, housing, and finances, etc.) In which disciplines and grades did teachers exemplify the greatest culturally responsive pedagogy? Note whether teachers exemplified non-judgment of students’ station in life; whether teachers respected or pitied students; whether teachers blamed parents and students for behavior and lack of achievement; whether teachers fostered collaboration between cultures and economic classes or pit them against one another. Were differences noticed in classrooms where culturally responsive pedagogy was used (i.e. teacher-student emotional connections, effective classroom environment, improved student achievement)? Did teachers, overall, employ culturally responsive pedagogy with consistency and confidence? Did teachers, overall, employ culturally responsive pedagogy with appropriate knowledge, skills and dispositions? What implications does the lack of culturally responsive pedagogy have for this specific school? How would the candidate ensure appropriate training for all certified personnel? How would the candidate ensure accountability for all certified personnel? What implications does this assignment present relative to curriculum adoption? Students could submit the assignment through some form of electronic delivery. Class or chat time would be invested in discussing the themes and patterns of student reflections, in highlighting creative methods that were observed and in identifying and developing additional culturally responsive pedagogical methods for integrating attending knowledge, skills and dispositions. Summary This exercise compels candidates to learn about the traditions, strengths and weaknesses of an array of cultures. The exploration of such attributes could be embedded in the respective courses as a research project or as an ancillary part of the leadership program. Nonetheless, it is vital that candidates are trained to determine whether teachers make personal and curricular connections with students even though they may be culturally, geographically or economically different.

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