Rita D. Williams, Ph.D.
Three Rs of Culturally-Relevant Classroom Management
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Years ago, the Three R’s - Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic- were established to signify the essential components of school. While no one can argue the vitality of reading, writing and arithmetic, most- if not everyone- realize it takes more to provide a robust learning experience. With recent events in the United States putting race once again at the forefront of both public and personal conversations, as educators, we have an obligation to ward against injustice and incorporate culturally-relevant practices to enhance our students’ education.
Gloria Ladson-Billings’ critically acclaimed book, The Dream-Keepers, introduced us to culturally relevant teaching (CRT). CRT puts students along with their background and life experiences at the center of the curriculum. Teachers who practice CRT:
Believe at their core all students can learn.
View student diversity as an opportunity to maximize learning rather than a challenge to overcome.
Go the additional miles to help students access learning through their personal, community, national and global identities.
As a proponent of Dr. Billings’ research, I would like to advocate a need for culturally relevant classroom management (CRCM). To continue with the opening theme of this blog, I will present what I am calling the Three R’s of CRCM- Realization, Rapport and Respect.
The first tenet of implementing CRCM is Realization. Realization refers to the educator’s need to acknowledge and explore his/her biases and prejudices as well as determine how they impact interactions with students. Inventories such as the Hidden Bias Tests created by psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington provide a vehicle for such introspection. Without exception, everyone has biases and prejudices. Instead of denying our biases and prejudices exist, we should educate ourselves on how to lessen their negative influence on our students, their families and communities. I applaud BARWE, a group of white educators dedicated to confronting racism. We all can take a page out of their proactive book.
Rather than relationships, Rapport is the second tenet. At its most basic level, relationship simply means association or connection. That connection can be positive, negative or indifferent. Merriam-Webster, my favorite word source, defines rapport as a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy. As such, if we are to facilitate CRCM, establishing rapport with all students will strengthen our cultural competence and keep us from adversely misinterpreting the behaviors or communication of students who differ from us.
Respect is the third R. Referencing Merriam-Webster once more, consideration is used to define respect. As we are creating and implementing classroom management procedures, consideration of our students should be the foundation of those methods. Before rolling out a new policy, we should view it from the lens of each student to ensure all practices are reasonable and fair. Additionally, we should respect student voice and be open when they communicate feelings or thoughts of being improperly treated.
If you are looking for concrete strategies based on the Three Rs of CRCM, please join our free virtual conference, Nuggets for New Teachers. Our session Culturally Relevant Classroom Management will share practical ways to effectively implement CRCM. I look forward to seeing you then!