FC Classroom Management: Lesson 4

Classroom Management:

Lesson 4



The Culturally Responsive Classroom

“ A lack of multicultural competence can exacerbate the difficulties that novice teachers (and even more experienced teachers) have with classroom management. Definitions and expectations of appropriate behavior are culturally influenced, and conflicts are likely to occur when teachers and students come from different cultural backgrounds. ”
-Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke, and Curran (2004)
In their paper “Toward a Conception of Culturally Responsive Classroom Management” (2004), Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke and Curran note that the literature on classroom management has paid scant attention to issues of cultural diversity, and the literature on multiculturalism is rarely interested in management issues. They suggest that the goal of classroom management is to create an environment in which students behave appropriately, not out of fear of punishment or desire for reward, but out of a sense of personal responsibility. Toward that goal they outline the following five expectations from teachers:
1. A teacher should recognize his own ethnocentrism and biases.
2. He should know his students’ cultural backgrounds.
3. He should understand the broader social, economic, and political context in which the class is situated.
4. He should be able and willing to use culturally appropriate management strategies.
5. He should commit to building a caring classroom.
Concepts such as culturally responsive pedagogy or culturally responsive literacy have been explored in academic literature since the 1990s, primarily in the context of primary and secondary education, and the need for teacher training in cultural awareness is now broadly recognized.
Let us listen to an anecdote told by Yoonhee, a language teacher.


On the need for training in cultural awareness.
Duration: 01:46

Yoonhee’s experience is not unique to Korea, nor to a high school setting. At the core of the story is what Yoonhee sees as lack of sensitivity on her part, which led to a possible behavioral problem. (“I could feel that she was not nice to me.”) This led to parent involvement, which, in turn, exacerbated the difficulty. Surely such a chain of events can take place in the college setting!

Cultural Issues in the Language Classroom

We bring into the classroom our personal cultures, institutional cultures, and even cultures from specific fields of academia, all of which must be somehow integrated into a “class culture” and produce an environment that is conducive to learning. While the literature on multiculturalism in the classroom often focuses on ethnicities and national cultures, I would like to use a narrower angle in looking at the language classroom. Some cultural issues that we may encounter in our specific environment are:
• learners’ attitudes toward the target language or toward a teacher who may be a non-native speaker.
• parents’ expectations from their children and readiness to involve themselves in the educational process, especially when it involves a heritage culture.
• a variety of learning and social interaction styles that by now are ingrained in our adult students.
• different degrees of willingness to accept and support students with language learning disabilities.

Helicopter Parents

Parental involvement in the instruction and maintenance of heritage languages with students at the elementary and secondary levels has long been considered a positive factor in student achievements and community building. This picture often changes drastically when it comes to the college classroom—such parents, now with adult children, are often grouped in the unflattering category of “helicopter parents.”
The term “helicopter parent,” typically associated with baby-boomers who do not see why they should change their pattern of interaction with their children and their schooling environment just because these children have left home and gone to college, refers to parents who hover over their children to protect them and swoop down as soon as they perceive a crisis. They contact instructors and administrators, seek help, offer advice, and, at times, demand immediate answers to their questions—satisfactory answers, that is. Over 70% of institutions of higher education in the U.S. now have special offices that communicate with parents in a variety of manners that range from providing “orientation bouncers” to involving parents in campus life and providing them with information on a regular basis.
Does your institution have an office that works with parents?
Language classes offer a unique venue for parents of heritage learners to get involved in positive ways: hosting events, participating in extracurricular activities, or presenting cultural topics to the class in person, in writing, via podcast, etc. This, of course, is a very delicate issue because:
• Students, craving independence, may resent such involvement on the part of their parents.
• Students’ privacy must be strictly maintained, which may become difficult with their parents in close contact.
• Parents may cross the fine line between involvement and attempting to influence the way a class is structured.
All this must be carefully negotiated before an invitation is extended to parents. If done correctly, the interaction may go a long way in signaling respect for a heritage culture and setting a positive tone in the classroom, but be on the lookout for parents who:
• call or e-mail the instructor too frequently
• may have excessive involvement in students’ homework
• challenge the authority of the instructor or interfering with his decision making
• make their children uncomfortable in front of their peers
• Non-Native Language Teachers
One of the difficulties that language teachers in institutions of higher education and elsewhere have faced is rooted in the perception among learners, heritage and non-heritage alike, that their abilities and qualifications as language teachers are diminished if they are non-native speakers of the target language. This perception has occasionally translated into difficulties in classroom management due to instructor anxiety and real or perceived challenges from students. The advantages and disadvantages of non-native language teachers and the perceptions of both students and teachers regarding those have been discussed and documented for decades–Enric Llurda’s edited volume Non-Native Language Teachers: Perceptions, Challenges, and Contributions to the Profession provides a broad picture of the discourse on these issues. In the context of classroom management, I would like to suggest that most problems are, after all, what we make them out to be, and the perceived weakness of non-native language teachers has much to do with the way teachers perceive themselves and project their insecurities. I would like to defer in that matter to my colleague Elaine Horwitz, a leading expert on foreign language anxiety among students and instructors. Let’s look at what Elaine said in an interview for Greta, a Journal for Teachers of English, about this issue.


Elaine Horowitz, a leading expert on foreign language anxiety among students and instructors, in an interview for Greta, a Journal for Teachers of English writes:
“Many people suggest that our goal as language teachers, whether we stated it or not, has been a monolingual native speaker. That’s our goal. And that’s a crazy goal. None of our students can possibly ever grow up to be monolingual native speakers. Students in the U.S. won’t be monolingual because they speak English already and they’re not going to be native speakers of whatever languages they are studying…Teachers probably have this in their mind, that they want to sound like native speakers. Well, there’re so many different types of native speakers. You take native speakers and you take them out of the country for a long time and they don’t sound like native speakers anymore. Teachers need to learn to value the language proficiency that they have rather than to punish themselves for the language proficiency that they don’t have. I sometimes say in workshops with teachers, “Do you give your students permission to make mistakes in class?” And they say, “Of course we know that if we corrected every mistake, our students would go crazy; of course we give them permission to make mistakes.” And then I say, “Do you give yourselves permission?”…I think that we, as language teachers, need to give ourselves the same permission that we give to our students, permission to be less than perfect in the target language.”
Take a couple of minutes to think about Horwitz’s argument in the context of your own experience as a teacher or a learner. Has the issue of non-native language teachers come up in your experience in the context of classroom management?

Class Culture: Respect for the Non-Native Speaker

Taking Horwitz’s argument to the realm of class culture, I would argue that respect for the non-native speaker is one of the essential ideological and cultural components of what we aim for and advocate as language teachers. In order to demand it we must project it, and our students will follow our example as long as we choose to lead them in that direction.

The “Caring Classroom”

Weinstein, Tomlinson-Clarke, and Curran (2004) write about a teacher’s commitment to a caring classroom as one of the conditions for a culturally responsive classroom. They warn, however, against a “fuzzy” interpretation of the term caring:
“ [T]he adversarial relationship between teachers and students may also be due to teachers’ tendency to define caring in warm, fuzzy terms. Our teacher education students express a strong desire to be caring. They envision classrooms characterized by harmony and good will and are disappointed and disillusioned when the students in their internship placements test the limits and begin to misbehave. That is when they return to campus and announce that “they want to be nice, but they have to be mean” (34). ”
Focusing on classroom management in the service of social justice, Weinstein et al. advocate the fashioning of a “caring community of learners” where students feel respected, trusted, and supported by one another and by the instructor. In this vein, we should ask ourselves the following question: If the joint mission of instructors and students remains the successful acquisition of a language, wouldn’t it be best accomplished in a classroom characterized by harmony and good will? After all, language is about communication, and our role as instructors is to create an environment in which the desire to communicate abounds—this desire should become the heart of our class culture.
Put yourself in a position of a student who wishes to communicate yet is fully aware of her limited vocabulary and language mechanisms. What would make you feel secure enough to do it in spite of your limitations?
Here are some ideas about principles an instructor may follow as she fashions the culture of a language class:
• Push students to the limit, but respect their boundaries. This requires good familiarity with each and every student as an individual.
• Create a norm of sharing and group work, while defining for the students areas in which they are expected to work strictly on their own.
• Move around, and let students move as much as possible, releasing and sharing their creative energies to enrich one another and thinking on their feet in a dynamic environment.
• Encourage laughter and positive humoring, but be careful not to let things get out of hand. Respect shyness.
• Allow students to speak about that which is close to their hearts. You may lose some of the authentic flare associated with the target culture, but will gain much in terms of student dedication.
• Make students aware of learning styles. A basic discussion on styles can take place in a target language fairly early with verbs such as “see,” “hear,” or “touch.” A class inventory of learning styles could frame the way students interact with one another.
• In the course of class activities, allow students to mentor peers with language learning disabilities or those who experience difficulties. Make these difficulties part of the learning process of the class as a whole, as opposed to a hindrance. Sharing in the success of a student who experiences difficulties is a powerful experience for students.




Instructor’s Final Comments

“ I would like to offer one more comment, based on my experience as an instructor of Hebrew teachers in training. Whenever I teach a methodology course, I dedicate one lesson to teachers, students, teaching, and learning as they present themselves in Hebrew culture from Biblical times to the twenty-first century. I find it particularly compelling to note that Hillel the Elder, a sage who lived in the first century BCE, was known for having said that “a shy man cannot learn, nor can the impatient man teach” (Mishna Avot 2:6); that Maimonides, the 12th century rabbinic scholar, interpreted Talmudic discussions to suggest that “twenty-five children may be put in charge of one teacher. If the number in the class exceeds twenty-five but is not more than forty, he should have an assistant to help with the instruction. If there are more than forty, two teachers must be appointed”; and that biology teachers in Palestine under the British Mandate were among the most active Hebrew language teachers and innovators, having coined and revived many of the Hebrew words pertaining to the local landscape, flora and fauna.

As we endeavor to establish our own communities of practice, be they culture specific or global, it is very helpful to remember that our discourse did not begin with us or our contemporaries, and that most of the issues that occupy this discourse have been around for centuries or even millennia. In a culturally responsive and responsible environment, it behooves us to listen to what history has to tell us. I thank you for joining me in this discussion, and wish you all the best!
















[Module Instructor Esther Raizen PhD]. 2010. [Classroom Management]. In Foreign Language Teaching Methods. Carl Blyth, Editor. Texas Language Technology Center, University of Texas at Austin. http://coerll.utexas.edu

The material is provided free of charge for those that wish to study it.

How ever a no obligation  exam is available at the end of this module.