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The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom Shelenna McKissick EDU 604 Dr. Kaiser
Introduction The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy This book involves a collection of various articles written by educators and scholars who discuss their views and experiences on the importance of language expressed from teachers and students. The goal of these sequences of articles is to show the impact of language in relation to culture, ethnicity, beliefs, power, identity, discrimination and educational policies. “The Skin That We Speak” reflects on the idea that language is a powerful tool that is to be taken seriously and respected between cultures to detest division and promote diversity and unity in and outside the classroom.
Rationale of Importance in Connection to Course Objectives Analyze how culture affects learning and achievement Build culturally responsive teaching strategies • In order for culture to benefit our classroom, we need to embrace all languages so we can learn from each other. This will help our schools to become more united and accepting of the different cultural languages present. • “Race and ethnicity influence teaching and learning…They affect how students respond to instruction and curriculum, and they influence teachers’ assumptions about how students learn and how much students are capable of learning” (Hawley & Nieto, 2010, p. 66). • Teachers must treat all students with respect and love so they can build trust and feel connected. • Teachers are to set aside all preconceived notions, biases and prejudices to effectively and impartially teach a diverse group of learners. • Teachers are to be aware of their presentation and be able to connect with students to enhance their learning to avoid a resistance to learning (Delpit, 2002).
Q: How does language reflect our cultural identity, power, and privilege? • Language reflects our cultural identity, power and privilege by becoming a representation of who we are. Delpit (2002) mentions how language is universal. No one language is inherently better than another. Languages reveal much about a cultural group’s history, geography, and values. Language reflects the needs of the group (p.71). An example would include African Americans in particular who share a spoken language communicated only amongst each other and take it highly offensive when other ethnic groups misuse or degrade their language used improperly.
Q: What would and could you do to assist these culturally and linguistically diverse students to be successful socially and academically? • The different ways in which teachers can assist diverse students to be successful socially and academically would be: • To acknowledge and respect the diverse cultures and languages present within a nurturing learning environment. • To become familiar with the cultures at hand to avoid any miscommunication and misunderstandings. • To use material that is “culturally and linguistically meaningful. Efforts to make curricular materials relevant to the social and cultural experiences of children engage interest and generate enthusiasm” (Suarez-Orozco 2002, pg 147)
Continued • To be aware of challenges the students might be facing when dealing with their preferred language and the Standard American English language. • To be aware of the different cultural values and languages families value from their own culture in comparison to what is taught in school (Trumbull, 2000). • To be aware of a students prior educational experience that can greatly impact their education (Suarez-Orozco 2002). • Lastly, regardless of the students preferred language and feelings of failure, teachers can demand student success. When teachers have high expectations of their students, student learning is enhanced (Hawley & Nieto, 2010, p. 68).
The Implications For My School • To encourage diversity and acceptance of all cultures by making small adjustments and being aware of the cultural views valued previously and currently practiced. • Bridge cultural differences to impact student learning. • Embrace all languages so we can learn from each other. • Promote family and community involvement. • Encourage teachers to creatively integrate culture within the curriculum and the classroom by attending professional development workshops and collaborating with other teachers.
Conclusion “The Skin That We Speak” delivered great insight on how language plays a major role in representing how language signifies an individual and how it can be perceived by others. Students will learn to adapt to the Standard English language easier when they feel loved and the material is understandable when taught. Teachers are to be sensitive to the different ways students communicate and include language driven strategies to support literacy growth, increase student self-esteem and cultural awareness between groups. Further research is needed on defining what particular cultural groups find valuable in their own language, what is often misunderstood and how their patterns of language differ from the cultural majority.
References • Delpit, L. & Dowdy, J.K. (2002). The skin that we speak: Thoughts on language and culture in the classroom. New York: The New Press. • Hawley, W.D., & Nieto, S. (2010). Another inconvenient truth: Race and ethnicity matter. Educational Leadership, 68(3), 66-71. • Hill, J. (2009, December 9). Mind Your Slanguage. Retrieved from The English Blog: http://www.englishblog.com/slang/#.Vs0CtX0rJkg • Suárez-Orozco, C., & Suárez-Orozco, M. M. (2002). Children of Immigration. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. • Trumbull, E., Rothstein-Fisch, C., & Greenfield, P.M. (2000). Bridging Cultures in Our Schools: New Approaches That Work. Knowledge Brief. San Francisco: WestEd.