Multicultural Education Stephanie r. Herman

"Multicultural education advocates the belief that students and their life histories and experiences should be placed at the center of the teaching and learning process..."

The National Association for Multicultural Education

I believe...

An effective multicultural education inspires students of all ages to become culturally competent leaders who can critically think through challenging situations and skillfully communicate with other members in a developing global community. I choose to recognize the importance of maintaining diverse learning communities because I believe our own cultural histories and identities influence the way we think, feel, learn, and behave.

"Not all students can be taught in the same way because they are not the same. They have different needs, skills, and experiences that must be recognized in developing educational programs."

Donna M. Gollnick & Philip C. Chinn

What has changed your thoughts about the role of a multicultural educator?

I've come to realize that sparking a positive change in our society can start with me and the students in my classroom. If I wish to become an effective multicultural educator, I need to consistently refine areas of my practice that some professionals often overlook. Paying attention to little details on a regular basis will make a big difference in my students' lives. For example, an effective multicultural educator is intentional and uses self-reflection to guide his or her instructional decision making.

It's important for me to gain more self-awareness of how my communication style and implicit attitudes impact my relationships with students, families, colleagues, community members, etc. If I am going to successfully reach every student who walks through my door, I can no longer be hesitant to challenge my own biases, prejudices, and socialization processes. Most importantly, I need to assume responsibility for the messages I communicate intentionally or unintentionally; both affect student performance and participation.

Multicultural educators firmly believe that all students have the capacity to learn. My role as a teacher is to emphasize this philosophy as I work hard to create an inclusive learning environment that proactively responds to student variance. A culturally responsive teacher remains cognizant of each student's learning profile in order to maintain a differentiated classroom. As Carol Tomlinson would say, yearn to be an artful teacher. This type of educator adopts the role of both learner and leader. He or she skillfully balances a list of roles of responsibilities, while also committing to student needs. Content in an artful teacher's classroom is culturally relevant and compelling to learners. Most importantly, he or she appreciates each student as an individual and helps them make sense of their own ideas.

I've learned that a student's identity encompasses much more than their preferred learning style or ability to develop multiple intelligences. A person's identity can be composed of several elements including age, culture, race, ethnicity, and religious affiliation. In addition, a student may assess their sense of self-worth based on their sexual orientation or embodiment of a specific gender. I believe it is my responsibility to ensure that everyone in my classroom feels accepted by and valuable to a larger learning community.

If you are my student, I want you to understand that you deserve to be in my classroom. In fact, you belong here.

"Empathy is to project your imagination so that you actually feel what the other person is feeling. You put yourself in the other person's place."

Funny Face (1957)

Which experiences have you found to be the most valuable?

  • Could You Survive in Poverty? from A Framework for Understanding Poverty and Hidden Rules Among Classes
  • “This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense.” Essay by Linda Tirado
  • Project Implicit - Research partnership with Harvard University

These experiences have been valuable to my professional development because they taught me how to appreciate the hidden rules assigned to each social class. These activities forced me to confront my personal biases and reflect upon how I can expand my knowledge about social inequity and its undeniable influence in the classroom. They also allowed me to empathize with students and parents who have lifestyles different than my own. I want to improve every students' educational experience no matter where they come from. These specific exercises helped me realize how important it is to facilitate authentic and meaningful activities for both lower and higher achieving groups.

If I truthfully yearn to be every students' advocate, I have to be familiar with the lens in which they each view the world. As an instrument of transformation and empowerment, I can encourage my students to become academically resilient by communicating that I believe they are capable of achieving at high levels. I have to work hard to avoid using stereotypical labels that may negatively impact the development of each person's self-fulfilling prophecy. Articles and assignments like these have taught me that everybody needs validation and a sense of empowerment in order to flourish in an academically competitive environment.

To better prepare myself to interact with a diverse group of students, I need to begin consciously thinking about the different approaches to teaching multiculturalism in my classroom. When I interact with students or plan culturally relevant lessons, I have to remember to be a vulnerable yet enthusiastic learner. It will be important for me to consider that I have much to gain from my students' personal narratives and unique experiences. If I listen to my students and pay attention to their victories and concerns, I can successfully integrate their voices into my classroom. If my students see themselves reflected in my instructional materials or content, they will be encouraged to become active participants in the learning process.

  • The Impact of a Hidden Curriculum
  • Gender Life Line Activity
  • Jane Elliott's A Class Divided and Fire with Fire

Because of my exposure to these critical experiences, I am motivated now more than ever to help my future colleagues sustain a safe school environment where students feel comfortable enough to "realize their full human potential" (Gollnick and Chinn, p. 148). I believe engaged learners are those who feel like they have an equal opportunity to compete and grow. We as multicultural educators can help create safe school environments by enacting school policies that address harassment, abuse, or discrimination.

Unfortunately, some public schools in the United States continue to create discouraging learning environments for students who belong to a non-dominant cultural group. These three classroom activities helped me empathize with those who are disadvantaged due to discrimination or the establishment of a hidden curriculum. These unwritten or informal school rules often reflect and reinforce the dominant cultural group's communication style, value orientation, or belief system. Students who don't communicate or behave according to these norms are pressured to disregard or repress their unique identities. As a result, they usually underperform academically. I've learned that being in an uncomfortable learning environment makes it almost impossible to focus and actively participate.

When I couldn't figure out the hidden rules of our classroom activity, my confidence dwindled. I not only felt small, but also foolish and uncomfortable. Worst of all, my feelings of inadequacy went undetected. I pretended to understand the rules; I hid my confusion and frustration to the best of my ability. Students may react to discomfort, discrimination, or bias in many different ways. Some retaliate out of anger; others lose focus and eventually disengage. I've learned that we can't forget about students who reacted like me. These types of learners feel an overwhelming pressure to be just like everybody else, even though they think differently and lack a general understanding of the dominate culture's lifestyle. If I seek to understand what my students are going through, I have a better chance of providing them each with a successful academic career.

“Cultural differences should not separate us from each other, but rather cultural diversity brings a collective strength that can benefit all of humanity.”

Robert Alan

Critical Concepts

A multicultural education teaches students to value several different languages, customs, dialects, and traditions. When we learn to appreciate other cultures and recognize our own privileges in society, we begin to develop a genuine sensitivity toward those who experience undeserved discrimination, prejudice, or social injustice. Using a suitable approach to multicultural education is beneficial because it hinders the development of ethnocentric attitudes that might prevent students from claiming cultural superiority and consequently refusing to explore alternative constructions of reality.

Our understanding of the culture we choose to identify with usually determines the way we think, behave, and perceive the world around us. For this reason, culture also plays a key role in how we learn. Utilizing a culturally responsive teaching approach will help me create a successful learning environment for my students because it affirms the idea that culture does indeed play a huge role in how successful our students can be. A teacher who is culturally competent views culture and experience as a strength rather than a weakness. My students may feel empowered if I incorporate their personal, cultural, and historical identities into my lessons plans and learning objectives.

I believe an education that prioritizes the integration of culturally relevant materials will validate a student’s cultural significance. If I demonstrate competent knowledge of and a genuine appreciation for my students' lived experiences, I am communicating that I value their way of life outside of the classroom. If any student of mine develops feelings of marginalization, I will have betrayed my own belief that every person matters and deserves to feel comfortable being their authentic self in my classroom. Feelings of marginalization can lead students to become disengaged learners who are overly self-conscious, irritable, or possibly depressed.

It's important for my students to remember that our cultural identities are dynamic due to our lived experiences and what we choose to value in the present moment. I struggle with the fact that many schools in the United States pressure their students to assimilate into a dominant culture influenced by mostly Western European traditions. Although I feel it is necessary to adopt some of our dominate culture's components, characteristics, and manifestations, I do not agree with forcing my students to completely "shed" their cultural heritage. Our students have learned how they should think, feel, and behave through the observation of and communication with people who share their cultural identity. If I allow my students to toss out their original understanding of language, social roles, nonverbal communication patterns, religious beliefs, or value orientations, I am essentially asking them to reject a huge part of their personal identities.

While taking this course, I have been encouraged to maintain a caring disposition. If I hope to make a positive impact on my students, I must be willing to reflect upon my own personal biases and access additional resources to enhance my students' overall learning experience. By learning to recognize the subtle biases that affect my own behavior, I will be better equipped to sustain a socially just classroom that promotes the development of well-informed citizens. A curriculum that prioritizes the development of critical thinking skills that challenge the status quo prepares students to explore multiple perspectives and oppose their school's hidden curriculum. I'm responsible for modeling critical reading and writing skills that will enable my students as they learn to question information they receive from different materials and sources.

In my ideal classroom, all students would have access to leadership positions or other resources that would help them reach their academic potential. Intercultural communication between students would be encouraged because I would not tolerate discriminatory practices. Students would also learn to assist one another in the learning process. I believe we all rise by lifting others up.

As multicultural educators we are encouraged to work hard to consider whether or not our instruction draws upon the history of our community as well as our students’ cultural experiences. More parent collaboration is necessary for a school to successfully acknowledge the cultural values and belief systems of students and families. My classroom instruction should relate to all students whether they come from an upper class, upper middle class, lower middle class, working class, or underclass family. I am now beginning to understand how important it is to explore my initial reactions to status differences. In order to effectively communicate standards and expectations for my students, I have to demonstrate that I care about each individual's potential. If not, I might negatively affect my students' performance.

Being trained to address the effects of generational and situational poverty is a huge priority for a multicultural educator. While evaluating different analytical frameworks of poverty, my peers and I noticed that language issues cause many students to underachieve on state tests due to their lack of developed linguistic and cognitive structures. In addition to language, lacking knowledge of the hidden rules of the middle class can potentially prevent students in poverty from maintaining higher levels of academic achievement. Some methods of combating these language issues include utilizing code switching strategies to teach our students when to use formal and informal registers appropriately in different contexts. In order to be successful in the United States, our students need to learn how to “accommodate for other speakers” and proficiently use Standard American English in professional or academic settings (Martin and Nakayama 257). Determining which languages, dialects, or accents to teach my students how to navigate will be tricky. Expanding my knowledge of these details will require me to be active within the local community and school district where I teach.

Because of my own liberal arts education, I feel compelled as a future teacher to confront contemporary issues linked to institutional racism. Unfortunately, its insidious impact on our nation's educational institutions will most likely leave some of my students disadvantaged socially and academically. Even though scientists now recognize that race is a sociopolitical construct, our society still determines how we treat some minority groups based off their physical characteristics and use of non-verbal cultural codes. For this reason, I think my students should be aware of the ways in which they are privileged so that they can advocate for those in society who are not. I also feel motivated to help students cope with their own majority or minority identity development.

Mutual respect for our students and their religious cultures or identities is absolutely necessary in order to be effective multicultural educators. This idea of mutual respect can be traced back to the First Amendment to the Constitution, which states that Congress does not have the power to establish one dominant religion in the United States or prohibit any display of religious worship. Even so, the values and beliefs of a powerful religious majority can sometimes influence how a school district operates or which moral codes are emphasized within a community. For example, in some regions of the United States, conservative Protestants are still fighting for the inclusion of creationism theory in science curriculums. I personally believe that a religious majority has the capacity to hinder our students' exposure to multiple constructions of reality appreciated by other cultures and religious affiliations.

When it comes to balancing the cultivation of interests for male and female students, teachers have to confront several intimidating obstacles. However, I would argue that one of the biggest challenges a multicultural educator faces is addressing the differences in academic success between boys and girls. Because females tend to access regions found in the left side of our brains, they excel in subject areas like reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Unlike female students, male students show incredible success in mathematics and science because of their ability to access more information from the right side of their brains. This hemispheric specialization has arguably led to the perpetuation of traditional gender role learning in our classrooms. Being aware of this concept will prevent me from overemphasizing my male students' intellectual ability and competitive nature. It will also motivate me to empower my female students to step outside of their comfort zones and volunteer for important leadership positions.

Teachers who value creating and maintaining a differentiated classroom believe that meaningful learning takes place within a nurturing and supportive environment. According to Gollnick and Chinn, LGBTQ students often miss school, underperform academically, drop out, or attempt suicide at a higher rate than their peers because they lack a safe school environment that acknowledges the Gender Spectrum as well as various sexual orientations . Even as an elementary educator, I need to be prepared to facilitate appropriate conversations in my classroom about sexual identity and how it impacts a students' self-esteem or sense of belonging. My goal as a culturally responsive teacher is to develop my students' awareness of sexual diversity in order to thwart discriminatory and abusive behaviors.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandhi

What's My Story?

I believe my students deserve a teacher who is willing to bump up against cultural borders or barriers in order to recognize how her own identity impacts the way she encodes or decodes messages and assigns academic or behavioral expectations.

Similar to my peers, I was born and raised in the United States and haven't had much experience traveling internationally and engaging with different cultures. I am monolingual and haven't been exposed to a variety of dialects, accents, or languages other than my own. I come from a white middle class family that values achievement, self-sufficiency, and maintaining an admirable Protestant work ethic (above all else). As a moderate to liberal "born again" Christian raised by conservative Evangelicals, I was taught that God's truth is absolute. Truth being relative was a concept I was taught to reject from an early age along with other viewpoints associated wth secular humanism.

Every day I was encouraged to appreciate all that I have been privileged with. My parents encouraged me to embody what it means to be humble, kind, and respectful. In other words, to be "Christ like." This explains why I tend to have a positive bias toward students who are passionate, dedicated, and resilient. I can relate to students who are respectful, open-minded, and enjoy challenging themselves. When it comes to my religious identity, my beliefs and value orientations definitely affect how I make decisions as well as how I approach dealing with conflict.

Unfortunately, some of my students will belong to specific groups who will be written off early by other educators because of their clothing, family, income, cleanliness, and personality rather than academic potential. Becoming more familiar with my own identity will help me analyze how I can adjust my teaching style to foster positive interactions with all of my students.

As I try my best to sustain a culturally relevant classroom, I know my greatest obstacle will be learning how to manage my own intrapersonal conflict with regard to religion. Currently, the value orientations and belief systems I have been socialized with in my religious community are being challenged. The existence of a non-binary gender identity and various sexual orientations directly clash with the Protestant beliefs I was raised to respect and consider as absolute truth. In addition to these, I am starting to accept that it is okay to challenge, question, or even reject traditional masculine or feminine gender roles placed upon individuals in our society.

I have identified my religious identity as an obstacle because of my personal experience attending a small private Evangelical Christian school for eight years. Surprisingly enough, male and female students at my school only separated themselves socially when they were forced to. Most of the time we had co-ed groupings even in physical education classes, which I did not have in my public high school. We were expected to groom differently because of our uniforms, but female students were given the freedom to wear khaki pants, shorts, tennis shoes, etc. All of my teachers were strong female role models with the exception of a few male math and science teachers here and there.

In some aspects, my tiny school could be described as liberal or moderate. However, the Bible instruction was very conservative in comparison. I believe my religious background might interfere with my ability to reach and teach all of students because of my implicit biases and attitudes toward the Gender Spectrum. My personal beliefs do not reject the idea of a spectrum. My concern and apprehension mostly stems from having to fight against parents, coaches, faculty, or other students who don't believe in it or understand it. My first reaction to a story like Jazz's was fear and uncertainty. As a teacher, I know I would worry about her well-being constantly because I feel it's wrong to condemn her or marginalize her. I would mostly be uncomfortable explaining her situation to parents like my own, who would be very aggressive against me if I advocated for her "political agenda." I recognize that my selfishness is something I have to confront and put aside if I wish to create a safe environment for each and every student.

I would minimize this challenge by seeking to understand my students' cultural membership or lack of membership in the LGBTQ community. I would continue to familiarize myself with the history of the community and its recent evolution. I would try to incorporate positive images of LGBTQ figures in my school or allow students access to accurate information that would help them understand or manage their feelings. As an elementary teacher, I would turn to literature that promotes being one's authentic self or being a part of a family different than most people's. Finally, I would assign classroom jobs that break stereotypical gender roles in order to improve students' skill sets in other areas. Maybe this would encourage students to branch out and participate in cooperative projects which build community and students' critical thinking skills.

As multicultural educators, we need to critically examine how we treat our students to see if inequity is taking place in our classrooms. I have learned to be more aware of events that may alert us of these inequities. These events include negative interactions, preferential treatment, recognized ethnic or racial boundaries, biased disciplinary strategies, or lack of multicultural instructional materials. In addition, students of color are often treated differently than white middle class students. As a result, some students experience serious disadvantages because they don't share the same cultural cues or communication styles of their teacher. For these reasons and more, I am motivated to be more proactive in “initiating interactions and in providing encouragement, praise, and reinforcement to students from cultural groups different than [my] own” (Gollnick and Chinn 362).

I recognize that it will be much easier for me to navigate the unspoken or hidden rules found within U.S. schools because of my middle class upbringing. This undeniable truth has inspired me to gain a better understanding of the hidden rules of each social class in order to help students be successful as they adjust to the customs of our dominate culture. Even though I haven't had much experience interacting or working with a diverse group of students, I still have much to offer. I am the first to admit that I have a lot left to learn! I am more than willing to step outside of my comfort zone to find common ground with my students and make them feel like they belong in my classroom. Although I may encounter language barriers, I will do my very best to communicate effectively and competently. Teaching requires a unique amount of enthusiasm and passion to inspire and encourage students to do their best. I am passionate about people. Not every student understands just how special they are, but they all deserve an advocate who is willing to show them.

My Personal Mottos

" Make it better."
"Relationships are key motivators for learning."
"Let's lead our interactions with respect, even when it's difficult or we confront opposition. Respect is a language everyone understands."



I still do not completely understand how to effectively manage or facilitate respectful communication among parents who will be actively involved in my future classroom. Because of my educational background, I may have more experience with being mindful about how my attitudes or biases affect other people; this doesn't mean my students' families will practice the same level of self-awareness. Some lower class or upper class families might reject my efforts to create relationships with them because of the judgement they receive from other families.

How should I appropriately respond to potential intercultural communication conflicts between parents, colleagues, staff members, etc.?

I appreciated the feedback about how to address an intercultural conflict that deals with students' clashing identities. Even though I have to be cognizant of my own personal biases or beliefs, there are times I have "to put them on a shelf." I have to cast aside my own fears or uncertainties for the sake of my students' physical or emotional well-being. In class, we were encouraged to think about whether or not we would hang a LGBTQ pride flag in our classroom to communicate that it's a safe space for students. Would all school districts or administrations allow you to do this? Would you get in trouble with your administration if a parent confronted you about it? At that point, do you take it down to keep the peace or continue to stand strong for your LGBTQ students? Is this a personal choice or would your school most likely get involved?


Because I struggled with differentiating between enculturation versus acculturation, I decided to search for ways to help me break down the two concepts. The following visual aids were useful as I attempted to completely understand how language and culture interact.

I am still struggling to understand the difference between gender fluidity and the terms "girlfags" or "guydykes." Both seem to have some level of overlap and blur of gender or sexual orientations. Are they essentially the same concept with a different name?

"Listen to the voices of the marginalized, then work to amplify them. Don't speak over them, don't speak for them, and don't stay quiet."


My Philosophy

My role as a multicultural educator is to act as an agent of social reform who guides and supports my students' exploration of concepts related to topics including cultural interdependence, social justice, equity, and democracy. I believe meaningful learning takes place when all students are encouraged to confront real problems, investigate possible solutions, and reflect on critical decisions that will impact their success in the future. For this reason, my students will have access to an egalitarian educational system that stands for providing enough resources and opportunities to meet the academic and non-academic needs of each individual.

I find it necessary to provide my students with a supportive learning environment and a culturally relevant curriculum because both allow for the integration of multiple perspectives, experiences, and identities. I recognize several advantages of teaching my students how to appropriately navigate intercultural interactions and participate in cooperative organizational processes. If we are to create meaningful change in today's society as multicultural educators, I believe we need to set high academic expectations for our socially conscientious students who are actively seeking new ways to obtain success and make the world a more equitable place.


Martin, J. N., & Nakayama, T. K. (2012). Intercultural Communication in Contexts. S.l.: McGraw-Hill Education - Europe.

Morrison, G. S. (2008). Multicultural Education in a Pluralistic Society. Allyn & Bacon.

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