Tools For a Culturally-Competent Classroom Climate: “Build”, “Maintain”, and “Repair”.

By: Nicolette G. Granata

“Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each student unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. This understanding informs and expands teaching practices in the culturally competent educator’s classroom” (National Education Association (NEA)).

As we continue to work through IBPA’s Back-to-School Toolbox, it is important to recognize that educators need a specialized set of tools to build, maintain, and repair culturally-competent classrooms; classrooms that prevent, withstand, and resolve incidents of racially-motivated bullying and/or harassment during the school year. I interviewed Dr. Donna Y. Ford, Ph.D. of the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University to gain professional, scholarly insight into what educators should include in this toolbox.

BUILD: Educators need the tools to build strong, culturally-competent foundations in their classrooms from the very first day of school. What can they use to build this foundation; one that prevents racially-motivated bullying and/or harassment from the very start?

“Educators must take time to get to know students, and this means being intentional about building relationships to connect with students from cultural backgrounds unfamiliar to them. A must have tool is culturegrams (see culturegrams.com).”

MAINTAIN: Now that educators have built strong, culturally-competent foundations in their classrooms, they need the tools to maintain them throughout the school year. What can they use to withstand incidents of racially-motivated bullying and/or harassment that may attempt to arise during the year?

“To maintain effective relationships, educators must ensure that students of color (in fact, all students) view them as advocates who will provide a safe learning environment. This requires being explicit that race-based bullying, which has increased in recent months, is not allowed (see Teaching Tolerance’s article “Hate at School: June 2018,” by Coshandra Dillard). It requires discussions and posters that bullying is not allowed.”

REPAIR: Finally, educators may need the tools to repair broken classroom foundations over the course of a school year. What can they use to resolve incidents of racially-motivated bullying and/or harassment that have taken place?

“This is an important source (https://www.stopbullying.gov) for tackling (reducing and, ideally, eliminating) bullying. It is important to teach students to stand up for themselves, to prevent or repair any damage done,”

To execute these principals to their full potential, general strategies such as those given above can be broken down even further. Dr. Ford’s article, “Creating Culturally Responsive Instruction: For Students’ and Teachers’ Sakes,” achieves just that (Ford & Kea, 2009). These strategies, captured below, provide educators with an even more comprehensive tool-set of specific, evidence-based knowledge on this critical topic:











As classrooms continue to diversify (www.digitalpromise.org), it is critical that the number of resources on cultural-competency expands to match. One such resource is the book, “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys” (Moore, Michael & Pernick-Parks, 2017).

White women make up 65% of the teaching force in America. If we succeed in shifting outcomes for Black boys, it will be because White women responded to the call to change the way we do school,” says Dr. Eddie Moore Jr.. He will be presenting on topics from the book, in addition to giving a keynote address, at IBPA’s upcoming national conference in San Diego, November 5th-7th. You can find more information on the conference here: https://ibpaworld.org/events/conferences/san-diego-2018/.

Nicolette Grace Granata is an undergraduate honors student in her fourth and final year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She is double-majoring in Child Development and Psychology, with a minor in Special Education. Nicolette has always been extremely passionate about the social inclusion and acceptance of students with disabilities and differences. Her research interests include empathy development in young children, and neurotypical children’s concepts of “norms” and disability. She feels incredibly lucky that a semester-long Independent Study on evidence-based bullying literature, response, and prevention lead her to find, and then work for, IBPA.



At the moment, the International Journal for Bullying Prevention is specifically calling for papers with a centered concentration on “bullying, race, and ethnicity.” We hope to give this far-reaching, still largely unexplored topic the spotlight it deserves in a special issue of the International Journal of Bullying Prevention. The submission deadline for these special issue articles is October 31, 2018. Authors may submit papers for peer review through IJBP’s Editorial Manager System: https://www.editorialmanager.com/ijbp/ For more information, please visit www.ibpaworld.org/journal.”

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