5 Tips to Introduce CLR to Your Students
By Dr. Sharroky Hollie, Executive Director, The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning
As you begin the CLR infusion process with the right mindset, there should be some thought about how to introduce the concept of CLR to your students. Needless to say, you will want to clue your students in on your CLR journey. One of the most frequent questions I get from teachers is, how do I discuss CLR with my students? Here are 5 tips for introducing VABB to your students:
Tip 1: Introduce and Use CLR Terminology
Introducing CLR is simply telling your students that you plan to validate, affirm, build, and bridge them when you talk to them, in how you relate to them, and in how you teach them. Explain what cultural responsiveness is in general, but be more specific when you discuss the concept of VABB. Talk about how we all have different cultural behaviors based on who we are and that some of those behaviors can be misunderstood or misinterpreted in some settings, which then leads to defining situational appropriateness. At the beginning of the school year, be explicit about defining school culture as a culture linked to academic settings and the dominant (mainstream) culture. Most importantly, distinguish culture from race and racism.
Tip 2: Explicitly Validate and Affirm Your Students
The explicit validation and affirmation of your students around their cultural behaviors is the key to CLR. VA-ing your students triggers the building and bridging, and by extension your students’ buy-in to being situationally appropriate. Your VA has to be intentional and purposeful, consistent and authentic, and proactive and reactive (i.e., using teachable moments).
Tip 3: Hold Your Students Accountable with Procedures and Structures
An annoying misconception about CLR is that it breeds classroom chaos, wild, out-of-control behaviors, and low expectations. None of these is true. It frustrates me when I see teachers not holding their students to the same standard with CLR activities that they do with other classroom activities. Or when teachers couch CLR as the “fun” time compared to the traditional time, when the students should be more serious. When done correctly, CLR is about high expectations, a set of how-to procedures for every activity, and structures that support an organized and efficient classroom dynamic. All of the CLR activities have rules, structures, and expectations.
Tip 4: Give Your Students Opportunities to Practice Situational Appropriateness
When do your students have the opportunity to practice situational appropriateness? Do you treat CLR and situational appropriateness like you treat practicing reading, math, choir, or art? Students need to practice navigating their cultural behaviors in the context of school culture. These opportunities should come proactively through planned instruction that includes the process of validation, affirmation, building, and bridging (or creating juxtapositions). Recall that an instructional juxtaposition is when you intentionally align a VA activity up against a BB activity, or vice versa. By creating juxtapositions, you allow students to toggle between home cultural behaviors and school cultural behaviors and expectations.
Tip 5: Give Your Students a Voice in the Work of Equity and CLR
When students buy-in to CLR and understand its purpose, the door is opened for giving them voice to the work. Beyond instruction, students are also given voice by becoming active participants in equity and responsiveness. They can do so by forming organizations, clubs, and groups that meet to discuss school- and society-related issues of race, culture, and equity. They meet with teachers to discuss how the school and district can be more culturally and linguistically responsive. CLR instruction is transparent. There are no teacher secrets here. You want your students to know that there is a “method to your madness” with all the activities that you are using. Nothing is by accident. Let them know that they are a part of the “madness” in every way and you want to empower and inspire them to be better personally and academically.