I subscribe to the "how we 'see' informs how we 'engage,' which informs how we 'act' equity framework" (National Equity Project). Many aspects of diversity (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, cultural differences, disability status) contribute to the vibrancy and nuance of online and onsite spaces. However, pedagogical practices have historically centered on white, affluent students. My teaching and research strive to disrupt these norms.
Yet, as a white cisgender female, I have also benefited from these identities in numerous ways in the same spaces I seek to change. In acknowledging my positionality and understanding how it influences my research and pedagogy, I continually strive to counter the dominant practices as I support and connect with students from historically-excluded backgrounds while using my research to advocate for changes to online course design for teacher candidates. This could not come at a more critical time as our nation is experiencing an unprecedented teacher shortage, so we must recruit and retain an ever more diverse pool of prospective educators.
This has been a journey for me and continues to be, as I first needed to become introspective about my culture, background, and unconscious bias while working to make my classroom more inclusive for all learners. Conscious self-awareness builds on other aspects of cultural responsiveness, particularly sociocultural consciousness, when individuals recognize their biases, prejudices, and stereotypes. When I became more aware of my own bias and cultural differences, I shifted to considering how my own culture is intertwined with the cultural diversity of my students. Then I began noticing, addressing, and removing cultural and experiential biases that cause harm to become a more effective and culturally responsive educator and serve my students well.
Through this ongoing process, I have noticed shifts I have made that have positively impacted my students as they share with me how they feel safe, healthy, and supported in the courses I facilitate. This is key as students who feel safe and accepted in their classroom by their instructors will likely be more successful learners and future teachers. Additionally, pre-service teachers are known to work with students in ways in their future classrooms similar to those they experienced as learners. This will pay dividends for success in the future as through experiencing and explicit instruction around culturally responsive practices, they will have the tools to nurture the growth of their future students into community members that respect diversity, learning, and cultural differences.
Alas, this work is never done...The understanding that teaching is a fluid process is critical for all educators to grasp as we work to make our classrooms a place of diversity and safety while respecting our own cultural experiences and honoring those of our students.