One of the foundations of teaching that is currently lacking adequate implementation in the classroom is the ability to understand and use the cultural differences that exist within different communities in order to help individual students thrive. Not only is it important for teachers to cultural awareness, but also it is crucial for teachers to have the skills to utilize this awareness when forming relationships between the learner and the community. Thus they are able to promote the best learning environment possible. In other words, while it is both important to focus on the individual students and the overall culture it is important to connect both of them in order students to be successful in the classroom.
Ellen Franz, an elementary school teacher in a small school in Sausalito Marin City School District, is able to seamlessly accomplish the daunting task. She does so by focusing on the individual students’ needs while keeping in mind the overall community by being aware of the cultural differences between her and her students. She is grounded in the culture and community which allows her to use the techniques of ZPD in order to bring all students to a level where they can expand their knowledge and learn what they are supposed to in order to thrive. However, this is not a magic formula and creating the relationships with both the students and the community is not enough.
To assure that ZPD is being used as effectively as possible, everyday she must take control of the class and in order to do so she consistently uses pedagogical knowledge, engagement, formative assessment, and persistence. Her ability to use pedagogical knowledge effectively is very important because it allows her to stay in control of the classroom and manage what the students are doing. Although the students are not the easiest group of children to work with, there is a clear sense of expectations and classroom rules that everyone follows. While it is important that students are managed, it is also important that they are engaged and eager to learn. Mrs. Franz does a great job of engaging the students by calling students randomly and by having exhibiting high energy. In particular to using high energy, she claims that she has “always used hands-on projects to build on students' strengths and engage their interests” showcasing the fact that she thinks it is important for all students to enjoy the learning process. Moreover, she claims to believe that “teaching, to be effective, must always be about learning and relearning, shaping and reshaping ideas and beliefs” and this is reflected on the fact that she goes over material multiple times and presents in in a variety of ways to make sure that all students understand what is going on. Her emphasis on making sure that all students understand she uses formative assessment to determine how all students are doing and what she has to go over in more detail.
While it is important to be culturally aware and have the ability to...