By Dr. Kimberly McLeod and co-authored by Wendy Mackey of Nova Scotia, Canada

Culturally unconscious teachers don’t know that they are in a state of cultural comatose. They are completely unaware that any deficits or biases exist in their world, including their teaching world. They are sweet, well-intentioned people that cause academic harm because they are completely unaware that their very own unconscious behaviors may be a contributing factor to teaching and learning achievement gaps. 5 symptoms of the culturally unconscious:

  1. You blame the victim. Sign number one that you are culturally unconscious. My student outcomes are not my fault. It’s the parent’s fault, it’s the administrator’s fault, it’s the fault of a weak system, it’s the student’s fault. It’s everyone else’s fault – but mine. Or “Sure, I’ll take responsibility for 10% of the outcomes, but 90% is out of my control.” Culturally unconscious teachers are experts in the blame shifting game. Experts.
  2. A belief that a sparkle of glitter means you’ve hit student relationship gold. Just because students are in the same space with you, doesn’t mean they are sharing their space with you. All glitter isn’t gold – keep digging. Culturally unconscious teachers reveal their unconsciousness when they assume that by being the teacher, they have the respect of the students and a relationship. Culturally conscious teachers are aware that student relationships don’t come prepackaged; you have to build them. Relationships once built, must also be sustained.
  3. All children can learn. Yet in the classroom of the culturally unconscious, all children are not learning. There exists a gap between good intentions and execution. This is very common with culturally unconscious instruction. Culturally unconscious teachers say they believe all children can learn, but the result of their teaching practices produces inequities – all children are not learning. Usually the reason they give for all children not learning… – see #1 of this list.
  4. We have rules for a reason. If they do not follow our rules, and do as we expect, when we expect, as we expect; then something must be wrong with them. Culturally unconscious teaching practices expect students to assimilate into traditional, systemic, expected norms. Rather then creating a culture in which both the student and teacher are able to coexist and experience success together; unconscious teachers operate under the belief that if students don’t fit into the teaching norm, then they don’t fit at all.
  5. Low Expectations. If you have said or heard any of these phrases you or someone in your circle may likely be culturally unconscious and not know it.

• “These poor children.” Accompanied by a headshake of pity, “You can’t expect much from them.”

• “The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.”

• “These children are just not ready.”

• “What did you expect, their parents don’t value education.”

• “These children don’t have the tools they need to be successful in school. They were born at a disadvantage.”

• “They are already so far behind.”

• “If they just knew how to behave, then we could teach them.”

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