Teachers with a high level of awareness of cultural competence don’t sweat the small stuff when it comes to teaching. These teachers know that respect, responsibility, and safety are of the utmost importance, while learning comes as a result of maintaining respect for all individuals in the classroom. Cross-cultural teaching is a huge part of that.  

Here are the things that culturally competent teachers do differently:

They go beyond talking about respect. They model it.

How do you approach the concept of family or respect in your classroom? Culturally competent teachers not only discuss the topic of respect, but they also show students explicit examples of respect to be revisited later. They do this by giving examples of what respect means to them and ask what it means to their students. Teachers who have experience in diverse classrooms take it a step further and talk about examples of respect in the community and at home. Be sure you model and give specific examples of what respect means to you as a teacher. Go the extra step to ensure that your students are communicating their idea of respect as well. Avoid “don’t” lists. Instead, include non-examples when introducing it to your class. This way your students know exactly what is and isn't okay in the classroom. 


They address classroom management fairly and are consistent.

These teachers have clear expectations and steadily enforce them in their classrooms. Students know what to expect. When it comes to responsibility, students in a culturally aware classroom are encouraged to take ownership of their actions, whether positive or negative. There are ample opportunities for growth, and students are encouraged to mend any relationships that might have been hurt or have conversations about trust that might have been violated. For example, if a student disrupts the lesson, the whole class can encouragingly reinforce the expectation. The A+ student and the F student are treated the same for disrupting class, no matter their grades. They will yield the same results each time for the same infraction.


They are open-minded about differences. They focus on the things that really matter.

In a diverse classroom, a master teacher will both recognize and honor cultural differences. For instance, in some cultures, group work is a common practice, while in contrast with American culture, there is a heavy focus on work completed by the individual. Incorporating more group-oriented tasks is responsive in a culturally sensitive classroom. In addition, teachers with heightened cultural sensitivity can bring up topics in class that are important to their students, such as social justice or religious practices. The difference between a culturally competent teacher and a teacher who is still developing in this area is that the first will take time to visit those topics when they arise. The second tends to avoid these topics. Remember to reinforce the idea of respect when having these discussions. Ask students to decide if the topic at hand is something that is a preference or if it goes deeper. For example, speaking poorly of a student’s family is much deeper than a personal preference.


In time, any teacher can develop deeper cultural awareness and can demonstrate a culturally responsive teacher in their classroom. It just starts with one student and one conversation.