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Every student conies to the classroom with a set of behaviors and characteristics that makes him or her unique and that will affect his or her academic achievement.

Banks and Banks (2005, 13) noted, "Behavior is shaped by group norms ...

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By developing lessons that highlight students' cultures and experiences, the teacher actively engages them in learning.

Therefore, teachers are meeting the students where they are.

Thus, teachers need to view students as cultural beings, embrace student diversity, and validate the cultural identity of students.

In doing so, classrooms that model tolerance and appreciation of student differences will be created.

"Cultural identity is adapted and changed throughout life in response to political, economic, educational, and social experiences" (Gollnick and Chinn 2002,21).

An awareness of their self-concept and cultural identity provides the foundation for how students define themselves in terms of how others view them.

In addition, teachers must be cognizant that their teaching practices, their interactions with students, and their own ideas about identity influence the academic success and social development of their students. She teaches courses in Community Collaborations in Diverse Settings and Foundations of Multicultural Education.

According to Tatum (1997,18), "the concept of identity is a complex one, shaped by individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors, and social and political contexts." The cultural identities of students are constructed from their experiences with the 12 attributes of culture identified by Cushner, Mc Clelland, and Safford (2000): ethnicity/nationality, social class, sex/gender, health, age, geographic region, sexuality, religion, social status, language, ability/disability, and race. 'Why are all the black kids sitting together In the cafeteria? She is a member of the Zeta Omega Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

In this way, an awareness of the cultural identity of the student affects how well the student will interact with the teacher, how well the student will interact with his or her peers, and how the student views his or her acceptance within the cultural group and within the classroom (Campbell 2004).

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