Professional Development

What's a Teacher to Do?

Here are five things you can do to make your classroom respectful and culturally sensitive.

As the participants in the roundtable point out, Asian American children are a diverse group and the challenge of schooling can be overwhelming. Not all are excellent students; some lack proficiency in English; others have parents who are not involved in the American school system; others simply lack financial resources. Here are a few pointers to assist you in developing a culturally sensitive methodology.

1. Call API students by their correct names.

Ask for help with pronunciation of unfamiliar names, and help classmates learn to say the names of Asian American students correctly. Do not offer to change or shorten their names or give them nicknames.

2. Ask students how they identify themselves.

("Asian American," "Asian Pacific America," "Korean American," etc.) Do not assume a particular nationality or birthplace. Some students' families will have lived in the U.S. for many generations; others may be recent immigrants.

3. Don't assume Asian American students will have particular academic or athletic interests.

Encourage broad participation in all aspects of school life.

4. Help all students identify and challenge the stereotypes of Asians that might arise in film, literature, textbooks, or TV. 

—Asians as martial arts fighters, math and science geniuses, docile housewives, conciliatory merchants, bloodthirsty warriors or sneaky businessmen.

5. If Asian American students express an interest in their Asian cultures, encourage efforts to bring that cultural connection into the classroom.

Seek out literature from their culture to include in the curriculum. Learn words of greeting in their native language and teach these phrases to the entire class. Invite students to describe special holiday celebrations and religious observations. Ask a representative from the Asian-American community in your area to speak to your class.

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