Navigating the Challenges of Becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher: Supportive Networking May Be the Key

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Abstract: Research shows graduates of teacher education programs do not always transfer, or apply, the best practices they learn to instructional practice due to factors related to course features, the student, and workplace environment (e.g., Brown & Bentley, 2004; de Jong et al., 2010). This study examined the challenges a secondary-level English teacher in the United States encountered when she attempted to implement culturally responsive teaching practices she learned from a graduate course to her class with ELLs. Findings indicate she faced strategy-and language-related challenges due to student culture and school environment factors ("external challenges"), as well as her own uncertainties as a novice ELL teacher ("internal challenges"). Supportive networking with others outside the workplace facilitated beginning changes in the teacher's instructional practice when support at her school was not available. Communications between the teacher and professors occurred regularly throughout an entire school year via emails, face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and class visits with feedback. Based on analyses of data (e.g., teacher reflective journal, observation field notes, email correspondence, interview data), the authors conclude, though not easy or automatic, the transfer of culturally responsive practices learned from a university course to classroom practice is possible, but supportive networking may be helpful, or even necessary.

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