Guest post: Being grateful for your students’ cultural behaviors

The following is part of a series of guest posts by leaders in the field of literacy and family learning. This guest post is by Dr. Sharroky Hollie, executive director of The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, and keynote speaker at the upcoming 2018 Families Learning Conference.


How frequently do you acknowledge your students’ cultural behaviors in a meaningful, sincere, and authentic way? Or more pointedly, how often do you validate and affirm your students culturally and linguistically? To do so means that you tell them as often as you can, how you appreciate, love, are grateful for, honor, relate, and respect who they are. It means that you relate to them differently, always coming from a position of understanding, sensitivity, and empathy. It means that in your lesson planning, you intend to validate and affirm with purpose (skillset).

When I am doing classroom observations, I only hear words like appreciate, love, grateful, or honor when teachers are reinforcing school culture behaviors, such as “I love how Tammy is doing her work quietly” or “I appreciate David for waiting his turn.” Rarely, do I hear teachers use validating and affirming language around specific cultural behaviors. The goal of cultural and linguistic responsiveness (CLR) is to move you along the continuum of a negative, punitive, deficit continuum to a position of validating and affirming as much as possible. Where are you along the continuum? When are you your best at validating and affirming?

Hollie blog graphic

What prevents most teachers from a positive plus vibe is simple lack of awareness about the cultural behaviors of their students. They are not looking at their students through a cultural lens or in a way that will allow them to even see the behaviors as cultural.

Our students come to us with an array of behaviors based on many factors, which I called the rings of culture, and as it applies to home culture, the iceberg concept of culture. We have studied the most common behaviors to occur in the teaching-learning milieu, such as social interactions, contextual conversation patterns, communality, collaboration, movement, non-verbal patterns, as well as, eye contact, proximity, and tone of voice. Your students come with these behaviors intact, pure, and unapologetic. Are you recognizing them?


Hollie headshot 2Dr. Sharroky Hollie, executive director, The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning, will be the opening keynote speaker at the 2018 Families Learning Conference. For more information about his session and the conference go to