"Even well meaning, dedicated teachers can make it difficult for students to learn if they don't know who their students are and the cultures of their students' communities." If the previous statement is true, does it follow that only teachers from within the community should teach children of that community?
I agree with the above statement. However, I don't think that only teachers from within the community would be effective in reaching out to at-risk students. Bilingual or multilingual teachers, for instance, could also be successful in enabling students' literacy development and socialization. Those teachers may be more sensitive to cultural differences than their monolingual counterparts (of course, there may be exceptions...).
That being said, I think schools should promote diversity in their hiring practices.
How could teachers facilitate students' learning and success?
Regardless of the teacher's linguistic and ethnic background, she should be "willing" to work with disadvantaged students. How, you might ask?
She should be open-minded and make a conscious effort to learn about other cultures. She should learn a foreign language and visit the country of the target language.
She should hold one-on-one conferences with her students (and the parents, maybe) in an attempt to understand "why" those students are having difficulty in school.
She should also encourage students to write personal stories, which may be used as a means of getting to know the students and creating in-class discussions.
She should also create an environment in which students feel free to discuss and write about their home literacies, their lived experiences in their communities, and their future goals. I think it is important that classroom assignments be meaningful so that students can participate in such activities.
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