I am happy to announce that I have a book coming out in November. Published by Rowman and Littlefield, Honoring Identities argues that creating culturally responsive learning communities is a process which begins with building community, cultivating certain student and teacher dispositions, nurturing social justice, leveraging the power of talk and dialogic exchange, using Cultural Identity Literature (CIL) to build bridges and to normalize difference, and fostering a culture of civil discourse.
Although the target audience for Honoring Identities is educators, its ideas transfer to any community of learners—whether those are employees in the workplace or a group of students in a classroom. After all, the managers of employees are interested in some of the same results that concern educators. Both business managers and teachers set expectations and endeavor to ensure that talent is developed through progressively more challenging and meaningful tasks. In that development process, we wish to boost engagement levels and reward performance while also seeking strategies for how to take greater advantage of what people already do well.
As we navigate these steps, I offer the acronym GREEN APPLE. GREEN APPLE is a learning tool that enables its users to call to mind the eleven common determinants of cultural identity: Gender Expression, Religion/Spiritual Beliefs, Ethnicity and Race, Economic/Socioeconomic Status, Age, Place (geography and national territory), Perception of Belonging, Language/Discourse Community, and Exceptionality—from gifted to challenged.
Taking these elements into consideration when working with people will enable us not only to form connections but to open a portal for communication. Accessing some of these will be sensitive—even protected or private—so we do well to start with something already revealed and to remember to navigate the future with respectful interaction.
If we can hitch novel information to something already known, we can mitigate much of the discomfort initiated by a new data encounter. Therefore, knowing the people with whom we work and building community with them are paramount. In this process, the formula ABC4 can remind us of crucial learning steps. Because we want learners to feel that they belong in the learning space or workplace, we affirm their identity and build community in the process of cultivating critical, creative, and curious thinkers. Whether we work with students or employees, asking them about their weekends, their families, and their hobbies—and sharing tidbits about our own—will aid the process of building trusting relationships. Such engagement further allows us to interact more effectively because it sends a message that we care.
Honoring Identities provides both theory and practice to advance the important mission of building culturally responsive mindsets and to ensure that all students feel like they have a place at the learning table. CIL reflects and honors the lives of all young people, and GREEN APPLE questions focus their reading on key facets of identity, multiplying the effectiveness of the reading experience. GREEN APPLE questions also provide a lens for anyone else wishing to select CIL—whether librarians, humanities or social science instructors, or language arts teachers. The questions not only illuminate different perspectives of a text but make readers aware that individual experiences color the reading of a text.
While the book would be an ideal professional development book for any educator—whether preservice, veteran, or somewhere in between, it would also make an insightful text in a teaching methods course, advanced practicum course, or any education course focusing on building culturally responsive learning communities or teaching the diverse child. University teacher preparation programs, as well as English language arts or social studies teachers who are looking for concrete steps in improving culturally sustaining pedagogy, will find the book useful.
Throughout Honoring Identities, I thread the theme that learning about others has potential to make our eyes different. Looking beyond the self and one way of knowing and believing to accept alternatives enables us to see more deeply and completely. When we withhold judgment and are curious about unfamiliarity and difference, we adopt the eyes of an explorer. These eye-opening experiences may inspire us to speak out about diversity issues and to interrupt the fear that results in discriminatory attitudes and actions.
With the help of Honoring Identities, teachers can construct and put into practice a variety of approaches to the texts they and their future students will read. Whether teachers use the GREEN APPLE questions, a Pause and Ponder Moment, or one of the other critical thinking strategies presented in this book to facilitate cross-cultural comprehension, they are training themselves and their students to read beneath layers built by preference and familiarity.
You can order Honoring Identities on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, or at your favorite bookstore.