The Languages of Learning as a Culturally Responsive Teacher

By Michele Hill, Educator

I am a big fan of the 5 Languages of Love philosophy! When we take the time to explore and analyze how it is that we express to others that we care for them, and just as important, we understand the manner in which they express their feelings for us, there is harmony. People are diverse; they have different ways in doing things and expressing themselves — loving and learning are no different.

The five languages of love according to author Gary Chapman are:

Gift giving
Quality time
Physical touch
Acts of service
Words of affirmation

Some time ago, I was facilitating a workshop on Creating a Cultural Responsive School and Classroom. As a teacher, we all recognize the importance of a “hook”. I began with an ice-breaker survey of the 5 Languages of Love. I assured my participants that it would somehow tie into education, and it was not a subversive attempt at trying to improve their personal lives — although it just might!

So, how does it connect? Schools are places of personal relationships filled with diverse learners… and equally diverse educators. Each person comes with their own Language of Learning that may not always match with the other learners and facilitators. It is important to not only identify and understand our own Language of Learning, but recognize what others need to be successful in learning. What do the languages of love look like in a classroom or school?

Words of affirmation: Take time every day to find the good in our students. Give them the words of encouragement that help them feel successful, capable and important. Celebrate their successes. Use stickers, personal notes and awards. These positive affirmations yield positive results…and the best thing is — they are free!

Quality time: Spending individual time or small group instruction time to ensure that our students have mastered the objective is critical to each individual’s success. Designate a period of time to reassure, re-teach, assess the needs of each student and provide a path to achievement. Be flexible with your time so that the students can take advantage of the extra support. Take the time to “hear” your students; sometimes they just need to vent or express their frustrations.

Touch (Not Physical, But Connective): While we obviously cannot advocate actually hugging our students, it’s still important to express care. Being attentive to a student when he/she speaks to you, sitting in groups with them, moving about the room and stopping at their desks, taking pictures with them, using praise and other ways to “get close” to your students all make them feel important.

Acts of service: Volunteer to help students with a cause, help them get started on an overwhelming task, write letters of recommendations, organize opportunities for staff to serve the students and show up at their events. Your presence and willingness to serve your students creates a sense that you care incredibly for all of their accomplishments, in and out of the classroom!

Gift giving: Gifts do not need to cost a lot of money…and we know teachers do not have it to share, but I have found that small gifts are so meaningful! Recognize their birthdays with a sticker and a pencil. I take pictures with my students and then send it to them electronically, or even better yet, print it and give it them. Try baking them something special for the class, share articles on things that interest them, create a collage of their achievements and frame it for them. It doesn’t have to be something big, people love to receive anything that says “I thought of you”!

“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship!” James Comer 1995

Michele Hill is a passionate educator who serves as a coordinator of admissions and communications at Burlington County Institute of Technology. Throughout her 30 plus years as an educator, Michele has been a champion for struggling and impoverished students and committed to helping to create culturally responsive schools and classrooms. Michele has been a featured blogger for ASCD Inservice Dynamic Synergy , and a guest blogger for McGraw Hill, Principal Leadership, Teacher Tool Kit UK, Edweek and ASCD Road Tested. Michele is the host of DisruptEdTV Teacher Sparks. You can follow Michele on Twitter @HillMrispoor visit her blog:

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