By Kim Betzold

The Seven Experiences is a term that came to me in my work with Andreal Davis and Michelle Belnavis from the Wisconsin RtI Center. The new understanding of this language provided me with a framework of the experiences I could seek out as an individual educator. The following list is a categorized inventory of the seven experiences that I have participated in in the last three years. The definitions of the seven experiences I have included are from the Wisconsin RtI Center Culturally Responsive website page.


 Articles are a widely available, easily accessible way for practitioners to become familiar with culturally responsive practices.

Book Studies

Book studies are an in-depth way for practitioners to explore students’ cultures.

  • Johnson, Alan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006
  • Hollie, Sharroky. Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education, 2012
  • Miller, Donalyn. The Book Whisperer. New York: First Scholastic Printing, 2009
  • Singleton, Glenn E and Curtis Linton. Courageous Conversations about Race. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2006
  • Delpit, Lisa. Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: The New Press, 2006. Print

Coaching and Modeling

Coaching and modeling are important tools for integrating culturally responsive practices into the classroom.

Many of the experiences I encountered in the last three years could also come under this category. All of the conferences I attended provided examples examples of coaching. Dr. Sharroky Hollie has an excellent resource on his website. This video series shows clips from the classrooms at his school in California. The teachers at his school are excellent models of what culturally responsive teaching and learning look like.

Conferences and Workshops

Conferences and workshops are held frequently to assist practitioners who wish to create a culturally responsive atmosphere in the classroom.

  • Butts, Courtlandt. "Beyond Diversity I." CREATE Wisconsin (now offered through the Disproportionality Technical Assistance Network). Crown Plaza Hotel, Madison, WI. Fall 2012
  • Zion, Shelley. " " University of Colorado-Denver. Kalahari Conference Center, Green Bay, WI. 24 Oct, 12 Dec 2013, 31 Jan, 6 Mar, Apr 17 2014
  • Hollie, Sharroky Dr. "Journey to Responsiveness." Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning. Courtyard Madison East, Madison, WI. 14,15  May 2013

Guest Speakers

Guest speakers are a thought-provoking way to learn directly about another culture.

  • Kiranjeet Kaur, a member of staff at the School District of Onalaska, came to speak to Northern Hills about stereotyping. This was an enlightening experience for staff members. For most, this was the first time they had talked about such a serious cultural topic in a school setting. It did move many members of staff past their comfort zones.  However, through my experiences I have found that this is often times where growth happens. It was an invaluable activity for myself, and staff members to better know themselves and their own biases. As Dr. Sharroky Hollie says, "It's not your first thought, but your last" that truly matters.

Community Site Visits

Community site visits are another excellent way to gain an  understanding of another culture. Many cultural centers are open to hosting visitors and wish to share their culture.

  • La Crosse Area Hmong New Year
    2500 Hauser St.
    La Crosse, WI 54601
    Fall 2014 and Fall 2015

School Site Visits

School site visits are useful in gaining a better understanding of students whose culture may not match your own. By visiting a school that is predominantly of another culture from yours, it can help bring understanding of how to best reach students in your own class who are of that culture.

Every single one of these experiences has taught me something new. Each experience has had an “aha” moment to learn from and grow from. Together, as a whole, these experiences provided me with a new understanding as an educator and as a person. Throughout this project I spoke to three journeys: the journey of a single school, an entire district, and an individual educator. Along the way I came to the realization that there are also three segments of the culturally responsive journey for every educator:

  1. Know thyself
  2. Know thy students
  3. Know how to teach these students

Being culturally responsive doesn’t just happen. It is a process on a spectrum. We must start at the beginning. If you don’t know yourself, your culture(s), your uniquenesses, then you will not be able to relate to your students. Once we understand ourselves at a deeper level we can make better and deeper connections with our students. We can share tales from our ancestors, holiday traditions, and so much more! Our white students need to understand that they have culture, too! As teachers, we can lead by example. Lastly, once we know our students we can better understand how to teach them: what works for them and what doesn’t. We need to ensure our message from school doesn’t conflict with their messages from home. We need to consider their culture and their whole being proactively and not reactively. As an educator, this is what the seven experiences and my culturally responsive journey has taught me.

By Kim Betzold