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One of the most important skills preservice teachers must develop is their ability to build on the knowledge that students bring into classrooms, particularly the knowledge that is shaped by their family, community, and cultural histories. Teacher educators prepare preservice teachers to enter the profession with up-to-date knowledge and skills for improving reading, writing, math, assessment, and other essential components to create excellent schools and responsive classrooms; yet, few prepare teachers to work with racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse students, families, and communities. While teacher educators may agree that parents are important participants in the educational process, they need to move beyond simply acknowledging the importance of parents to accepting the responsibility for preparing preservice teachers to understand the importance of engaging parents in their child’s education and possess the skills to do so. In this article, the authors present a variety of strategies that teacher educators can employ to assist preservice teachers in working with families and children from cultural, ethnic, linguistic, racial, and social-class backgrounds different than their own.
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