I was once so inspired by a lecturer that I was unknowingly shaking my head left and right back like I was saying "no." The lecturer stopped his lecture, and said in a condescending tone, "I don't know why SOME of you are shaking your heads in disagreement. I know I'm right." I smiled hoping he would give me a chance to respond or explain, but, perhaps because it was a large class, he continued lecturing without opening up for any questions or comments. I tried to approach him after class to explain, but other students had already surrounded him. I eventually left.
What that professor failed to understand is that in African-American culture, when someone is saying something that we believe is profound, we sometimes shake our heads back and forth in amazement. Even though it looks like we are saying "no," we are really saying, "WOW!" Or "YES!!!"
As brilliant as that professor was, he lacked awareness about my culture, and he made me feel as though my way of expressing appreciation was not normal, acceptable or welcome in his class. He thereby created distance with me.
Teacher, if you are not aware of your students' cultures, you could unintentionally and unknowingly be pushing them away. Humble yourself and become student of your students. #REACH