Commentary on Cultural Proficiency

For purposes of this slice, my definition of cultural proficiency is: The knowledge, skills, values, beliefs that enable effective interactions with those who differ from us.

How can one moment make you feel both so big and so small?

I gave a staff training on cultural proficiency to the whole staff today. Alone. When I shared the last slide, that big feeling came over me.

Then the weight of the day’s topics set in. I’m a white woman giving a presentation about respecting, amplifying, and understanding other cultures. What on earth did I do to earn this powerful role, dear reader?

Professional development always makes me feel this way. There are some amazing ideas I can practice right away, but why wasn’t I already practicing them in the first place? How are my biases making me an ineffective teacher? Are my own blind spots to certain cultures or belief systems affecting my interactions with innocent, impressionable children?

Upon reflecting, here is what I know about myself: I am an effective teacher. My students feel safe in my classroom. I have strategies and activities in place that celebrate my classroom’s families and help them understand other cultures. I am careful about my vocabulary in front of students – “difference” and “acceptance” have certain connotations, as if I am the person who grants the students the power to be on my team. As an ally to my school’s cultures, shouldn’t the power lie in the strength of my students as teammates? Shouldn’t I be the fan with my face painted in the stands?

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4 thoughts on “Commentary on Cultural Proficiency

  1. This is constantly on my mind, and not just because my inquiry project focuses around it. I am trying to find ways to empower my students to advocate for themselves, but they also need to know that they have their teachers and their peers to fall back on for support if things don’t work out as they wanted it, too. That’s where our environment and classroom culture come in. We have to help build it, I think, but once they take ownership, that is when we can step back and simply give them the tools to succeed.

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