Thursday, April 12, 2018

Culturally proficient people, culturally proficient schools

A couple of months ago I wrote several blog posts about a book I was reading called The Culture Map.  Now I'm digging a little deeper into Fran Prolman's book Building Your Instructional Leadership.  I find culture such a fascinating area, working in an international school we talk a lot about international mindedness but it needs to go much deeper than having Festival of Nations days where people get dressed up, wave flags and eat from from various countries.  Culture is evidenced in many ways:  gender, geographic origin, history, ancestry, language, occupation, physical characteristics, disabilities, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on.  People who are culturally proficient try to understand what it is like to walk in someone else's shoes.  A culturally proficient school is inclusive, respectful and knowledgeable.

One thing that does not help cultural proficiency is "colour-blindness".  Often you hear people saying "I treat everyone the same" as if this is some sort of a virtue.  Colour-blindedness is definitely not that!  Treating everyone the same, regardless of their heritage, culture and so on is to ignore or not to acknowledge or welcome our differences.  It's almost like saying that individual needs will not be addressed.  There's a big difference between treating everyone the same and treating everyone fairly.  Schools that don't embrace cultural proficiency fail to address inequity.  In such schools, some students may adopt the behaviours of academic dependence.  Moving towards independence involves teaching and practicing various habits of mind such as using all your resources, practicing perseverance and embracing active engagement such as peer problem solving.  This helps all students to be ready for rigour and independent learning, taking risks and taking agency and ownership for their own learning.

Celebrating diversity as a way of continuous learning and broadening of perspectives is at the heart of cultural proficiency.  It's a way of getting a clear sense of your own culture, as well as knowledge of others.

Photo Credit: saaleha Flickr via Compfight cc

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