Essentially, cultural competency describes our ability to form relationships with others from various cultures through a personal cultural perspective based on life experiences, attitudes towards various cultural differences, and understanding of different cultures.
Classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse and we need to move beyond anecdotal information about students’ and family backgrounds. Instead, engage in a deep and rich knowledge gathering process about our students to increase understanding about cultural diversity.
Diversity goes beyond language and ethnic differences. It also includes students living in poverty, homelessness, and other environments that are exceptional to the ‘norm’. We must also remember that within a given culture there is also diversity. For example, Aboriginal people are assumed to be one cultural group however this is not reflective of the reality as there are estimated to be nearly 65 different ethnic groups.
Educators need develop first an understanding of themselves as cultural beings and engage in a process of critical self-reflection of personal cultural perspectives. This process will surface individual biases and beliefs that have formed a current vision of diverse populations. Once the root is identified, work can begin to transform the past perspective into one that is culturally responsive.
Developing authentic relationships with students and families while exploring cultural backgrounds will help educators find ways and strategies to enhance each student’s strengths. Using an asset based approach students can celebrate and share their differences in the classroom to reduce stereotypes and biases.
Intentionally engaging in culturally responsive strategies both in the classroom and through professional development will move educators from being culturally aware to a place of transformative action.
Interested in the journey to develop skills in cultural competency? A Community of Practice for both teachers and support staff will be offered during the 2012-2013 school year. “We See, We Feel, We Change” is an exciting professional learning opportunity in partnership with Rocky View Schools, the Calgary Regional Consortium, and the University of Calgary.