What is Cultural Proficiency?

posted: 09/01/17
by: Molly Moran

Every back to school season brings new back to school jargon. With constant changes to curriculum and learning development methods, it can be overwhelming for parents to keep up with the latest and greatest techniques being implemented in their child's classroom. While it may be easy to let most of these go in one ear and out the other, there is one term every parent should know--cultural proficiency.

So, what exactly does it mean to be in a culturally proficient school? Quite simply, it means the staff is being trained on how to maneuver and mediate a diverse classroom in order to better serve students from all backgrounds. R.B. Lindsey, author of Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School Leaders breaks it down into five essential elements:

Assessing culture
It's important for teachers to claim their culture and recognize how it affects others. Educators who are able to understand how their background and cultural norms function within society have a self-awareness that is crucial to leading a class full of diverse students.

Valuing Diversity
Every culture has its own set of values that may not align with others. For this reason, it's important for culturally proficient teachers to identify that students from different backgrounds may have different responses to their environment that could easily be deemed 'inappropriate.' Instead, teachers should recognize these differences as diversity--and celebrate them.

Managing the Dynamics of Difference
Conflicts are inevitable in the presence of diversity. Instead of ignoring or dismissing them, culturally proficient teachers learn effective methods to resolve these clashes. One of the biggest things for teachers to take into consideration is how historic distrust may play into these encounters and how their own learned experiences may cause them to misjudge students.

Adapting to Diversity
While conflict is healthy, changes can also be made to diffuse cultural clashes. In order to do this, schools need to develop intercultural communication skills that can be implemented across the administration, staff, and students.

Institutionalize Cultural Knowledge
Lastly, cultural knowledge needs to become a mainstream topic in education. This means teachers need to teach the origins of stereotypes and prejudices. Having open lines of communication about diversity should be a pillar of all classrooms. The earlier these conversations start happening, the more equipped the kids are to navigate culturally charged situations.

In such a politically charged climate, we love to see schools taking initiative to make children of all backgrounds and walks of life have a safe and positive place to grow and learn every day. How do you implement cultural proficiency at home? Leave your tips to discussing diversity with your kids in the comments or Tweet us at @TLCmeNow!