[I wrote a piece for Edutopia about cultural competence. Here’s how it starts…]
We live in an increasingly pluralistic society where people run up against the thoughts and beliefs of others more and more frequently. Helping children learn to navigate the space between what they believe and what others believe is perhaps one of the best ways we can overcome the hate we see in so many facets of our society today.
Cultural competence isn’t tolerance. It’s not that easy. Cultural competence is not simply ensuring that your school has a rich and varied Black History Month or letting students start a Gay-Straight Alliance — although those can be powerfully important pieces of a culturally competent school. Cultural competence means first understanding, as educational leaders, that we come to school with our sense of who we are, and that unless we are reflective about our own identity and how it creates a lens through which we view the world, we will not be able to honor the identities of the students and faculty we serve.
But that is only the beginning of cultural competence. As we go through the process of understanding who we are and the place we occupy as administrators of our buildings, we also have to listen deeply to those around us — students, parents, faculty, and staff — to understand who they are and what their experiences are, so that we can relate to them fully as people, without preconceived notions of what it means to have an identity that is different — or even the same — as ours. And it means subjecting the processes of our schools to what we learn when we listen, always working to ensure that our schools are accessible to all, equitable for all.