Why It Matters Now More Than Ever
Culturally competent teachers are not only aware of how culture shapes society, but they take action in becoming better stewards of intercultural communication and agents of change in the field of education. What exactly does it mean to develop cultural competence and why does it matter in your classroom?
For teachers, cultural competence starts with knowing yourself and your own culture so that you can reflect on how that plays out in your classroom. This belief stems from the concept of Cultural Relativism, which suggests that the way we understand our own beliefs and behaviors is through the lens of another culture, rather than our own. Teaching requires a high level of self-reflection. The best teachers are the best because they know themselves and their strengths and growth areas. Educators who model life-long learning are those who adopt a curiosity about the world as well as humility.
As an educator wanting to improve in this area, you can study other cultures as well as your own. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos. Culturally competent teachers tend to be better with classroom management, have a strong sense of community, and have respect built into their classroom culture. Maybe you have a large Hispanic population in your school. Draw from your students’ background first in your studies. Tell your students what you are learning and ask them about certain traditions, the food they enjoy, and how their families celebrate certain holidays. There are many ways to build your awareness and appreciation for other cultures as a teacher.
The second part of developing greater cultural competence is how you get to know your students and their cultural backgrounds. Teachers who can better connect with their students on a personal level are the teachers who help their students grow the most. Engage in conversations about the cultures you all interact with daily to stimulate their curiosity. You, as the teacher, get to foster students’ sense of curiosity about other students. Curious students are those who build community and connect rather than divide in our classrooms. Young people need to be taught how to interact respectfully and appropriately, especially when it comes to cultural and behavioral differences.
You can be a change agent by incorporating more culturally responsive teaching in your school. Your students’ lives and yours will be positively impacted for years to come!