Reflection for CH.1 of Culturally Proficient Leaning Communities (by Lindsey, et aL):
My Current Practices
This made me think a lot about the ways in which I practice cultural proficiency. My students often have vastly different cultures than I do. Few are of my ethnicity, all of them are a different gender (I teach all boys, yet I’m female), many grew up near the San Diego border with its own cultural tensions while I grew up just outside of Berkeley in the ultra progressive Bay Area. In my own classroom I try to cultivate a climate of curiosity and explorations when it comes to cultures, but I often spend time on distant cultures or little known cultures in the world, trying to expand their horizons and expose them to new things. I don’t know that I really do enough to help them explore their own experience or their shared experiences.
This also lead me to thinking about a culture that nearly all my students share, yet differ at the same time: gang culture. Before working in the halls I knew about gang culture from TV and movies, and some experience living in cities and hearing stories, but nothing first hand. All of my current students are either in a gang, or struggling to avoid being tempted into joining. Although each gang is different, and serves different demographics, aspects of the gang mentality in general are very much the same. Many would say this is one of the only examples of when a culture should not be accepted, but I feel like understanding it and the motivations present within it could benefit my work with my students. It definitely requires a closer look. As educators, how do we acknowledge a culture without encouraging the negative actions that tend to come with it? Or can we?
My district has held professional development for addressing cultural proficiency, and it was an intense 3 days. It was uncomfortable at first, and many people felt blamed or misunderstood, but by the end I did feel we had come a long way in understanding each other and biases and how they affect our kids. Little has been done about it since though, and the statement from Lindsey that stuck out to me was, “the intent of cultural proficiency is to use interventions such as structural changes as a first step in a well-planned effort to transform schools with diverse populations.” It cannot be the only step, but one of many. The “well-planned effort” is so important to long term change.
Lindsey, D. (2009). 1: Getting Centered-The Tools of Cultural Proficency. In Culturally proficient learning communities confronting inequities through collaborative curiosity (pp. 3-20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.