This past week I facilitated a workshop called “Exploring Culturally Competent Schools.” I came equipped with some thoughts and ideas, a bit of experience working through those and ideas in practice and in reflection, and lots of questions that continue to drive my development along an intentional path toward the target of cultural competency as an educational leader.
I began the session with an activity that came to me from a colleague who had recently attended a shared leadership conference. At the conference there was extensive dialogue about the power of story sharing. It turns out that in this overly-busy, lighting-fast world, taking that time share our stories with each other is an excellent way to get to know one another. Furthermore, it seems that the time spent engaged in intentional relationship building through the sharing of stories has potential to save us loads of time on the back end by perpetuating genuine and positive individual and collective progress. Who would have thought?
Educators work in a business of relationships. I can’t think of a more important piece of the educational puzzle than forming and maintaining genuine, collaborative relationships with all stakeholders. Through my focused work on the subject, I’m coming to understand cultural competency in education through the acronym ARC. The idea that we must move through awareness and responsiveness in order to get to sustained cultural competency is coming increasingly clear with each step along the path. Also, I’m coming to understand that we must be consistently asking ourselves some essential questions.
In what ways do we drive the development of partnerships with all stakeholders, including and especially students, in our schools? How do we dig at deep and meaningful connections in and outside of our classrooms? What relationships or communication challenges are we facing at the moment? Can we anticipate other related challenges down the road? If so, how might we adapt? What collaboration triumphs have we experienced? My experience, albeit relatively limited, tells me that open sharing of stories consistently enhances dialogue surrounding each of these, and other related questions. What questions might you ask yourself to dig at your cultural competency ARC?
Among the many rich discussion points that emerged at the workshop last week was the idea that we all have complex lives, rich with both personal and professional experiences actively contributing to our individual and unique worldviews. Indelibly linked to the Culturally Competent Schools dialogue is that it would take a lifetime of completely transparent and unencumbered dialogue to truly understand the complexities that contribute holistically to any persons’ worldview, and then another lifetime of the same to link those complexities to their outcomes. In other words, there’s a ton that we don’t know about one another. Even so, we often mistake our inlaid assumptions for real-time and accurate knowledge.
What happens when we maximize time spent on unfolding the stories that connect our experiences to our worldviews? What happens when we listen with intent and compassion? What happens when we’re purposeful with targeted efforts to preempt even some of the academic, social, and emotional challenges that lean on bias and misunderstandings as fuel? What happens when we truly take the time to get to know one another?
The next time you find yourself frustrated with confusing or convoluted communication highlighting an assumptive path, consider the ARC of Cultural Competency, and consider that digging into understanding through the sharing of stories could serve to enhance situational and long-term learning outcomes for everyone involved.
Bottom line…get to know people, it might just be the best way to serve them with genuine compassion.
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