“A culturally competent professional is one who is actively in the process of becoming aware of [their] own assumptions about human behavior, values, biases, preconceived notions, personal limitations, and so forth” (“What is cultural,” 2009).
As a future educator, I must develop the characteristics to be as culturally educated as possible, recognizing my own strengths and limitations in regard to cultural competence. I am aware of the controversial issues that arise from the diversity inherent in our local communities therefore it is important that I learn to better advocate for those that are left in the shadows. It is responsible and necessary for educators to be aware of human diversity, understanding how to utilize this knowledge to help students from all walks of life to succeed. In addition to building upon one’s knowledge about the various people who live within our society, it is irresponsible to fail to utilize this knowledge to advocate on behalf of individuals whom may be otherwise left in the shadows.
Recently, I took an exam in order to reflect on my own cultural competence. This exam was sectioned off in the following categories: awareness, knowledge, skills, and advocacy/action. I’ve gathered from the results of this assessment, that I am culturally competent in regard to building my own awareness and knowledge of diversity. When, reviewing how comfortable I am with people who have differing beliefs from my own, I am sensitive to the ideas of others yet am able to tactfully disagree as well when appropriate. I strive to research about other cultures, travel to foreign places, work with those with disabilities to better understand their situations, and find resources to better help those that have language and cognitive barriers preventing them from learning. This assessment helped confirm my strengths as a culturally competent individual although I am surprised (and a bit alarmed) at the resulting analysis of my advocacy. For example, I rarely stand up to co-workers and friends about racism, contribute to charities to help reduce racism in our local communities, am generally not self-aware of my employers’ efforts to reduce or eliminate racism in the workplace, and rarely research places that I patron to observe that I am not supporting an unjust cause. While my knowledge of cultural diversity is broad from an academic standpoint – and I will always need to expand on this knowledge – I now realize that there is even more that I should do to advocate on behalf of those that are left in the shadows.
I recommend that everyone, not just those in the field of education, test their own cultural competence. Americans live in a culture of white privilege and I am beginning to recognize that there is much more that I can do to facilitate that I am modeling exceptional behavior for my students. As referenced by Sink (2014), “as teachers, we hold power if we are from the culture of power” (p. 9). Being in a position of privilege, it is too easy to disregard the opportunities to ensure that I am advocating on behalf of those that are still struggling.
Sink, C. (2014, November ). Families and communities [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.screencast.com/t/HKXLfQAia
What is cultural competence? (2009). Retrieved from http://www.nols.edu/nolspro/pdf/wrmc/CulturalCompetenceandRiskManagementpdf-RobinChilesJenniConradAddenda.pdf