Cultural Competence

I really enjoyed taking the Sue and Sue cultural competence evaluation as it was a valuable experience in seeing my own progression in becoming a culturally competent educator.  The notion Sue and Sue has on the issue of becoming culturally competent incorporates four major components: awareness, knowledge, skills, and advocacy. Through the evaluation I was able to gain insight on what my strengths are as well as areas which will need continued improvement. Nevertheless, it is always important to remember that areas of strength should not be overlooked; all areas will need continuous work in order to become culturally competent. Sue and Sue states that cultural competence is “active, developmental, an ongoing process and is aspirational rather than achieved”. It is not a passive process and will require continuous effort in order to support the diverse student population. In becoming more culturally competent, I am better equipped to be effective with all students.

I view myself as being aware and sensitive to my cultural background and in valuing and respecting differences with other cultures. I am respectful of those differences and feel very comfortable around those who may view things differently than me. This respect and comfort level is because of the effort I put forward to view others as individuals. Likewise, it is a personal goal of mine to move past the stereotypes and biases I have instilled, as I know these assumptions are misguided. Many times it may be unintentional – this is why it is so important to be more aware that this thought process is even occurring. In order to promote growth, I will incorporate the traditions, values, and opinions of different cultures to gain knowledge. I will become more aware and respectful of how mine and my student’s culture may affect learning in the classroom.

I feel that my knowledge of cultural competence has improved the drastically in the past year. This is largely due to taking the course diversity in America, which has created me to become more actively involved in understanding diverse populations. The Isik-Ercan (2010) article emphasizes the importance of parent involvement and the knowledge which can be gained. Knowledge doesn’t just involved reading about a culture, but must be done actively. This can be achieved by reaching out to students and parents so that a better understanding may occur. I would like to continue to study and learn about various cultures in order to better equip me as a teacher.

Skills of cultural competence possess the ability to practice appropriate, relevant, and sensitive strategies and skills in working with diverse students. This is especially important in adapting my own teaching styles to fit with how a student may or may not learn. One student may respond to a particular teaching style more effectively than another. Thus, it is crucial to be knowledgeable and comfortable in implanting and teaching through various styles and methods. Growth in skills of cultural competence can be developed through the consultation with others, participation in professional development, and the willingness to seek help when needed. I know I will be relying on my colleagues when I begin teaching when limitations may occur. Furthermore, I will utilize professional development opportunities to further develop my skills.

My weakest area is in advocacy, mainly due to the fact that I have little experience leading a classroom. Many of the issues I have not encountered yet and for this reason most of my advocacy answers were “never” done. I hope to be an advocate for racial issues not just pertaining to myself – but to advocate whenever any racial situations occur. Additionally, I would like to advocate and take action on issues of cultural relevant curriculum and the identification of bias materials. Finally, I hope to have opportunities to actively engage my students in conversation of race and social issues. Simple conversation can help support individuals point of views to be expressed and understood. This in turn will create a safe environment where students are aware, knowledgeable, and respectful of those differences. Many times issues of race, social class, or gender arise because of a misunderstanding. Actively advocating on behalf of the needs of my students will create a culture of respect and equity.

The development of my cultural competence is an ongoing process that is not achieved but a goal to aspire towards. This process must be actively done, seeking the best measures to better understand students. I hope to continue and develop my cultural competence in all four areas of awareness, knowledge, skill, and advocacy.

Isik-Ercan, Z. (2010). Looking at school from the house window: Learning from turkish-american parents’ experience with early elementary education in the United States. Early Childhood Education, 38, 133-142.

My Personal MCE Manifesto

According to Banks (1996) multicultural education has five interrelated dimensions: content integration, knowledge construction process, prejudice reduction, equity pedagogy, and an empowering school culture and social structure (pp. 336-338). I feel that these five dimensions are strong foundational pieces in creating my personal MCE manifesto.

Content Integration:

  • I will use examples and content from diverse ethnic and cultural groups.
  • I will use culturally relevant curriculum and material that reflects my students’ racial backgrounds.
  • Furthermore, using a diverse curriculum will allow for the opportunity to view ideas, history, and social relations in new perspectives.
  • I will recognize that learning is strongly influenced by cultural background. I will utilize their background in the learning process. This is to establish a connection between the curriculum and the students own experiences.

Knowledge Construction Process:

  • I will teach transformative knowledge. In order to help students understand how knowledge is constructed and how the creators experiences, values, and perspectives are reflected. I will also use multiple perspectives to portray the viewpoints of various cultures.
  • I will help my students construct their own knowledge and point of view. This will be achieved through cooperative learning, discussions, and problem solving.
  • I will promote and maintain high standards and expectations regardless of ethnic, cultural, or language background.

Prejudice Reduction:

  • I will be aware of my own bias and how it may affect my opinions, perspectives, and most importantly how I communicate or interact with my students.
  • I will identify and dispel the stereotypes and biases used by the students. In addition, I will recognize the stereotypes within lectures and/or textbooks.

Equity Pedagogy:

  • I will modify my teaching to equally adapt to the needs of my diverse classroom in order to facilitate academic achievement.
  • I will create a culturally compatible learning environment for each student.
  • I will respects the students for who they truly are – where they came from, what they wear, or how they look like will not affect my teaching.

Empowering School Culture and Social Structure:

  • I will promote and encourage equity for all students. This is not limited to within the classroom, but throughout the school as well.
  • I will create a safe and comfortable learning environment, where students are able to culturally express themselves without any fears.
  • I will empower students to be confident and proud of their cultural heritage and to not be ashamed in showing it.

Banks, J. A. (1996). Transformative knowledge, curriculum, reform, and action. In J.A. Banks (Ed.), Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge, and Action (pp. 335-348). New York, NY: Teacher College Press.

Reflection 3: Diversity in America

The notion of individualistic and collectivistic stems from the ideals of Geert Hofstede and refers to his dimensions of culture. According to Hofstede’s (n.d.) individualism is “a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only” and collectivism is “a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty”.

If I were to choose one or the other, I think that I personally fit more into the category of collectivism. The main reason I believe I fall into this category is because I view myself as an active player in society, trying to do what is best for the entire group. Furthermore, I strongly feel it is more effective to work cooperatively in groups with others because of the support gained from each individual. The more people working towards a common goal, the more successful of an outcome can be achieved. In addition, working in groups allow for more opportunity to collaborate and learn from others who may be more skilled in certain areas.

There are also personality types that are more consistent with the particular group. Collectivists are usually more trustworthy, generous, and sensitive, which all are helpful in working in groups. Individualists tend to be more assertive and strong which is helpful for competition. Again I am more collectivistic as I view trust, being generous, and showing sensitivity more important than assertiveness and competitiveness. It is not to say that I view the individualistic framework less important than collectivistic, it is that I fall into the collectivism more definitively. Ultimately when it comes down to the root of individualism versus collectivism, it has to do with a self-mindset of either “I” or “we”. Based upon how I view myself, my family, and the society around me as a whole – I fit the “we” attitude rather than the “I” mindset.

When I look at the ideals of a collectivistic approach, I can see several benefits this method would have. Consequently there may be some concerns that could arise within my teaching practice because of the same approach. Beginning with the benefits – I would have to say that as an aspiring elementary teacher there is a strong importance to collaborate and learn from other teachers. Especially starting in a new school with students who you know little to none about, it can be beneficial to talk with their previous teachers. Also general discussion of teaching strategies, curriculum practices, and general school information can be instrumental for a beginning teacher to feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar situation. In addition, I think that having a sensitive and trustworthy attitude especially towards diverse cultures will create a safe learning environment for each student.

An area where issues may arise is if teachers are not assertive enough in classrooms to maintain order and compliance. It is important to show confidence and strength to gain the respect of your class. Also there may be conflicts of personality groups, in which some students may benefit more with an individualistic approach. Specific students tend to work better on their own, just as specific students prefer working in groups. In a classroom setting it is important to promote self-reliance – students should be able to complete projects and tasks on their own. Caution should be noted with overly self-reliant individuals, where they may find it difficult to seek help especially from other classmates. Likewise, having too much of an emphasis on group work can promote students to rely heavily on others for completing the assignments. When group work arises, students should be able to effectively work together, while respecting all members.

The impact of having either an individualistic or collectivistic approach on teaching practices can affect the way I relate with my students. It is important to become aware of my collective cultural views and how it can hinder my teaching methods. As an educator, it is important to not heavily lean on one approach but to promote and expand aspects of each. It is likewise important for students to understand and incorporate aspects of both individualism and collectivism in their studies.

Geert Hofstede. (n.d.). Geert Hofstede. In Dimensions. Retrieved October 31, 2012, from http://geert-hofstede.com/dimensions.html.

Reflection 2: Diversity in America

Mary McLeod Bethune made contributions during her lifetime in the areas of feminism, transformative education, and social activism during the early twentieth century. Bethune’s first impact to education was when she became heavily involved in the women’s club movement. The Black women’s club emerged because of the growing need in the African American community to resist the effect of racism. Bethune later founded the Nation Council of Negro Women which used newsletters and journals to unite African American women for social action for the first time in U.S. history at a national level. The focus of the council was to end educational segregation, lynching, and discrimination of voting rights. Bethune’s educational philosophy was head, hand, and heart which manifested in her school and throughout her life. The curriculum Bethune practiced emphasized on vocational skills to enable the students to find jobs but at the same time should educate the African American youth to take their place alongside the White intellectuals. A proper education for African Americans must include race-pride and race-consciousness in addition to skills to get along with White people. More specifically Bethune viewed the education of African American girls was the key to equality. Bethune became actively involved in doing whatever it takes to better the lives of African American girls and women.

Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in the fight to end racial abuse to African Americans from the hands of American democracy. Without knowing, Roosevelt’s support for Marian Anderson was instrumental in the New Deal – this was to end the Jim Crow social practices in the nation’s capital. Anderson had accepted Howard University’s request in playing a benefit performance, but because of Anderson’s popularity the concert could not be held on school campus. The university applied for a contracted space at Constitution Hall but was rejected because the hall had a policy not to rent to Black artists. Roosevelt supported Howard University and Anderson but the manner in which Roosevelt did this was amazing. Roosevelt strategically supported Anderson without upstaging the local community or upsetting southern Democrats. Roosevelt publicly supported Anderson and always made calculated moves in order to effectively support her commitment. Ultimately Roosevelt wanted to education the population of the mistreating of African Americans in our country. Roosevelt believed that education was a cure for the evils of racism.

I believe that there is currently a gender gap within our society today. Currently the dropout rates, grades, and many tests scores show boys faring poorly compared to girls. The case used to be that women needed a college degree more than men but that is not the case. Men and women wages may differentiate at a similar position but a raise in earnings for a degree is almost the same. It is important to continue to motivate each gender. In addition, teachers need to be educated and sensitive to gender issues while being equal in teaching both genders. Many times teachers will award students based on gender – for example the highest scoring boy and girl will get a prize. As educators we need to move away from the notion of boy and girl and view them as equals. Another striking area is that women make up almost 60% of college graduates, yet we commonly see males serving the administrative roles of principles, superintendents, or commissioners of education. This is surprising because women make up the vast majority of teachers throughout the country. Obviously this is not always the case but more times than not, this can be visible. There are many theories on why there is still a gender gap and ways in which we can combat these issues. An issue may be the fact that there is a lack of female role models in the executive world. Also there are still many stereotypes affecting how society views gender roles in any sort of environment. In the classroom setting, women may be succeeding more but society still is favoring men in the corporate world.

Personal Background Story

My family dynamic consists primarily of Japanese heritage, where my father is full Japanese and my mother is half Japanese and half Norwegian. My mother was born in Japan but came over to live in the states when she decided to attend an American college. My father is a third generation Japanese immigrant. I have a brother who is two years older. We have completely different interests, and this was even apparent while we were growing up. During my youth, I participated in various sports and was a three sport athlete in high school. My brother went with the route of wanting a nice car with the bass system and he always had to have the designer clothes. Even though my family has strong Japanese ties, we lived a very American lifestyle except for a few Japanese customs.

My parents never emphasized issues of race especially being of Asian descent but placed value of education and doing the best.  I remember one incident when I was in the fourth grade and my brother mentioned that one of my best friends was adopted. I argued with my brother that he was not adopted and that his parents were his “real” parents. I never realized or made the connection that my friend was Korean and his parents were white, which might imply that he was adopted. It had never occurred to me until that day when my mom said to me, “Your brother is right, your friend is adopted.” Growing up I never viewed myself or others by race but as individuals and I know a lot of this was because of the efforts my parents placed on loving and accepting everyone and not isolating us in the Japanese customs/community.

The neighborhood which I grew up in was not very diverse as it primarily consisted of middle-class Caucasian families. It was a small cul-de-sac and every family new each other well and would look after another.  My first experience of a diverse atmosphere was in elementary school where I was in the challenged/privileged program. I was with basically the same students from first through sixth grade. The program attracted a diverse group of families wanting to give their child the best education possible. Thinking back upon it now, white students may have been the minority in my elementary classroom. The school itself was mainly middle-class, white families but there was a fair share of other ethnic groups.

From junior high on I enrolled at a private Christian school. Not only was the school considered academically superior to many of the local public schools, but athletically was superior as well. The majority of the rival schools were small public schools located in the outskirts of larger cities. Many of these schools’ facilities were not up to the standard that I was used to and because of this I began to judge them. Not based upon the individuals but on how nice or run-down the schools were or how they were at sports. I started to think that I was more superior to these other schools students, not only athletically but academically as well. This thought process even occurred during my elementary days, when the challenged students, including myself, would make fun of the non- challenged students. I had shifted from my naive views as a child to becoming bias because of the opportunities I was given. I had forgotten that the individuals make the school and the schools do not make the individuals.

I believe that both a bias and a lack of bias can influence my approach as an educator. I think it is most important to realize these biases and not overlook them. By realizing my biases, I can then become more aware and use my education and knowledge as a platform for my biases in becoming a teaching advantage rather than a hindrance. I may find myself teaching in an underprivileged school someday, and this definitely does not make the students less capable.  Reverting back to my childhood days of viewing others as individuals and not by race or social status will help me be more equipped as an educator.  I feel like I will better understand and connect with my future students due to my schooling, the diversity within my classrooms and my parental upbringing.