Tool box

by Melissa Rodriguez

Cultural Competence

Classrooms are becoming more and more diverse, so it is important for educators to know how to effectively interact in a classroom with different cultures and background other then your own by becoming culturally aware and sensitive to others beliefs, background, and traditions. Teachers must create a learning environment that embraces and celebrates diversity. We need to learn about one's own culture and about other cultures and perspectives to better serve our students and community. Watch video for more information on how to implement cultural competence in your classroom

Topic One: Attachment, trust and parenting

For the first five years, all children need a primary caretaker who cares, responds, and meets the needs of the child in a sensitive, and affectionate manner in order for the child to have a secure attachment.  An infant with a secure attachment ensures survival and safety. When attachment is established, secure and confident to explore their world, be resilient to stress, and form meaningful relationships with themselves and others.  Although the child's primary caretakers is usually their natural mother it doesn't necessarily have to be, a father, or another relative or a non-relative can function in the role of primary caretaker.

Insecure attachment is formed when the child is constantly receiving failed communication between child and caretaker or the child's needs are not being met, or are inconsistent.  Some major causes can be child physical or emotional neglect, abuse, undiagnosed illness such as colic, lack of harmony between mother and child, poor parenting skills and more. Insecure attachment can affect their future relationships, self-esteem, self-control and mental and physical health. Children signs and symptoms of insecure attachment is needy, clingy, antisocial behavior, aggression, violence, difficulty with affection, lack of empathy, difficult learning, and more.

However, we need to be careful not to judge attachment issues due to cultural difference and beliefs.

Topic two: Building Self-Esteem

Self esteem is defined as how the individual perceives themselves and their ability to achieve. To promote self-esteem the adult needs to give honest feedback and encouragement than praise, give children the opportunity to experience success, and sometimes letting children learn from failure or letting children make mistakes so they can learn from them. However, with more positive experiences than negative experience children can build a healthy self-esteem.  

According to Stanley Coopersmith, a pioneer researcher, explains that self-esteem has four very important dimensions; significance, competence, power, and virtue. To develop a healthy self esteem children need to acquire some or all of the following characteristics: sense or security, and belonging, a sense of purpose, personal competence, sense of trust, sense of responsibility, sense of contribution, a sense of making realistic choices and decisions, a sense of self-discipline and self-control, encouragement, support and reward, accepting mistakes and failure, and sense of family self-esteem.

Topic three: Resilient children

Resilient children have psychological strength that are able to recover from misfortune. They have the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and stress. Resilient children will be able to cope and manage stressful situations or anxiety and perform better in school. They are able to take an active approach in problem solving, negotiating and communicating rather then a passive approach.  Emotional pain and sadness is common when we suffern loss and it is inevitable. Resilience children are able to overcome whatever obstacles life has given them and are able to have a fulfilling life.

Different ways you can show your students and parents that you value diversity on all levels

  • Get to know your students interest, learning style and families background.
  • Create an environment that is conducive to each individual student.
  • Learn to appreciate differences and the diversity students bring into the classroom
  • Bring in different people to the class as resources that students might be able to connect with. Students need role models.
  • Developing cultural sensitivity: Never tolerate bullying, teasing, and other put-down behavior at any time in the classroom.
  • Bringing home into classroom: Invite parents to be share their culture in someway for example bringing in different foods or clothing, speaking about their culture etc.
  • Reading Multicultural books and/or plan lesson and games that teach diversity

How you can communicate with families of various backgrounds and ways you can avoid potential pitfalls when communicating cross-culturally

Parental involvement is very important for the success of the child, so teachers need to establishing a good relationship with families. Teachers need to provide an open, accepting, understanding, and welcoming environment. This will open up communication so families and teachers can share two way information about their child, culture to create a connection between home and school. When there is open communication, teachers also learn more about the child and family values and can help avoid potential pitfalls when communication cross-culturally.

The use of effective communication builds trust between teachers and parents. When communicating face to face, greeting, tone of voice, gestures, looking people in the eye, smiling, listening attentively, asking correct questions, are all important factors to consider. Other forms of communication is by phone, and email. Also, through newsletter and websites. Teachers need to make sure that they answer every email, and phone call.

If there is a language barrier, make sure to provide translated handouts, and newsletter in their own language, also ask parents if they need a translator at parent teacher conferences. This will help with parental involvement and student success.

How are you going to increase your overall cultural awareness?

  • Embrace your background and culture.
  • Learn about students culture
  • Observe, listen, be open, respect and understand others.
  • Appreciate differences
  • Integrate parents of your children in a cultural day.
  • Create an environment/classroom that is welcoming and open
  • Plan and execute with your students in mind.

How you can help counteract any bias or prejudice towards a particular group

  • Multicultural approach - celebrate and embrace diversity and encourage children to accept and appreciate differences.
  • Reading books that are multicultural and diverse and making sure books do not have any stereotypical connotations.
  • Provide dolls, toys, wall decorations, video clips that are diverse.
  • Initiate activities to build positive self-identity support home language, value everyone's uniqueness, and sharing their culture.
  • Teach empathy.
  • Model appropriate behavior and actions.
  • Being fair and giving high expectation to all students equally.
  • Acknowledging your own biases, and unlearn them.

Specific Community Resources that may be available to parents and families in need; or resources that can help families and parents with particular needs

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