A Cultural Proficiency Journey

Posted on: Thu, 03/15/2018 - 09:00

What is cultural proficiency? How does it impact our daily work and thinking?

For 3 years, members of our Accelerating Achievement and Equity department have been training FCPS leaders in cultural proficiency. Cultural proficiency is a key component of FCPS’s commitment to educational excellence. Its main goal is to promote student achievement and equity through culturally responsive classroom practices and resources that best meet the needs of a diverse student population. We want students to become empowered learners and to understand and appreciate our community’s diverse cultures. Cultural proficiency prepares students to live, learn and participate productively in our increasingly diverse society. Being culturally aware is a continuous, integrated, multi-ethnic, multi-disciplinary process necessary for all students to become college and career ready.

However, for me this training has been a personal journey of reflection—trying to understand how my personal traits, background, and experiences impact my perspective and recognizing the same happens for others. It has taught me to examine a situation from various perspectives by truly listening to the stories of people in order to fully understand their perspective.

The training we have engaged in as leaders of FCPS has provided an opportunity to share stories of our experiences, to unpack assumptions, and to candidly discuss implicit bias. So often, I learn that just when I think I truly know or understand, there is so much more to unpack! These cultural proficiency sessions have caused me to watch movies and read books differently by constantly seeking to understand the different perspectives the characters exemplify.

Most importantly, this cultural proficiency journey has impacted my work. Every interaction becomes an opportunity for reflection. Candid dialogue with my colleagues based on various perspectives occurs more often as we discuss issues, propose solutions, and make decisions. This is the beauty and power of embracing diversity!

A few weeks ago, I received a compelling letter from a high school student.  As she described her experiences in a diverse school, I realized that for many of our young people, their cultural proficiency journey is lived every day in school. Next week, her letter will be featured in this blog as a perfect example of what living cultural proficiency can mean. It touched me deeply, and I hope it does the same for you.

Have you participated in cultural proficiency training? What strategies do you use to reflect on and understand diverse cultures? Tell me about it on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.