When I first started this blog, I wasn’t sure what direction it was going to move in. At first, I just wanted to share things that I had learned through my experiences and professional development, especially considering the lacking background of general and content educators in regards to ELL education. Yet, every time I posted, I felt a little more pretentious than the previous day. Often, I would stare at my screen trying to find ways of sharing that wouldn’t sound off-putting. Now, as I am writing, I strive to maintain that this is simply my point of view. My perspective placed out in the world for others to read. This is just one of my own mindset changes that I have had over the course of the last 2 years.
In fact, I have made many realizations and mindset changes even in the last 24 hours. One is that my blood boils far too easily, but the other is that we need to make changes in how to explain concepts to people as advocates of social justice and racial equity. In the past 12 hours, I have seen two articles that are both personally infuriating, and largely telling of just how many social justice concepts are being twisted or reported incorrectly out there. So, in regards to one of those posts, today I would like to define, or explain rather, why most schools have moved to teaching cultural competency in response to racial inequity in discipline practices, as I have come to comprehend it through my own schema.
Imagine you are on a train in South Korea traveling to your next destination. You are excited to have finally landed and you just want to get some sleep. As your train stops and you gather your things, a random person bumps into you, knocking all of your items out of your hand and your luggage slides down a bit. The person who bumps into you says nothing. No sorry, no excuse me, nothing at all and walks away off the train never to be seen or heard from again. You stand there as an American, highly offended and start to develop a stereotype for Koreans as rude while you pick your things up and leave the train.
In Korean culture, you don’t apologize to people you don’t know. That doesn’t make them rude. It just means that it’s different from our culture where we overly apologize for things we probably shouldn’t even apologize for.
So what does this have to do with cultural competency in the good ole USA? Everything. We are not just functioning in one big fat American culture. We are made up of many subcultures and ways of processing things. When you assume that your culture is THE correct culture, you will take offense at those little culture bumps everywhere you turn. This turns into things like over reporting black students for discipline infractions when that may not have been their intent. It turns into viewing behaviors as negative if they don’t fit into your schema of good behaviors. It turns into you blaming everyone else for offending you.
I’m not saying I have an answer as to how to come to grips with culture bumps. But something that usually helps is having an understanding of where another person is coming from as an individual as well as a cultured human being before you go flying off the handle and blaming restorative practices as the number 1 thing killing this country. As teachers, we are facing a multitude of cultures and influences in our students in how they think, act, and respond to their environments. We see those differences every day. I wish more people would try to see those as well.