In Austin ISD, our definition of cultural proficiency is “…when an adult understands that their personal culture and background impacts the students they work with.” Our definition of inclusiveness is “a way of being that shows respect, understanding and acceptance; in which diversity is valued as an asset within the AISD community.” Austin ISD has made a public commitment to cultural proficiency and inclusiveness throughout our district; indeed, it is the foundation of our SEL wheel.
Cultural proficiency is an inside-out approach to examining classroom practices and educational environments; it is the professional educator’s process of examining biases and lived experiences that filter interactions with students, families and colleagues. As we grow our cultural proficiency, we can create ever more culturally responsive classroom environments; working to ensure that every student who walks into our classrooms and schools throughout our district will find safety, connection, engagement, and challenge. Per the National Equity Project‘s definition of educational equity, we strive to:
- [Ensure] equally high outcomes for all participants in our educational system; removing the predictability of success or failures that currently correlates with any social or cultural factor
- [Interrupt] inequitable practices, [examine] biases, and [create] inclusive multicultural school environments for adults and children
- [Discover] and [cultivate] the unique gifts, talents and interests that every human possesses.
So, how do we do it?
Cultural proficiency is a complex personal journey, one that Austin ISD supports with a series of professional learning opportunities presented by and in collaboration with our Office of Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness. There are many relevant books that address cultural proficiency for educators, like this excellent list from the Corwin Press. And, of course, Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain offers a framework for developing classroom practices via self-reflection and a working understanding of neuroscience; check out her teaching style self-assessment chart!
Hammond also suggests classroom systems and practices that create the foundation for positive relationship building and safety. By increasing the brain’s connecting hormone, oxytocin, and decreasing its stress hormone, cortisol, we create environments conducive to learning with these trust-builders:
Want more concrete ways of building cultural responsiveness into your classroom? Check out this resource on designing a relationship-based learning environment!
Looking for more information on building cultural proficiency, increasing educational equity and actively working toward becoming an anti-racist educator?
- This National Equity Project article discusses Social and Emotional Learning and Equity
- Check out this Call to Action from the Aspen Institute
- Here are many ideas and thoughts about creating identity-safe classroom spaces and reducing stereotype threat
- Here and here are CASEL’s lists of resources for equity in education!
How will you build your own cultural proficiency and increase cultural responsiveness in your own educational environment? Let us know in the comments, share your favorite resources, and tag us on social media @austinisdsel! We’re grateful for you – Happy Thanksgiving!