Wyoming Education Association

Summer 2019

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24 Summer 2019 | wyoea.edu Why Cultural Competence? By Andrea Shipley and John Fabela Wyoming classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse and cultural competence is a key factor in enabling educators to be eff ective with students from all cultural backgrounds. Cultural competence is having an awareness and respect of one's own cultural identity as well as those that diff er from one's cultural identity. It also includes the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of each student and their family. It is the ability to understand the within-group diff erences that make each student unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. Understanding students' cultural backgrounds may be as important as understanding their dominant learning styles, and can inform and expands teaching practices in the culturally competent educator's classroom. Recently, WEA Northwest Region President John Fabela, with the help of the National Education Association, worked with the Powell School District to hold an in-service day devoted to improving educators' cultural competency. Fabela, a band teacher, incorporated lessons from "Culturally Responsive Teaching in Music Education, From Understanding to Application" by Vicki R. Lind and Constance L. McKoy. This book seeks to answer the question, "How can I teach music to my students in a way that is culturally responsive?" These are the three ways in which Lind and McKoy posit that educators can achieve this goal: 1. "Cultural competence" implies the capacity to function eff ectively within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities . In the context of education, cultural competence is refl ected in teachers who are able to function, communicate, and coexist eff ectively in settings with individuals who possess cultural knowledge and skills that diff er from their own. Additionally, culturally competent teachers affi rm the varied and unique cultural experiences, values, and knowledge their students bring to the classroom, and they use these resources as tools to teach more eff ectively, thereby increasing student learning and achievement. 2. Developing cultural competence requires that we get to know more about the culture of our students, learn about their worldview, and work to better understand their expectations for schooling. 3. Ultimately, the goal of culturally responsive pedagogy is to improve the academic experiences of all students by providing equitable experiences in the classroom. Cultural Competence matters because it may close the achievement gap for ethnic/racial minority students. Student achievement can be improved by incorporating racial, social and ethnic minority contributions in curriculum and diversifying pedagogical practices is the fi rst of many steps towards building the most productive learning environment for all students. Educators who have the ability to challenge and motivate diverse student populations can dramatically improve classroom learning and student outcomes. Fabela concluded by stating, "We are in this together for students. Learning about each other's diff erences and how to best create welcoming classrooms is an art. We must be willing to continue to learn from one another and promote safe and friendly learning environments. I am proud that my district was willing to embark on this learning opportunity together and that we are able to work out the kinks along the way." John Fabela and three other founding members of the WEA Hispanic Caucus. From left: Danelle Moyte, Johnna Nunez, John Fabela and Eva Linton. Lydia Rayfi eld is not pictured but is also a founding member of the caucus. John Fabela and three other founding members of the WEA Hispanic Caucus. From left: Danelle Moyte, Johnna Nuñez, John Fabela and Eva Linton. Lydia Rayfi eld is not pictured but is also a founding member of the caucus.

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