ESL Newsletter

October, 2016

The topic of this month is cultural competence

American classrooms are becoming increasingly diverse. As NEA President Dennis Van Roekel has noted, “Educators with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to value the diversity among students will contribute to an educational system designed to serve all students well.”

Cultural competence is a key factor in enabling educators to be effective with students from cultures other than their own.

Cultural competence is having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each student unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. This understanding informs and expands teaching practices in the culturally competent educator’s classroom.

To be "culturally competent" one must...

  • Value Diversity. Accepting and respecting differences—different cultural backgrounds and customs, different ways of communicating, and different traditions and values.
  • Be Culturally Self-Aware. Culture—the sum total of an individual's experiences, knowledge, skills, beliefs, values, and interests—shapes educators' sense of who they are and where they fit in their family, school, community, and society.
  • Understand the Dynamics of Difference. Knowing what can go wrong in cross-cultural communication and how to respond to these situations.
  • Have Knowledge of Students' Culture. Educators must have some base knowledge of their students' culture so that student behaviors can be understood in their proper cultural context.

To better understand a student's culture, look beyond the surface level... check out the graphic below about the iceberg of culture:

Understanding the "unspoken" rules of culture can help us to understand why our students think/act a certain way and how we can connect better with them.
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Below are examples of diversity in cultural differences:

Many misunderstanding about student behavior and attitude occur due to differences in culture. Culture manifests itself most visibly with actions our students do in class and when interacting. See below for some common reasons as to why an ESL student might act differently than an American student. Be careful not to assume or interpret a behavior as disrespectful without making sure first!

Cultural Corner: Holidays in October

Upcoming Events

Check out many cultural events happening in our area by clicking HERE