Monday, November 15, 2010

How to make a Culturally Proficient School

As I entered my school building this morning, I saw that it had transformed into a Christmas building over the weekend. Garlands hung on all the banisters, a huge Christmas tree was placed in the foyer, posters advertising Christmas and Santa were everywhere to be seen. Ironically, I am celebrating Eid this week and there was no mention of this anywhere (yet). I do work in a school where the majority of the population may be Christian; however, the overwhelming presence of one holiday represented over another took me by surprise. I have worked at this school for many years and do typically enjoy seeing it decorated. This year I was somewhat startled by my preliminary reaction.

It is true, I did grow up in North America and in this culture, and Christmas is everywhere. And I do know that non-Christians also celebrate Christmas in some way or form. My husband lived in Pakistan until he was 16 years old celebrated Eid there every year and it is a big deal (sometimes 3 days long). When I looked at the Christmas decorations around my building this year, I thought about the minority of students who do not celebrate Christmas. I thought about their reaction to their own holiday and the perception of their holiday that they would be bringing home to their parents.

Becoming a culturally proficient school may very well mean, treating each culture equitably. On Friday during our subject PD day, Maureen Smith (a professor at the University of Western Ontario) made a presentation on how we define culture. She spoke about the idea of “drive-by shooting” and that this concept of culture should not be how we integrate it into our classes. It should be woven into the fabric of the school every day, all the time. How can schools become more culturally proficient in what they do every day? Having an awareness and understanding of other cultures is a start. I grew up singing Christmas carols because that is what I learnt in school despite being non-Christian. Perhaps we need to start broadening our base and see all cultures in the school equitably represented.

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