Cultural competency and inclusivisity is a simple idea related to a very complex problem: recognizing the various cultures we all participate in and how those affect the ways we experience the world.
As men or women, straight or queer, Latin(x) or Asian, worth $12 or $12 million, baby boomers or gen x-ers, we all participate in many cultures, including many we don't think about - especially when in a position of privilege.
You may have heard about privilege in discussions of race or gender. It's the idea that certain characteristics that we may or may not possess, allow us to benefit from society in various ways. We all lack and carry myriad privileges. You have the privilege of living in a fairly safe country with a high degree of political stability. That gives you the ability to not have to worry about whether your speech will get you arrested or the next election will end in a coup. You might at the same time lack the privilege of physical health. That hinders your movement forwards and upwards through our society because of the many barriers the physically disabled experience. Privilege and its absence hurt all of us. How many exceptional people are left out of the metaphorical and literal conversation because they don't have the language skills to navigate all our systems?
We encourage you to examine the inherent biases and privileges you possess. Think about how you can confront these realities and keep working to break down any barriers the kids you're working with experience because, like you, they live intricate lives with innumerable factors pushing and pulling them every way. As adults our job is to provide the tools for kids to cope with these problems and the others that they will certainly face in the future. That's a tall order, and one you might not feel prepared to take on, but we've gathered some resources to help you create an inclusive, safe space for the students in your apprenticeship.
More than anything, remember we have (usually) two ears and one mouth - listen twice as much as you talk and you are guaranteed to learn some very interesting things about some very interesting people - OUR middle school students.
RESOURCES ON CULTURAL COMPETENCY:
The Professional Development section helps teachers understand diversity's role in the classroom and foster collaborative learning environments.
The National Education Association’s Online Resources for Culturally Responsive Practices focuses on how to implement effective strategies for diverse learners.