I fear that far too many educators and educational leaders are not prepared to respond to the heartache and expressions of despair that may come from our students of color, especially in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing civil unrest. Asher wrote a paragraph for his teacher early this spring about his dream job as a firefighter. Since George Floyd’s murder in May, he sits with confusion, a heavy heart and fear while reconsidering what he might be when he grows up.

Our schools must require educators to learn how to engage effectively with people of different backgrounds. Without that preparation, our students will not feel their identities are valued and affirmed. We, as educators, many not have control over what happens on the world scene but we can control what happens within the walls of our schools.

Teachers must learn to embrace diversity and recognize that cultural differences are assets, not barriers. If we want school culture and climate to be affirming for all, then we must have teachers who are caring, empathetic, culturally responsive adults available to guide, support and uplift our students.

There also must be leaders who will courageously enter into crucial conversations with other adults on campus whose behaviors are not reflective of the mission to support equity and access.

I have had the opportunity to work in a district that offered access to a professional learning community that focused on embracing diversity, that is, cultural proficiency. However, even though the district provided this choice and expressed its value by way of mission and vision statements, there were many who chose not to opt-in. They remain ill-equipped to handle students of diverse ethnicities, racial identities and cultures.

Read the full article about cultural proficiency in education by Tamra Simpson at EdSource.