In order to find information to answer the question of whether or not leader keys training address cultural competency, I interviewed an assistant principal at a school. Before the interview, I decided to familiarize myself with the definition of cultural competency. Cultural competency refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures (Taylor, 1996). Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) attitude towards cultural differences, (c) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures (Von Bergen, Soper, & Foster, 2002).
Once I had a firm understanding of the term cultural competency, I decided to develop four questions to direct the interviewing process. The questions I developed are: 1) what does cultural competency mean to you? 2) was cultural competency part of the training you received in your leader keys training? 3) how long was the leader keys training? was it a one shot training or a continuous training? 4) how important is cultural awareness when evaluating educators in a diverse society like ours?
I contacted three assistant principals at two different schools in the Atlanta Metro area. One of the three agreed to meet me at a Starbucks coffee shop for an interview. I sent the interview questions to the interviewee three days prior to our meeting. The interview responses and my analysis of those responses are included below.
When responding to the question “what does cultural competency mean to you?” the assistant principal described “cultural competency as the ability one has to understand others’ world view. She continued by saying….It is my understanding of others and how they view education and the process of educating students.” While I agree with the assistant principals’ understanding of the term cultural competency, I however, believe that cultural competency is more than understanding other people’s world views. My opinion is that, cultural competency is about understanding your own cultural and world view first and being strong enough not to impose your world view onto others. In addition, it is also important to have the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interacting with people from other culture without showing elements of prejudice.
When asked whether cultural competency was part of the leader keys training, the assistant principal flatly said, it wasn’t. According to her, leader keys training takes only one week. She added, there are refresher meeting and follow-ups during the course of the year. She added that all leaders do receive a cultural competency training, however, in other types of mandatory district training such as the sexual abuse training, computer competency training, and others. I feel as though cultural competency training should be a part and parcel of the overall leader keys training. Currently, the educator population in the U.S is increasing becoming diverse. It is becoming an amalgam of different cultural and world views. For a leader to be effective at communicating, interacting, and evaluating a diverse workforce of educators, cultural competency should be a mandatory part of the leader keys training in my views.
Lastly, while addressing the question “how important is cultural awareness when evaluating educators in a diverse society like ours?” The administrator did not think that this was important. She argued that best teaching practices are the same across cultures. According to her, culture has little to do with best practices. Therefore, when she is evaluating teachers; background, culture, and world view of the educator are irrelevant. Her only interest is to see how the educator is using best practices in curriculum and instruction. In my views, it is sometimes much easier to use the “one size fits all” when it comes to differentiating evaluations. If we ask educators to differentiate instruction, we as leaders should be able to do the same when evaluating educators’ practices. When we fail to do that, it isn’t painting a good picture of our expectations on others. Lamping everyone in one group, makes the work of evaluating educators much easier. On the contrary, I believe culture, world view, and background are important variables and needs to be included in an evaluation. A good understanding of others’ cultures, world views, and backgrounds would make the Teacher Keys Evaluation System (TKES) a better evaluation instrument overall.