Cultural proficiency makes it possible for both individuals and organizations to effectively interact with people who are different from them. It is under this umbrella that cultural diversity occurs and encompasses factors such as race, gender and sexual orientation. Other cultural differences such as social economic status, class, religious orientation, language and political views too fall under cultural diversity. Cultural proficiency in schools entails the teaching of students who are different from the teacher. It has been a common belief that public schools provide an ample environment where most students are made responsible citizens. The schools become home for children with different cultural backgrounds. Cultural inferiority comes in when these differences are used as criteria for discriminating children from the inferior group (Nelson & Guerra 2008 p. 3).
There are five essential elements that contribute to a schools cultural proficiency. These elements are value diversity, cultural self-assessment capability, consciousness for the dynamics that occur when cultures interact, institutionalized cultural knowledge and development of a service delivery that would show that the school understands diversity between and within cultures. The school where I work has laid down measures to ensure cultural proficient values and behaviors are adhered to by the students, teaching and the non-teaching staff (Delores 2007 p.18).
Within the school, diversity is accepted and highly respected. The school has established a program that focuses on empowering families through an arrangement in which parents interact with teachers in weekly dinners. The dinner is hosted by a different family each week. Under this ten week program, families are a representative of various cultural diversities. This program is aimed at creating respect between the families and the school staff. Another program in the school involves retreats for the teachers and the children. This program is aimed at dispelling the 'blame' behavior for the children. The program further is aimed at cultivating self-accountability among the children. Those participating get an opportunity to appreciate and respect cultural perceptions and differences. It is thus evident that these two programs help increase acceptance and the respect for the cultural differences.
The school has processes through which the teachers and students are able to see how the activities they undertake influence each other. The school has hired consultants who use surveys to help the staff reflect on their cultural assumptions and how these ignored assumptions affects those they interact with. The consultants within this program thus are able to facilitate continuous process of assessment which helps in the development of cultural competency.
Consciousness of the dynamics of cultural interactions
With various factors affecting cross-cultural interactions, the school's ten week dinner program further comes into handy in trying to address and create awareness of cultural diversity. The program, which is hosted by a different family each week, is focused on improving the functioning of families. During these dinners, informal clothing is worn and cultural titles used in discussions. This program equips the staff with a very vital cross-cultural intervention.
Institutionalization of cultural knowledge
The school further makes sure that the knowledge culture and cultural dynamics is made part of its knowledge base. To accomplish this, the school has established training of the staff on effective use of these knowledge, policies responsive to cultural diversity have been laid down and teaching reflect positively on the images of all cultures.
Adapt to diversity
The school administration encourages us teachers to make use of the students' cultural backgrounds to create interventions to invoke a sense of duty in them.
Professionals in a work place understand cultural proficiency differently. Most take it as a way of being that makes it possible for them to effectively deal with people who differ from them. However, a large number of them take it as an off-the-shelf program rather than an approach (NCCC 2007 p. 3).
I strongly agree with the cultural proficiency continuum that the school follows. The continuum, which is a conceptual framework, assesses the school's progress and further provides a universal language to address impeding barriers. Cultural proficiency has taken a centre stage in the continuum among the administration although cultural destructiveness, cultural incapacity, cultural blindness, cultural pre-competence and competence are also strictly adhered to. To move further along the continuum, the school should fully comply with the School-Wide Cultural Competence Observation Checklist (SCCOC) which assists in the conducting of culture audits. In its vision and mission statement, the school must commit to embrace diversity (Delores 2007 p.18).
Characteristics of cultural proficient school administrators
Proficient school administrators align their values and school philosophies with their everyday roles. A cultural proficient school administrator is one who strives to create a conducive learning environment favorable for the educators, students and the parents.
The administrators should follow the guiding principles in developing counterproductive policies, practices and behaviors geared towards measuring of cultural proficiency. Proficient leaders address barriers that hinder cultural proficiency. To address value diversity, a proficient administrator is one who establishes standards for holding participants accountable.
Cultural proficiency assists people of different cultural background to interact together effectively. To accommodate different cultural groups, the schools follow the five essential elements of cultural proficiency with different approaches being employed to ensure compliance. Guiding principles have assisted the school to demonstrate behaviors and policies necessary for cross-cultural working environment.