To work collaboratively, teach students effectively, and make responsible and ethical decisions, each individual in the school community must continuously develop their own self-awareness and recognize how their experiences and beliefs impact the ways they interact with others (Howard, 2003; Gay, 2010).
Schools, like the greater society, are becoming increasingly more diverse in culture, ethnicity, race, language, values, and beliefs. This diversity has countless positive benefits, but it can also present challenges. Each person is shaped by their experiences, interactions, and observations. Because of these unique experiences, we each bring a set of our own biases to every situation we encounter.
These biases are a natural response, but unfortunately, we don’t always recognize them. Even the most well-intentioned individuals can act upon implicit biases (Staats, 2015). If left unchecked or unrecognized, these feelings and expressions can be hurtful or even damaging to the well-being and safety of others. For example, implicit biases are known to contribute to disproportionality in discipline practices (Skiba et al., 2014).
As a result, it’s crucial for all school staff to reflect on their own biases to create safe, equitable, supportive, and inclusive environments for all students, staff, and families. Cultivating self-awareness to uncover biases about others can promote practices that encourage engaging, interactive, cooperative, culturally responsive environments that focus on a growth mindset for student and staff capabilities and potential.
This personal transformation takes ongoing effort and courage, and can be painful at times. The following activities can increase awareness of personal biases and provide a path to overcoming biases.
Note: Steps three to five can also be done with one partner, going deeply into the conversation in a more personal way. Depending on time constraints and your purpose for selecting this activity, participants can introduce themselves to the group by naming an aspect of their identity that impacts their shared work and speaking briefly about how and why.
Additional Resources for Building Cultural Competence
Citations can be found in the School Guide Bibliography.