This past week the district principals and central office administrators met with the teachers involved in the District Equity and Diversity Committee to discuss next steps in moving our district forward around Cultural Proficiency.
Through the organization of this committee, over the past three years educators throughout the district have worked together to discuss and learn about creating a culture that is physically and emotionally safe for all students by standing up to hateful acts and addressing acts that can be viewed as insensitive or offensive. Over this time we have learned about important teaching strategies, such as "assuming good intentions" and "asking a curious question" when potentially insulting comments are made. For example, if someone makes a stereotyping or potentially hurtful comment, to respond by asking "what did you mean by that" and "why do you think someone may find that comment offensive" instead of making an immediate judgement and shutting the student down.
As a response to this professional development and due to the strong culture already existing in our school, I have seen teachers take courageous risks and incorporate these strategies in their classrooms and in the hallways. Through these courageous conversations, they engage with students around the topic of difference and use student comments to serve as launching pads to help kids grow and become more culturally aware. While these responses by teachers have been impressive, we need to continue to model to our students and empower them to stand up when they hear comments when they are with their friends.
One way to empower students is to encourage them to be upstanders in their school and address these comments and acts in the same way that the Equity and Diversity Committee has been encouraging educators to respond to comments. As one of our teachers said, we need to provide PD for our students on how to become more culturally proficient.
Being an upstander around issues of difference is no different that being an upstander in a bully free zone. Upstanders in a culturally proficient school and in a bully free zone are:
* Willing to step in and stop a bullying or hate incident
* Willing to ask a curious question
* Willing to be an ally to a victim or target
* Willing to tell a teacher or administrator about a situation
* Willing to promote a school culture that celebrates differences
Please feel free to add additional actions in the comments section
If you are interested in understanding more about students are standing up to hateful comments and bullying, check out the "Not in My Schools" Organization
How do we create more upstanders in schools?