The sixth blog post in the Practices series looks at Cultural Competence. Here are 5 tips to help with this practice …
- Understand what cultures are in your community: When thinking about culture it is important to not just consider the cultures already in your service but those in the wider community. If you only focus on the cultures you currently have in the service then you may be excluding other community members as they cannot see themselves reflected in your service and the decisions you make. The same can be said for Indigenous Culture, where a lot of services may argue that they do not have any Indigenous people in their community so why bother, but it is about creating an accepting and culturally diverse mindset in the children so no matter who they meet in life they are greeted with respect and a sense of acceptance.
- Create a culturally safe and respectful environment: Consider the resources you have in your environment, the experiences you engage with and the way in which you embed culture. The more authentic and meaningful the approach the more respectful and safe the environment will feel to others. Are you reflecting contemporary representations of different cultures or just traditional and historical representations? Do you look beyond geography and flags when talking about other countries and develop an understanding of their culture? Can you connect with aspects of different cultures that you feel comfortable with as a starting point e.g. art, cooking, architecture, music, language etc?
- Consider your celebrations and events: It is important to choose celebrations that support cultural competence and demonstrate both respect and knowledge of the culture they represent. It is also important to allow children to be able to connect to a range of different learning opportunities through events. You do not have to celebrate the same events every year and could discuss with the families and the children at the beginning of each year which events are important to them, instead of just the staff deciding. Also, be careful not to choose tokenistic or inappropriate options just because they look cute or seem fun. Instead reflect on the learning opportunities available and whether the chosen experiences align with your philosophy and pedagogy.
- Reflect on your own biases and beliefs: Sometimes our own upbringing and circumstances can create barriers when it comes to cultural competence. It is important to recognise these in order to work through them and not have these barriers come through in your interactions with children and their families. It is also important as a team to hold each other accountable and address any barriers that may be observed in others to help reflect on the possible causes and support each other to be more present and intentional in our work.
- Trust that children are capable and competent: If you believe that children are capable and competent then you can do richer and more meaningful work with them on a range of different topics including culture. Trusting the children to be able to unpack and understand a deeper level of information can see learning opportunities around culture extend beyond craft. Allowing the children to direct and lead the exploration of different cultures can be insightful and support the development of curriculum in ways you may never have considered. You can even do projects around culture and the importance of valuing and respecting diversity as a way to collaboratively build knowledge and challenge each other through children’s voices.
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