Tag Archives: Cultural Competence

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

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Been in a Saloon Lately?

Source: http://quschoolofeducation.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/been-in-a-saloon-lately/

Been in a Saloon Lately?

By: Dr. William Howe, Adjunct Professor of Education


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Those of us who grew up in the 60s probably remember spending hours watching Westerns on television. A common scene is a noisy saloon filled with people. There are classes clinking, loud arguments, a honky-tonk piano, and the occasional gunfire. Suddenly, a stranger comes to the saloon doors and the place falls silent. People gaze in awe or contempt at the person entering.

Have you ever had that experience yourself? I had that experience this week and numerous times in my life. Today, I entered a room to join a new committee and quickly realized that among the 35 people present, I was the only person of color.

Some of you may know quite well what I am talking about – being the only person who is different and receiving uncomfortable looks from others in the room. Women experience that when they enter into a room filled with men only. People of color feel this when they walk into a room and suddenly the room falls quiet. For the person entering the room, they had several choices – turn around and leave, go into the room and disappear into a corner, or learn to work the room.

Of all the lessons that we can give to women and people of color, perhaps most important is to learn how to cope with this situation. I have had people obviously uncomfortable with me present. One person blurted out that they love Chinese food. Another, for some reason, had to tell me about eating at a Chinese restaurant in the Midwest and asking if I knew the owners. We know what it’s like when people are uncomfortable with us, when people are uncomfortable with diversity. It is critical then that we teach women and students of color seven key social skills that they will need in order to learn how to fit into the current world of work. For they will have two overcome the facts that people like to hire people that they like and that they are comfortable with and unfortunately there are many who do not have enough experience with women or people of color to have a comfort level. Therefore, we must teach these key skills valued in the American world of work but often, the opposite of what is taught and valued in other cultures.

1.  Speaking Up – people who speak softly are often viewed in the American culture as being insecure and weak. This is however a cultural trait often taught to people from other cultures as a demonstration of their modesty and humbleness. It is important to teach that although this skill is appropriate and valued in the culture, in order to succeed in the American workplace we must learn to speak out in a louder voice.
2.  Small Talk – people are comfortable with people who are able to engage them in conversation. People who are good talkers or storytellers are able to make others feel at ease. This is a skill that must be learned by women and people of color in order to help others for comfortable with them.
3.  Smiling – I once had a group of teachers from Azerbaijan asked me why American smile so much. Smiling is not culturally a common practice in other countries. Americans like people who smile because they look much more approachable. People who have great smiles, not only look better, but look more friendly and sincere.
4.  Being Assertive – assertive, not aggressive, is something that we should teach students. In the American workplace, assertiveness is valued. It is seen, in other cultures as being impolite or rude.
5.  Hand-Shaking – we talk about shaking hands to close the deal. We shake hands in order to judge a person. A good firm handshake sends a message of confidence and sincerity. For those from other cultures or handshaking is not a common practice, it is important to teach this skill.
6.  Eye Contact- so often we hear about how quaint it is that Asians and Latinos look down to show deference to elders or their superiors. This is true. But it is not seen as a strength in the American world of work. Good eye contact must be taught.
7.  Self-Promotion – most of us were probably raised being taught not to be a showoff or to brag. However, there is a time and a place when we must learn to sell ourselves. We must learn to state our skills and experiences without hesitation.

One may ask whether this is fair to ask people to fit into a culture which they obviously do not find comfortable. The reality is that until the “minorities” become the “majority” we must learn to play the game. The positive message that we must sure is that we are not giving up our culture or denying our culture, we are learning how to be multicultural. We have earned how to survive and succeed in our home culture as well as the American world of work. This is a strength. Having a degree from a reputable college is often insufficient for women and people of color. They must learn the key social skills in order to get the job and to flourish in the organization. Once they rise to the top they can begin changing the culture of the organization.

Dr. Bill Howe is an adjunct professor of education at Quinnipiac University. He is the co-author of the recently published, award-winning textbook by Sage – Becoming a multicultural educator: Developing awareness, gaining skills, and taking action. (Howe & Lisi, 2014).

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Free Education Webinar

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SAGE and Dr. William A. Howe, author of Becoming a Multicultural Educator, will be hosting a free Education Webinar on March 15th at 12:00 PM PST//3:00 PM EST on “Teaching Students What They Really Need to Know: Using Multicultural Education to Prepare Students to Be Competitive in a Global Workplace.”

For more information and to register, please click here. We hope you can join us!

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Black principals a factor in schools

Sharing skin color with their principal makes life better for many American teachers, according to a major new study from the University of Missouri.

The report, which surveyed more than 37,000 teachers and principals from 7,200 schools across the country, found that black teachers who work for a black principal are generally happier with their jobs, are less likely to leave and say they receive more support, encouragement and recognition from their superiors.

……….. read more

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Cultural Differences? Or, are we really that different?

Cultural Differences?
Or, are we really that different?

Gregorio Billikopf
University of California


To all who took the proxemics survey (between December 2007 and June 2009) a warm thank you! We are in the process of analyzing the data. Also, the best copy of this paper on cultural differences may be found as a PDF (Appendix I) under my new book, Party-Directed Mediation: Helping Others Resolve Differences, which you may download free here.–Gregorio
In 1993, I had my first opportunity to visit Russia as a representative of the University of California. I was there to provide some technical assistance in the area of agricultural labor management. “Russians are a very polite people,” I had been tutored before my arrival. One of my interpreters, once I was there, explained that a gentleman will pour the limonad (type of juice) for the ladies and show other courtesies.

….. read more

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Harvard study says poverty doesn’t explain away low American math scores


America’s child poverty problem does not entirely explain away its students’ relatively low math scores, says a report from Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

Researchers analyzed scores from the International Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, which is given in 65 countries.

In 2009, about 32 percent of American students scored what the researchers termed “proficient” on the PISA, which placed it 32 out of 65 countries. Fifty percent or more of students in Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and the Netherlands scored proficient.

Previous studies have suggested that Americans out-score other countries once you control for poverty. A U.S. Department of Education report found that American kids in schools where less than 10 percent of the students received free or reduced lunches, a measure of poverty, outperformed all other countries’ kids on the reading portion of the PISA test. Schools with 25 percent or fewer kids in poverty lagged behind only Norway and Korea.

But the Harvard researchers, using different measures, found that poverty did not seem as big of a factor in how Americans scored on math. When the researchers just looked at students with at least one college-educated parent, a good indicator that the child is above the poverty line, only 44.4 percent were proficient in math, trailing significantly behind students in 13 countries.

Using another common metric of poverty, race, American students still lagged behind. Only 41 percent of white students scored proficient on math. (About 10 percent of white children live in poverty, much lower than the overall rate.) Meanwhile, 11 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic students scored proficient on math.

The 2009 PISA scores, released last December, delivered the depressing news that even though American students live in the richest country in the world, they trail, on average, significantly behind their neighbors in math skills. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the scores a “wake up call for America” and a reason to continue the Obama administration reforms linking teacher evaluations to students’ test scores.

But others, like education historian and teachers’ union defender Diane Ravitch, said the scores were a reflection of the larger problem of child poverty, which can’t be fixed by education reforms alone. She writes in an email to The Lookout that she still believes achievement is “tightly correlated with family income,” despite the new analysis.

She points out that the U.S. has a 20 percent child poverty level. “That’s the crisis, not test scores,” she writes.

The report also brushes away the argument that math performance doesn’t matter, as U.S. students trailed the competition 50 years ago but our economy has boomed ever since. The researchers argue that boosting U.S. kids’ math scores to the level of South Korea would result in a 1.3 percentage jump in GDP each year, totaling $75 trillion over 80 years.


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