When I was younger, I did ballet for several years. Let's be clear - I wasn't great. I enjoyed wearing tutus and twirling around, but I'm not the most flexible so my ballet career was pretty fleeting. But I loved ballet class, especially when we were preparing for a big show. I LOVED rehearsals - especially dress rehearsals. Instead of wearing a tutu, I got to wear a big frilly dress? Sold!
Part of the reason that I enjoyed rehearsals so much was because it made me feel more confident. Each time I practiced the routine, I got a little better at it. Sometimes it was something that my teacher noticed and corrected for me. Sometimes, I could feel something wasn't quite right and self-corrected. There were times when the changes felt unnatural and uncomfortable, but in the end it always paid off.
See where I'm going with this metaphor? Cultural Competence is the same thing. All of the tips and strategies that I've talked about in this blog series are great, but they are not really going to help if you only do them once. It takes consistency to develop a skill. It doesn't have to be constant; you don't have to talk about diversity in every interaction that you have with your child. But don't expect to read a book with diverse characters once and poof! Your kid is set for life. Nope, just like potty training, developing healthy eating habits, and getting out the door with both shoes on (oh the struggle!), consistency is key. Make sure that you are doing something, anything, on a regular basis. It can feel uncomfortable at first (probably more for you than your child) as you figure out what the heck you're doing, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Also, make sure that you are taking things a step further than just surface-level. At CCK, the focus is to make it fun to talk about diversity, but that's just the beginning. Not sure how to go deeper? Check out Just For Fun Friday. In almost all of the 1-page printouts is a section called 'Continuing the Conversation'. It contains tips on how to take things a step further so these very complicated concepts will really sink in and start to make sense to your child.
Eventually, it became abundantly clear that I wasn't going to be a prima ballerina. So I switched my focus: from ballet to running. And truth be told, I got to be pretty good. Even though it's called something different (practice instead of rehearsal), it's still the same idea. In order to improve, I did a lot of it - still do. I hope you'll practice - or rehearse - right along with me.
Come back next week as we present letter S! Any guesses as to what it might be? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to sign up for the newsletter so that you can get regular updates from CCK!
Dr. Sweeney is a licensed school psychologist and cultural competence expert. Here are her musings on life in a multicultural world.
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