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Know better. Do better. Cultural competence creates a better educational environment for all student

Updated: May 2, 2023

I am a sucker for a good inspirational quote. Hanging all around my office are sticky notes with quotes on them that speak to me. One of my favorite quotes from Maya Angelou reads...

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

I think we can all agree that 2020 was tough year. We all did the best we could – responsibilities at work, duties at home, keeping our personal relationships intact (from a distance). Not only did we experience a global pandemic, but we also faced social unrest like many of us had never seen in our lifetimes. We witnessed nationwide protesting and saw the Black Lives Matter movement go global. Because of what was happening in our world, many of us began to examine the inequities and lack of representation that existed for marginalized communities. We wanted to know better so that we could do better.

I understand that the topic of diversity, culture, racial equality, and representation might feel uncomfortable for some. We learn at a very early age that these are not topics for discussion. Due to the increasing number of students with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds on our caseloads and in our classrooms, it is necessary for us to get over our feelings of discomfort and start moving towards higher levels of cultural competence. We must first understand our own biases and create safe spaces to talk about hard and uncomfortable things. We must make ourselves vulnerable. We must find ways to embrace and better support diversity and representation for the students we serve. Going through this process can help us know better and then do better.

Cultural competence is defined as “the ability to think, feel, and act in ways that acknowledge, respect, and build upon ethnic, sociocultural, and linguistic diversity.”1 Becoming culturally competent is a life-long process, across a continuum, but it starts with awareness. Know better. Do better.

One great place to start increasing your awareness is to complete a self-assessment. There are many tools available online, but one of my favorites is the Promoting Cultural & Linguistic Competency checklist by Georgetown University. 2 This checklist will heighten your cultural awareness and sensitivity by giving examples of best practices to use when creating a learning environment that truly represents the children for whom you serve.

Know better. Do better.

Please leave a comment and share how you support diversity and representation in your school or facility.


1 Lynch, E., Hanson, M.: Developing Cross-Cultural Competence: A Guide for Working with Children and Their Families – 4th Edition. Brookes Publishing, 2011.

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