Climate of the School
Climate can be defined as an individual’s perception of how they exist within the school (or other organization), including perceptions of routine behavior that affect attitudes, feelings, and behaviors within the context of the school. Climate is also the atmosphere in the school as experienced by individuals who are part of the school community or come into contact with the school in some way. This is different from culture, which is a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication.
Cultural competency is the application of a defined set of values, principles, skills, attitudes, policies, and behaviors that enable individuals and groups to work effectively across cultures. Cultural competence is a developmental process (and continuum) that evolves over time for both individuals and organizations. It is defined as having the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct assessment of self, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and apply cultural knowledge, and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of the communities in which one lives and works.
The concept of diversity embraces the wide range of human characteristics used to mark or identify individual and group identities. These characteristics include, but are not limited to, ethnicity, race, national origin, age, personality, sexual orientation, gender, class, religion, ability, and linguistic preferences. Diversity is a term used as shorthand for visible and quantifiable statuses, but diversity of thought and ways of knowing, being, and doing are also understood as natural, valued, and desired states, the presence of which benefit organizations, workplaces, and society.
Equity exists as a condition that balances two dimensions: fairness and inclusion. As a function of fairness, equity implies ensuring that people have what they need to participate in school life and reach their full potential. Equitable treatment involves eliminating barriers that prevent the full participation of all individuals. As a function of inclusion, equity ensures that essential educational programs, services, activities, and technologies are accessible to all. Equity is not equality; it is the expression of justice, ethics, multi-partiality, and the absence of discrimination.
Inclusiveness means encompassing all; taking every individual’s experience and identity into account and creating conditions where all feel accepted, safe, empowered, supported, and affirmed. An inclusive school or organization expands its sense of community to include all; cultivating belonging and giving all an equal voice. Inclusivity also promotes and enacts the sharing of power and recognition of interdependence, where authorizing individuals and community members share responsibility for expressing core values and maintaining respect for differences the spirit of care and cooperation.
Multiculturalism refers to the presence of many distinctive cultures and the manifestation of cultural components and derivatives (e.g. language, values, religion, race, communication styles, etc.) in a given setting. Multiculturalism promotes the understanding of, and respect for cultural differences, and celebrates them as source of community strength. Multiculturalism is also defined as set of programs, policies, and practices that enable and maximize the benefits of diversity in a school community or organization.
Multicultural education is an approach to education that is grounded in the ideals of social justice and educational equity. It is dedicated to facilitating educational experiences in which all students reach their full potential as learners and as socially aware and active beings in the local, national, and global arenas. The objective of multicultural education, simply stated, is to help students learn how to live in an ethnically and culturally rich, diverse society.
Cultural Identifiers and NAIS
Cultural identifiers can be used to assist in recognizing and understanding the unique aspects of individuals based on their backgrounds, values, experiences, traditions, and the contexts in which they are expressed. There are countless demographic markers and ways people identify, and these categories are changing and emerging with the times.
To help your school recognize and plan inclusively for a range of differences, NAIS suggests consideration of (at minimum) following sample identifiers. Keep in mind that there may be others that are important to you school:
Ability/Disability Learning Style
Ethnicity Religion/Spiritual Belief
Family Makeup Sexual Orientation
Gender Socioeconomic Status
Linguistic Difference International / Citizenship Status