As the leader of a school, the principal sets the tone for cultural responsiveness, cultural awareness and inclusivity. They should also provide resources for teachers to gain the skills required to engage in culturally responsive teaching. As ethnic, socioeconomic and racial diversity within schools has broadened, leaders and educators need to recognize the varied backgrounds of their students through culturally responsive teaching and learning techniques.
The online Master of Science in Education (MSEd) in Educational Leadership program from the University of Southern Maine (USM) allows education leaders to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to help students learn in a changing and diverse world.
Graduates of this online degree program can become education leaders who foster equitable, relevant and successful school environments that recognize equity disparities and allow students to express themselves. They will be prepared to pursue the role of school principal with a Maine Building Administration Certification.
How Principals Build Cultural Competence
Principals are in a unique position to foster cultural competence in schools on the student, teacher and family levels. While many strategies to build a culturally competent school exist, some proven approaches include conducting implicit bias training, fostering community involvement, committing to a diverse staff base and encouraging parent involvement.
Implicit Bias Training
To promote culturally responsive teaching, educators and principals must dive deep into their biases and stereotypes. When we make ourselves aware of our perceptions of others, we can become informed in other cultures. Cultural awareness is the ability to recognize and respect the differences of everyone in the school, regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability or race.
Principals should connect their staff with literature, professional development training and conferences to better understand and connect with students. Students benefit when principals ensure their teachers have the proper training to strengthen student engagement, create connections between the students and the curriculum and increase student success.
The principal is the key to implementing change within a school and steering faculty and staff to embrace new practices and attitudes. To create an authentically inclusive school, a principal should involve students and their parents or caregivers by creating opportunities to develop friendships and interact beyond a classroom setting.
Implementing shared activities and social inclusion can foster community interactions that encourage social inclusion. Principals can promote inclusion by demonstrating inclusive leadership, setting high student expectations, establishing a support system and providing resources for educators and students.
One Medium article includes a list of examples for fostering community involvement, such as partnering with local businesses, training parents as volunteers, partnering with other schools and more.
Cultural responsiveness is about understanding how students’ experiences impact their learning and how administrators and educators welcome diversity and foster relationships between teachers and students. Personalized instruction should consider students’ demographics without negatively impacting the education they receive. If principals support a culturally responsive curriculum and hire faculty and staff who reflect student demographics, the school will benefit from an inclusive environment.
Parent participation is another effective component to achieving a supportive school environment, as parents want to feel involved in their children’s education and success. School leaders can build connections between parents and the school by organizing after-school activities, linking parents with school resources, encouraging parent volunteerism, organizing parent-teacher committees and communicating by school app or website. Principals can also engage with parents and the broader community by developing a school blog, using social media, hosting family nights at school and allowing teachers to explain how parents can help students with assignments and provide feedback.
How USM Can Help Principals Create Culturally Responsive Learning Environments
As USM’s program page notes, graduates learn to understand the “impact of the leadership function” in schools and “assess school climate and culture and develop a positive organizational environment for adult and student learning.” Students in the program can choose from three certification strands: School Principal – Maine Building Administration Certification (040); Curriculum Coordinator – Curriculum Coordinator Certification (078); and Special Education Director – Administrator of Special Education Certification (030) or Assistant Administrator of Special Education (035).
If you’re interested in building on your teaching experience and taking the next step to be a school principal, USM’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership online program helps professionals achieve culturally responsive schools by growing student achievement, organizational effectiveness, teacher performance and parent engagement in their educational communities.
Learn more about USM’s online MSEd in Educational Leadership program.