How Leaders Can Improve Their Schools’ Cultural Competence

In “How Leaders Can Improve Their Schools’ Cultural Competence”, Chris Lehmann defines cultural competence and explains the importance of helping children learn to navigate the space between what they believe and what others believe.  He shares that “we have to listen deeply to those around us — students, parents, faculty, and staff — to understand who they are and what their experiences are, so that we can relate to them fully as people.” Additionally, he states: “It is not enough to be accepting of the wide range of human experience in our schools. We must embrace it.”

Although this article is written for school leaders, much of this work can be done by our education teams in national parks. Here are some points to consider to build your cultural competence:

  • Do I seek out and listen to a diverse group of voices when making decisions about our school?
  • Do I ask myself how policy or procedural changes will affect students and faculty who come from historically disenfranchised groups?
  • Do I seek to hire a staff that reflects the diversity of our school and its surrounding community? Do I do so only so students of a particular race/ethnicity/gender/sexual orientation will see themselves on staff, or is it so that we all understand that we all learn from many?
  • Do I allow myself to be vulnerable with my school community? Does every member of the school community feel safe letting me know when I make a mistake — especially when that mistake comes from a lack of cultural competence?
  • Do I work to ensure that there is not one standard of excellence at my school, but rather multiple pathways for students to have academic and social success?
  • Do I intentionally use anti-racist, anti-heteronormative, and explicitly accepting language?

Read the full article by Chris Lehmann.

Additional Resources


Lehmann, Chris. “How Leaders Can Improve Their Schools’ Cultural Competence.” Edutopia, 19 Oct. 2016.


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  1. I think cultural competency training is an incredibly valuable experience for any NPS employees. The article challenges us to extend lessons of cultural competence to the classroom, where a better understanding of where students are coming from can help us be better education program coordinators.

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