By Paul R. Pace
Social workers and teachers need cultural competencies to help end the school-to-prison pipeline for students of color, says Shawntelle L. Fisher, MSW, MDiv, LCSW.
“This has to be centered around the idea of being culturally competent,” Fisher says. “I know sometimes it has become a cliché; we all want to be culturally competent. But we have to move beyond saying it to actually doing it and practicing it, especially in the classroom.”
Fisher is the founder and CEO of the nonprofit The SoulFisher Ministries based in St. Louis. Its mission is to respond to the needs of youth with incarcerated parents and to promote restorative justice for those currently or formerly incarcerated. The organization provides free after-school tutoring and enrichment for students in the Riverview Gardens School District, who have an incarcerated parent or are performing two to three grade levels below expectations.
Fisher leads the NASW Specialty Practice Sections webinar, Social Emotional Learning: The Impact of Deindividuation on Prosocial Outcomes.
- Culturally responsive practices embody cultural, political and professional ideology, which displaces monotonous teaching and focuses on student growth.
- Culturally responsive practices in classrooms recognize the cultural wealth, knowledge and skills diverse students contribute to schools.
- The implementation of culturally responsive practices avoids teacher-centered instructional practices and encourages a student-centered approach.
- Teachers should understand the intricacies of this construct as it relates to learning, teaching, the individual student, their families, their communities, and the commitment to student achievement as a reality.
Using the Social Emotional Learning model, schools are expected to prioritize three critical and interrelated components of mental health for their students: social (how we relate to others), emotional (how we feel), and behavioral (how we act) supports to promote overall well-being, Fisher says. “Our afternoon program is centered around social emotional learning, as is our reentry program. When a person is emotionally sound, they can perform better.”