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Preparing Effective School Leaders in a Diverse Society

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for white leaders in various classes, Beachum says. For them to succeed, he says, they must first recognize the existence of diversity.

“If I look different, I get treated differently, which goes against the ‘Oh, we’re all the same’ philosophy,” Beachum says. “Yes, we might all be human, but guess what? We don’t treat everyone the same. We treat people differently depending on their history, their language, their appearance and a host of things. Thus, one of the first lessons for leaders is the recognition of differences.

Beachum says the other message white leaders need to remember is that “differences are not deficits.” The problem is not that people have differences, but leaders need to ask themselves how they can respect those differences, including languages, religions and cultural experiences.

“What ends up happening is if the differences become deficits, then those things that make you problematic,” Beachum says. “And we see in the literature where we talk about this problem, because now if you have a problem, the leaders try to solve the problem. How do you solve the problem of the diversity of children? … Children are denigrated because of where they come from, what they say, what they do, how they act. It happens all the time.”

According to Beachum, school leaders would benefit from culturally relevant leadership where they have critical awareness, pluralistic ideas and reflective practice. Essentially, how does one acquire new knowledge, how does one’s attitude change based on that knowledge, and then how is this reflected in daily practice in a way that benefits all students?

“If I can change my individual behavior, then I have a better chance of changing group behavior because now I’m a living model of that,” Beachum says. “Once I know how to do it. I did it in my class, I did it in my building. I can show others how to do it.