I have been employed in the field of education for over 7 years and have dual licensure in special/general education as well as a BA.
How Does Culture Impact Us?
Is culture relevant in schools? What about in your home or community? Think about how the individual affects the environment and people around them. As a teacher of over 5 years, I can assure you: Cultural issues are relevant in education today. Just think about all the different learning styles, backgrounds, and experiences of individuals from all of the different cultures.
As a teacher of students with special needs, I witness students and teachers and their individualism. In special education alone, all students are significantly diverse. When you add on culture, you get a wonderful mixing pot of different values and perspectives.
Culture in Schools
In my opinion, peoples’ culture and values shape both them and the school itself. For example, when I taught in a brick-and-mortar school, my students had varying values. Sometimes they fought or argued over right and wrong based on their values. I have had to have many a chat with students regarding cultural values.
Why It Is Important to Raise Awareness
It is hard for students to understand that there can be more than one right way of doing things. For example, in 2016 I had a class with about 12 students. One of the students liked to be the center of attention and talk a lot. On the other hand, I had another student of Muslim background who was very quiet and hardly ever talked. The second student was picked on because they did not keep up with the amount of collaborative learning that the rest of the class participated in. The rest of the class saw the student as different, an outcast. In our society today, different is seen as something bad or unnatural.
It turned out that this student’s culture required women to be seen and not heard. Eventually, the student came out of her shell and became a little bit more outgoing. I just think that it is sad that people and students pick on others that are different from them. Once she came out of her shell a little bit more, her peers got to know her, and she became good friends with two of her peers. The problem wasn’t her; it was that the norms involved much collaborative conversation. The classroom norms were a reflection of the participating students.
The Past Must Not Repeat
Our ancestors' pasts may be filled to the brim with bias and judgment. That doesn't mean that we have to follow in their footsteps.
All individuals have different values, different personalities, and different cultures. One must ensure that all students feel comfortable and respected in schools and in the world around them. Every year, when I receive a new class of 6th graders, we begin by introducing ourselves. Students enjoy showcasing their interests, cultures, and history. In this way, my classes are aware that every student is special and has their own unique traditions, history, and abilities. No one person is the same as the next.
I like to teach my students to encourage others in their ventures and to treat them as they would want to be treated. Just by doing this, I feel that I am encouraging the fostering and sharing of culture and education. If others are kind and respectful to you, don't you feel encouraged to show the same respect to others around you?
Let's take a look at some ways culture and diversity awareness can be encouraged.
5 Ways to Promote Diversity Awareness in Your Classroom/Home
- Celebrate differences. Make sure to identify and celebrate differences as valuable. Just because Amy’s painting of a butterfly looks different than Estaban’s does not mean that one is better than the other.
- Foster creative expression. Encourage students to be creative in expressing their own point of view, whether it’s through words, painting, coloring, writing, or other forms of expression.
- Invite students to share. Whether it’s a story, work of art, or a homework assignment, it is important for students to have pride in their accomplishments. By sharing, students gain the opportunity to see that everyone has different interpretations of the world around them. Have the viewers/listeners/etc. give positive feedback and share things about the presentation/shared item that they both liked and disliked.
- Represent multiple cultures in the learning environment. Make sure there are posters and art from a variety of cultures and points of view in the learning environment to raise awareness of cultural diversity. This helps children understand that there is not just one right way of doing things and that there is more than one way to draw a pony.
- Celebrate ALL holidays. Whether you celebrate holidays or not, it is important for students/children to know that not everyone out there celebrates Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc. They should know that different people celebrate different holidays in their own unique ways.
The Duty of Teachers and Parents
Teachers have an obligation to ensure that all students feel comfortable in the learning environment. This responsibility is satisfied through providing education on differences as being strengths and supporting students’ cultures and values. In this way, culture is relevant to education. Every student and teacher that walks into the classroom is different from the one before them.
Parents are responsible for raising their children in a way that communicates respect towards all people.
Our initial question was, “Is culture relevant to schools?” Well, what do you think? This reflection, as well as the tips for increasing culture/diversity awareness, is meant to help anyone who is struggling with bias. My goal was to raise awareness so that children, students, and anyone else out there can become more accepting of people and ways that are a little different. As a person who is blind, I understand how hard it can be to fit in and feel like I belong. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.
I hope that this was a helpful read. Thank you!
Where Does Diversity Impact You the Most?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Miranda Hoepfner