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7 thoughts on “Week 10 (March 31-April 6): Tapping Into Culture and Faith

  1. Through watching this week’s videos and reflecting on our class discussions on culture, faith, and spirituality, I realized that this is something that I want and need to incorporate more into my everyday teaching practices. We as teachers wear many different “hats”, however, intentionally respecting and valuing the different cultures within our classroom is a crucial hat for all teachers to wear. When we can accept the differences in our classroom and show the respect and value for each student, a classroom culture where students can feel safe and open begins to form.

    One way that I can encourage my students to find strength from their culture and faith includes doing a family interview. We do a social studies unit in first grade on past/present/future and one thing project we have for students to reflect on their own past is to pick an adult within their family to ask interview questions to learn more about their past. The questions are fairly basic (What was school like when you went to school? What was your favorite toy? Etc.) I would be interested in including some family celebration/tradition questions as well. Students could research something special about their family and then have a chance to share it in class with the other students. I think this would be a great way for students to learn not only about their own family’s culture and faith, but also be exposed to different cultures and faith when hearing their classmates share their findings from their own family!

    1. Kirsten,

      I love what you do in your classroom! The family interview sounds really interesting and I’d love to somehow incorporate that into my own lessons. Like Julia Middleton said, the culture we should be most intelligent about first and foremost is our own. That makes us more capable of understanding other cultures. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job of allowing students to understand their own backgrounds while also learning about the cultures of others. I was thinking about your idea of celebrations and I’m wondering if there are any cultural holidays you could celebrate in the classroom or at least bring awareness to? Sometimes I will tie my art projects into annual events from different cultures. A classroom culture is definitely fostered by a feeling of safety and I think you are doing an exceptional job of doing that in your room while promoting cultural intelligence. I’m eager to hear more about the interview questions you give your students though – it’s definitely something I want to try out!

  2. Through my studies here at U of R, I have developed a strong awareness of the impact that cultural practices have on our students. After watching the videos this week, I feel that my Cultural Intelligence is becoming a part of who I am as a teacher. I loved the illustrations that Julia Middleton used with the cones showing a person’s core and their flexibility. That strong core helps to keep a person grounded, but it is important to have an equally strong ability to be flexible in your thinking. Without the strong core, there is doubt as to what you value. Without the flexibility, there is no room for understanding.
    Developing a solid classroom community is important to encourage students to find strength from their cultures and faith. In a responsive, inclusive class, all students are accepted and valued for who they are. This can include cultural and faith differences, and also include learning differences. One way I try to maintain this in my teaching practice is to spend time getting to know all of the students in our collaborative classrooms, not just my special education friends.
    In several of my other courses, we have discussed ways to become culturally sensitive and aware, both in the classroom and as a school community. These include things like having a culture fair at school, or doing it as a class. We did an activity this year in third grade, where the students talked to their parents about their ethnic roots, and some of the traditions that may have stemmed from those roots. I think that the students became more aware of the fact that the things they do as a family play an important part in who they are. Traditions that the students took for granted seemed to take on a different meaning for them, as they realized that there was a reason for the things they were doing. It was a fun activity that gave them a little picture into their past.

  3. After watching those videos, it was pretty eye-opening for me, because I feel as though I have lived a pretty sheltered life. Not in a bad way, but I have lived in Hanover County for almost 26 years now, and have not had much experience with different cultures. One of the comments that was made in one of the videos was about meditators, and how that helped with the healing process, to connect with your spirituality. I think that this is really an awesome practice that I would like to incorporate more into my classroom. Yoga and meditation is very calming and I think it is important for students to get in touch with the calm side of them because school can be so go, go , go!

    I also started to think of the different cultures in my classroom, while I work at a school with a population of predominately white children, we do have students from various cultures, and I would love to learn more about their traditions, and for my students to learn from each other as well. I want my students to be as well rounded as possible, and I think learning about their classmates culture, traditions, is important.

    1. Carmen,

      I felt the same way when I watched the videos this week. Although my parents made sure that we were tolerant and accepting of others’ beliefs and values, I did not have a lot of cultural exposure growing up and because of that, felt very sheltered. I didn’t realize how sheltered I really was until I began working in New Kent. NKMS is also predominately white and much of the culture in the county is rooted in blue collar, old southern traditions. Coming from the northeast, that was definitely a shock. There are other students I teach, however, that come from other cultures and backgrounds and I would love to learn more about their traditions as well. Our assigned videos definitely made me more cognizant of my practices because like you said, we want our students to be as well-rounded as possible.

  4. This course, combined with my other coursework at U of R has made me much more aware of my own cultural intelligence and ways that I can strengthen skills that relate to it. I have to be completely honest here – when I first arrived at New Kent Middle School five years ago, it was a culture shock for me. Having grown up in a wealthy, small suburb in New York where the population was predominantly white, I felt out of my element when I began teaching in a county where much of the culture was rooted in southern traditions. I began to witness a totally new way of life – one that was radically different than my own. My parents always made sure that we were culturally aware and sensitive growing up. My father would always encourage us to be tolerant of others and to this day, reminds us that we “don’t live in a bubble.” When I began teaching, I realized I had to make a decision: would people adapt to me or would I adapt to them? It’s ultimately been a combination of the two. During my time in New Kent, I’ve witnessed examples of cultural intolerance firsthand. I really related to what Julia Middleton said about how sometimes cultural intelligence is demonstrated by standing up to cultural intolerance. While it may be uncomfortable, there are times in my classroom where I have to turn those moments into teachable ones and my hope is that it creates a better sense of community in the classroom. Since starting my career, I have learned so much about my students and what is at the core of their beliefs along with their families. When I am talking to my students about those core beliefs, I like to share mine as well. After watching this week’s assigned videos, I definitely want to put more effort into the practice of teaching my students that they are capable of being flexible with how they view things – especially given that they are middle schoolers at such a malleable age.
    Being that I teach art, there are so many different avenues I can take with my students to teach them about different cultures. I try to teach a range of projects throughout the year – primarily with my 8th grade students – that allow them to convey their values, beliefs and other core “bits.” We do this mostly through journaling. With other grade levels, I plan a series of projects that introduce students to artwork in a global context. We look at how art plays a role in cultures throughout the world and how our own cultures relate to the art we observe.

  5. Growing up in Petersburg I was raised in a predominately Black community with my father and grandparents and in the summers I would visit my Korean mother in Northern Virginia where the diversity was vast. I loved both worlds for different reasons. I have always loved learning about different cultures and even studied different faiths and religions in high school. I believe that because of this I have always loved to learn about other cultures and all of the beautiful traditions that come with them. I’ve always found it fascinating so it was easy for people to talk to me as someone that was so eager to learn so much about them. This is something that I have continued to do. I love the ideas that you all have used to encourage your students to talk about their cultures such as the family celebrations/traditions interview and the culture day. When I was working as a temp one year all of my co-workers in that department was from a different nationality and we had a potluck where we all brought something from our culture. We had Korean, African, Italian, Mexican, and so on. I saw such a respect for the different types of foods and the openness to try the unfamiliar (like kimchi). I also hosted a foreign exchange student from Thailand and I asked her to have a Thai night. She cooked authentic Thai food and had brought each of us traditional Thai garments and jewelry and even some instruments. These are things that I would like to do; celebrate culture and show a respect for what is so different and share what is alike. Unfortunately, I do not have a classroom of students to do a cultural share day so to speak. But I did like what Julia Middleton said about having brave conversations and how cultural intelligence is developed by revealing things about your background. When I work one-on-one with students I would like to make sure that I am tapping into this. Middleton talked about understanding your culture and how it affects the way that you do things, the “knots”, and the opportunities you can gain or miss because of them. This will help students to use this understanding to acknowledge and change what is impeding success and strengthen the aspects that will help them to grow. I think that I am going to find a way to incorporate this into my project group curriculum under self-awareness.

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