Deep Culture in the Elementary Classroom: Week 8 6/12/18

indian-1119222_1920

(Picture taken from http://www.pixabay.com)

So often when we think of learning about another culture, we think about the things that we see on the surface. We think of food, clothing, transportation, or music. While these things are definitely included, culture is more than just these types of things. Culture is how one reacts to a situation. Culture is how one worships. Culture is how one thinks and why they have the beliefs that drive that thinking. Culture goes much deeper and it encompasses who a person or group of people truly are. It is something that drives them.

An example would be the amount of emotional expressivity that one portrays. In the Latin culture, there is typically a higher level of emotional expressivity. They outwards show their emotions more so than perhaps, an Anglo-American. This is speaking in general terms. There are always those who are exceptions to this. Some exceptions would be my husband and I. He, Mexican, shows almost no emotional expressions while I, Anglo-American, am very passionate and sometimes show too much emotion.

Keeping this in perspective as we teach others about culture will be beneficial. We want to make sure that our students know that while certain cultures do and believe certain things, there is still the individual who is more in depth than a general view of a culture.  So what are some ideas that we can use in our classrooms? Perhaps we can do some role plays. Also, there are going to be students of different cultures in our classrooms. Allow each of them to share their own personal experience of what is considered appropriate in their own culture. There are so many more activities to help students learn the deeper culture of the world than recipe sharing.

Culture and Psychology: WEEK 7 6/7/2018

There are problems in the whole world. Each region and part of the world has different problems that arise, but they are issues nonetheless. First-world problems usually are mental or stimulant problems. 3rd world problems are usually from physical or financial strain. First-world problems include mental illness, problems with technology, road rage, and solicitors. 3rd world problems include finding clean water, enough food for the next day, and being able to find enough money to survive. All of these are real issues and cause stress to the individual. The problems are just different.

I worked in an Eating Disorder treatment center for 5 years. The majority of our clients were from wealthy areas in the United States or Canada. These girls were dealing with mental illness, control issues, and trying to fit into a society that called for perfection. This is extremely hard stuff to navigate. They had great challenges in front of them, and most were able to reach a point of recovery where they could move forward in their daily life in their own home. There is hunger all over the world, but this is not an eating disorder. This type of hunger comes from poverty. In 3rd world countries, the people are in survival mode. There is no room to realize or worry about mental illness. Anorexia is almost nonexistent. There is hunger, but there is not a mental illness as a foundation. This is a physical problem for them.

This is only one example between psychological differences between cultures. What types of psychology differences come when someone is of a multicultural background. My husband reminded me that he has a lot of family that are Mexican-American. They don’t feel like they fit in in the United States and they don’t feel like they fit in in Mexico. This could be a reason why the depression rates are higher for Mexican-Americans than Mexicans. His cousins are told to go back to Mexico when they are in the states. They are told to go back to the USA when they are in Mexico. They never feel like they really belong.

We must keep an open mind when working with others from around the world. It is important to remember that experiences are different for all. Be mindful of what we complain about when we are in the presence of newly arrived people from 3rd world countries. Things that seem to be such an issue for us are major blessings for them.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES – Differences in Manners: WEEK 7 6/7/2018

Have you done something in a different country that is completely acceptable in your own, only to find that you offended deeply offended someone? This is what can happen between cultures because manners are different in each culture.

In the United States, belching/burping is considered very rude. Yet in China it is considered a compliment to the Chef. It is a sign that you enjoyed your food. In the United States, giving someone a “peace” sign with your fingers is acceptable, but if you were in the UK and you gave that sign, but with the palm facing the opposite direction, this would be like you were giving someone the middle finger gesture.

There are so many examples of different things that are considered fine in country, but not OK in another. The important thing is to watch what others are doing around you. If you notice that no one publicly yawns, it is probably best to not yawn in public. If you have questions or are unsure if you should do it, it is best to er on the safe side and refrain from doing it.

Cultural Differences – Cross-Cultural Students: Week 7 6/7/2018

united-2723203_1280

(Picture from http://www.pixabay.com)

During the video about cross-cultural students I found myself identifying more with the Asian students that complained about American students. It was said:

“‘What I don’t like about American students is that before class ends, they are always packing up their things while the teacher is still talking. It shows shocking disrespect.’ Another student from Asia said, ‘In America, the students have all left the room before the teacher is even done talking!'”

I find these two things very disrespectful. Our culture really values time. So why would one get ready to go before the allotted time is up. I understand if there is an emergency or if it was discussed with the teacher before the class began that they needed to leave early, but this is a constant thing that starts sometime in middle school and never ends. I haven’t seen this in any other culture.

As English teachers we must be fully aware of other cultures. There are several videos floating around the internet that show an African American student being “loud and disrespectful” to their white teacher. What people don’t realized is that that right there is a cultural difference. It may be the race, it may be the region of the country the student grew up in. The fact is, there is no need to be afraid. Get to know the background and cultural norms about your students. Not only will this help you as a teacher, but it will help build trust and respect in your classroom. Students will have a more relaxed environment because you are relaxed and they will learn more.

Cultural Differences: Attributions: Week 6 6/7/2018

Where does success come from? Does it come from your own personal efforts? Or does it come because of outside sources? Well, this depends on what culture you are coming from. In the United States, a highly individualistic country, success comes from your own efforts and hard work. Yet when others have success, we tend to have the attitude of “they were lucky”, or “they had connections”. This seems to be a more negative and competitive outlook towards others and their success. What usually happens when an American fails at something? It is usually someone else’s fault or the fault of their surroundings. I’ve seen this same attribution in Mexico. So many times, I’ve heard people say in Mexico “you can’t make a business work here because the economy is so bad”. I’ve seen plenty of people in Mexico have success. The difference is, they have a different mindset. They know that success comes from your own efforts and how smart you work. The economy may be bad for one reason or the other, but one’s own personal success in business can shine through. There have been many studies on this actually.

I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
                      -William Ernest Henley

Cultural Differences: Personal Space: Week 6: 6/7/2018

Learning about the differences in personal space was so eyeopening! I have heard so many stories about how in Japan and other countries they have “pushers” who literally push as many as they possibly can onto the subway, but didn’t really think that was a real thing. No! It is real! Here is a video showing just how extreme.

When people think of personal space, they usually think about the personal space around an individual. As my husband and I discussed this cultural difference, we realized that this is in regards to all things. Including houses. In the United States, there are yards, fences, and the home lots are big with a house in the middle. In Mexico, each house shares a wall with it’s neighbor. It is like every single house is a town house. There are no yards or fences. For security purposes, however, the houses have metal bars and metal doors so no one can get in, but everything is compact. I could never understand or pinpoint the reason why I always felt claustrophobic. Now I understand that I felt closed in in the city I was living in, even if there was no other person in sight. This goes to show that personal space much greater than the space around your body.

Individualism vs. Collectivism: WEEK 6 6/7/2018

Individualism and Collectivism are two ways of thinking. Individualism is where people and their outcomes are mainly based on the internal acts or individual/self acts that one does. For example, success for failure may come from ones own individual efforts. Collectivism is the idea the efforts of a group or the effects of group/environment make up success or failure. This is a more interdependent look on life.

In the United States, most people are generally individualistic. They look out for themselves and their own success. They have a stronger sense self. One of the ways that you can see this is in the corporate world. People will do whatever is necessary to rise to the top. This includes making others look bad or taking opportunities away from others. While this is not ideal, a lot of Americans have this mentality that “no one can get in their way”.

In other countries, most people live in a more collective mindset. They do things as a group. They make decisions based on a family hierarchy. I have noticed this slightly in my husband’s family. The dad or grandpa has the final decision. I do think, however, that because of a newer generation, this way of thinking is a little old and most are steering away from it. Women are more involved in the family decision making. We can live as a more individual family unit. We don’t have to be so intertwined with either of our families.

Cultural Differences in Emotional Expressiveness: WEEK 6 5/29/2018

Teaching English to students from different countries and cultures has been so fun. I have loved my job and my studies. Each morning as I begin my classes with my Chinese students I ask them a simple question: “How are you?” More often than not, I get the answer “I’m fine.” They give me this answer with a straight face. A few months ago, I noticed this emotional unresponsiveness. I decided to do an experiment at the beginning of each of my classes. I wanted to know if their “fine” answers were a cultural answer, or something that all students said because they didn’t have the vocabulary for different emotions. Each class that I teach is a half hour long and each has a different age group and efficiency level.  The ages range from 3-15 years old.

I began the experiment by showing each class different pictures of people showcasing different emotions. Sure enough, most of the students could identify the different emotions. The next week, I began to ask students “how do you feel” instead of “how are you”. At first, students continued to say fine. So I gave them options. This is where I showed them the pictures from the previous week and asked them if they felt what the picture showed. The students began to identify with the photos and answered accordingly. The following week was the big test. I was going to try to get the students to express and show the emotions spontaneously on their face. Most of the students responded with “happy”. So smiles and laughter were my goal. That week, I had the most successful classes that I’ve ever had in my teaching experience. Each of my classes went from straight-faced “fine” kids to giggling, jumping children.

As I think about those weeks, it reminds me that each human experiences emotions, but each cultural doesn’t express them outwardly. In our own teaching, one way that we can help our students show more emotion (if that is the goal), is by building rapport with them and showing them that the classroom is a safe place to “let loose”.asia-1202527_1920

(Picture from http://www.pixabay.com)

 

CULTURAL MISCOMMUNICATION: WEEK 5 5/26/2018

Being in a multicultural marriage has been such an amazing experience. It has had its challenges and will continue to bring more, but we have been enjoying a beautiful life. There have been so many miscommunications that we have had. Some come because the culture of a man and the culture of a women are very different. Our family dynamics are different. Though we both spoke English in the beginning, it wasn’t until I learned Spanish and we then had two bilinguals in the house did things get better when it came to language. The biggest cultural challenge that we have had is what in insulting and unacceptable in one culture and is just fine, even funny, in the other.

One event in particular comes to mind. One night when we were dating, we went on a walk and talked while we ate guavas. We decided to sit on a bench and Jose said in a cute voice, “oh mi gordita”. This translates as “my little fatty”. I thought I misheard and astonished said, “what?” “You are my gordita,” he stated. Oh no he did not! He did not just call me fat on one of our first dates. To me this was highly offensive, especially because I had worked 5 years in an Eating Disorder Treatment Center trying to combat negative body image. Well, while this was a bad thing to say in my culture, in Jose’s culture is was considered a very cute compliment. He was accepting me as I was and doing so in a loving way because he added “ita” at the end. We laugh at this now, but truth be told, this is a part of the cultural miscommunication that I’m still getting used to.

IMG_2053

HSBC Bank has set a great example for businesses and people all around the world to get to know the cultural differences between different parts of the world. If we are traveling, teaching, or working internationally it is so important to know the culture and respect it. The are many things that are normal to one, but to someone in a neighboring country it it offensive. Research before you travel or interact so that you are prepared for things you may encounter. If you are still unsure, ask a guide or a friend as you travel. This will save you a lot of embarrassment and awkward moments.

Cultural Differences Regarding Time: Week 5 5/24/2018

clock-10421_1920
Being here in Mexico there has always been one thing that has bothered me. There are times when I feel that the people here, especially in the smaller towns, don’t respect time  we set up for things. My husband live an hour away from the LDS branch that we attend. Because my husband is the president, we set up and go to all of the activities and meetings. I am going to school full-time and often put my homework off in order to go to these activities. After the activity, we have to drive another hour to get home. I am happy to do this. I am not happy when everyone shows up when there is a 1/2 hour left of the activity and expect it to run for the appointed 2 hours. I feel that my time and effort means nothing when this happens.

Watching and studying Brother Iver’s lesson about the cultural differences regarding time, a light bulb went off in my head. I am from a monochronic society and I live in a polychronic society. Monochronic societies value time spent and being on time. Polychronic societies value relationships more than time. So if someone said they were going to go to the Family History activity that I spent time planning and preparing for, but their cousin showed up at their house right before the activity, they will stay with their cousin. Having this knowledge can help my patience immensely!

How can this knowledge help us as English teachers? This helps us to understand the behavior of our students. We still need to be professional and on time as teachers, but knowing about the cultural differences will help us to have patience and understanding regarding why certain things are done. This knowledge doesn’t just help teachers, though. It helps anyone around the world. The world is becoming more and more integrated. One example is the United States. There are so many races and cultures that have gathered in the USA. Knowing about the different views of time will help in neighborhoods, the workplace, and in mixed families. Minds and hearts will be opened even more as we learn more about this cultural difference.