This weekend, with UN Day coming up, I am thinking about culture. An important yet cryptic element in our everyday interactions, the behaviors and expectations engrained in our students’ brains heavily impact their behaviors and expectations in our classrooms.
There are many definitions of culture, which primarily refer to the arts, beliefs, and customs of a group of people. I once attended a workshop where culture was defined as the “collective programming of the mind” that distinguishes one group of people from another. I like this definition, because I think the word “programming” really evokes an idea of the invisible parts of culture: the mindsets, the attitudes, the values. These are at the core of any culture; they are often so deeply rooted in our upbringing that we don’t even realize they are there. Yet they heavily influence the way our students (and parents) approach school, teachers, community, and learning—and likewise the way we, as teachers, approach students, parents, and curriculum. So as we approach a day where we celebrate an organization that brings together the many peoples of the world, I am taking some time to reflect on what my students bring to the table, and how I use that in my classroom.
How do you see the effects of your own multicultural environment? What challenges and blessings does a heterogeneous classroom present?