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.

icebergThere 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.

EDIT: After dozens of requests, I have made a high resolution version that you can purchase for print. If you wish to include this diagram in a book, presentation, or publication, please contact me. This will help your staff, colleagues, and students to begin to see the depth of cultural influence on all our lives.

Many define culture through arts and celebrations. But culture is deeply rooted in mindsets, values, and countless aspects of our upbringing that we don't even realise are there. Help your colleagues, staff, students understand… Share on X

How do you see the effects of your own multicultural environment? What challenges and blessings does a heterogeneous classroom present?

The rest of the iceberg
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59 thoughts on “The rest of the iceberg

  • 15. June 2020 at 21:37

    Hi Janine. This is such a beautiful illustration. It really blew my mind when I actually sat and thought about it. So I thought I’ll visit your website and I was having a look at the comments and I realised that I have interpreted this illustration from an altogether different POV.
    While I think you actually meant this to be viewed and thought on a macroscopic cultural level, I personally thought that these are broadly all the topics that two people should talk about to see if they really connect. Like if two people really connect and share similar thoughts on these heads, they sure can end up being best of friends or even life partners. Also in today’s small global village where a large chunk of the population having freedom to choose the culture and lifestyle they want to adapt, this can also serve as a broad guideline as to what all heads to keep in mind to truly understand oneself and know what we actually like and don’t like, what we want to adapt from other cultures and what we want to keep from ours.
    Kudos to you for creating this masterpiece.
    With warm regards from India

  • 4. October 2021 at 10:46

    Hello! I’m wondering if you are the owner of the iceberg image, and if so, how I’d go about getting permission to use it in a book. I am using it to illustrate Edward T. Hall’s iceberg analogy to culture. Thank you!

    • profile pic
      8. October 2021 at 14:51

      Hi Erin,
      Yes, I created this image. You can email me at JaninesMusicRoom(at)gmail with more information.


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