Our text, Foundations of Education, defines culture as “continually changing patterns of acquired behavior and attitudes transmitted among members of a society. Culture is a way of thinking and behaving; it is a group’s traditions, memories, and written records, its shared rules and ideas, its accumulated beliefs, habits, and values” (Gutek, Levine, & Ornstein, 2011). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “in 2000, 3.4 million U.S. children ages five through seventeen (about one in fifteen) spoke little or no English” (Davis & Yang, 2006). As more students with more diverse cultural backgrounds integrate into classrooms today, it is vitally important for teachers to understand, respect, and acknowledge these varying beliefs and practices. Teachers need to be multi-culturally educated so that they can provide all students with equal educational opportunities and not focus solely on one single cultural belief and practice. However, this can be extremely challenging because many cultures vary greatly on expectations and norms.
As a future teacher, I personally am concerned with the challenges I may face in trying to create a multi-cultural classroom for my students to emphasize equality in education. Although I will be aware of the varying cultural aspects, I worry I may tend to continually rely on American literature (as I will be an English teacher) as the bulk for my curriculum because it is what I know. However, I would love to talk to my students from different cultures and learn about their favorite pieces of literature and perhaps incorporate those into the curriculum, as I know they will be able to appreciate and identify with those works.
One example of cultural diversity in the classroom we were asked to potentially think about is the following: Many Americans with European backgrounds tend to place great value on the individual. Many Americans, such as those with Asian backgrounds, tend to place greater value on the family or society or to the value the group and the individual equally. Consider this, you are teaching a fourth-grade class with many Asian American children in it. How will the difference in values between Anglo-European American and Asian American students affect your teaching and your relationships with students and parents? Since there is a value on individualism in one culture and a value on the group in another, I would incorporate individual work and exercises, as well as group work and interaction, in my curriculum. I would distribute these two practices evenly. Therefore, students can show their individual capabilities and ideas, as well as their ability to work together and share diverse ideas and concepts. As far as the family aspect goes, to acknowledge both cultural values I would be inclined to send weekly progress reports home. Parents of both backgrounds will be frequently informed of their child’s progress and work quality; they will see the individual work and the group work completed to see both values are being incorporated in their child’s class.
Overall, although I have some concerns as a future teacher in being able to adequately incorporate diverse cultural experiences and practices in my classroom I look forward to learning from my own students, and working with them and their families to make the most of their educational experience. The most important aspect to remember for me is that “children from diverse cultures and their families can succeed in American schools without surrendering the customs of their home cultures” (Davis & Yang, 2006). The more the schools and the families work together to preserve each child’s unique culture, the more each child will benefit from and appreciate their educational experience.
Davis, Carol & Yang, Alice. Welcoming families of different cultures. 2006. Education World. Received October 18, 2011 from www.educationworld.com
Gutek, Levine, & Ornstein. Foundations of education. 2011. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning
Image: Class Photo of Newmedia Design & Technology Lab. Giani. 2007.