Month 2: Cultural Awareness, Acknowledgement, and Affirmation
American classrooms are becoming more and more diverse every year, which means cultural diversity in the classroom is becoming an increasingly important topic for educators throughout the education system. Educators are and need to embrace diversity and foster culturally inclusive classrooms designed to help every student succeed.
CULTURAL AWARENESS means being conscious and knowledgeable about the differences and similarities between one's own culture and the culture of others. Cultural awareness is the ability to look inward and ask, "What are my cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions?"; "Why do I do things this way?"; "Why do I react that way?"; and "How do I really see the world?"
Being culturally aware means understanding, recognizing, and acknowledging the influence our culture has on how we do things, including how we communicate, what food we eat, or even how we go about our work. Being culturally aware also means understanding and recognizing the influence other cultures have upon our interactions between and among individuals and groups.
CULTURE is a broad term that refers to the social behavior, customs, and beliefs of a particular group, which develop over time. Culture is a lot more than a list of holidays, or food preferences, or the language someone speaks. Culture is the framework around which we build our identity. It influences how we engage with the world, the perspectives we take, and the expectations we have. Every one of us has a culture, and most of us have identities built from multiple cultures. For example, we may consider ourselves part of the American culture, the culture of South Texas, the culture of children born to Mexican immigrants, the culture of people who enjoy comic books, etc.
DEGREES OF CULTURAL AWARENESS
My Way is the Only Way - At this early stage, people are only aware of their own way of doing things: their way is the only way. The ignore cultural differences.
I Know Their Way, But My Way is Better - At this stage, cultural differences are seen as a source of problems and people tend to ignore them or reduce their significance. They are aware that things are done differently, but consider their way the best.
My Way and Their Way - At this point, people realize that cultural differences can have both positives as well as negatives and are willing to use cultural diversity to create new ways, better solutions, and alternative options. People are aware of their own way, and other ways, and choose the best way.
Our Way - This final stage brings people from different cultural backgrounds together to create new meanings and new rules to meet the needs of a particular situation. It is the creation of a culture of shared meanings.
SIX REASONS WHY CULTURAL AWARENESS IS CRUCIAL
Being culturally aware,
- makes us global citizens,
- helps create an inclusive and homogenous society,
- can help us uncover an appreciation for what's considered 'different',
- is linked to self-awareness,
- shows respect for other cultures,
- influences communication.
Creating a strong sense of belonging and safety in the school community means doing more than just celebrating diversity. An inclusive school uses practices that genuinely affirm students' multidimensional identities, sustain cultural knowledge, and ways of being.
Resources for Learning:
To build your knowledge of Cultural Awareness, Acknowledgment, and Affirmation, review the following materials and reflect on the content using the question prompts.
DON'T PUT PEOPLE IN BOXES
Review the video: Don't Put People in Boxes
- As you watch the video, which boxes do you fit into?
- Are there other boxes that exist?
- What boxes have you put people (colleagues, students, family members, friends) into without realizing what you have done?
- Think of the students with whom you currently serve. Have you put any of them into boxes? What boxes?
- What is the advantage of these boxes? What is the disadvantage?
- Reread the definition of cultural awareness from above and from what you observed in this video: what is the connection to cultural awareness, acknowledgment, and affirmation?
THINK ABOUT IT:
What is considered appropriate in one culture may be inappropriate behavior in another. Think about the culture in which you were raised and the culture you live today. What are some of the norms of that culture? What do you believe? What do you value? How do you interact with family members, friends? What celebrations do you acknowledge? Why those and not others? Consider other aspects of your culture as well.
Now think about the community you serve and a culture different than your own. What do you notice about characteristics of that culture (these are generalizations and maybe stereotypes or labels)? What are your observations about how they interact? How do they communicate with you? What appears to be their values? How do you interact with them? What will you do to better understand students from another culture other than your own?
AM I CULTURALLY AWARE?
Review this document, Am I Culturally Aware, respond to each of the prompts. Then reflect upon what you're learning about your own cultural awareness, acknowledgment, and affirmations.
Expanding your knowledge: In pairs or small groups
BUILDING YOUR CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE AND AWARENESS
- Pick a country or culture representing the students you serve.
- How can you find out more about that culture, customs, traditions, and practices?
Here are a few ideas:
- Talk to a colleague or friend from that culture
- Use the internet
- Look at newspapers and/or magazines
- Watch foreign films
- Visit cultural centers
- Eat at restaurants of different ethnic groups
With your partner, generate at least five additional ideas.
How can you share this information with someone else?
Take Action: Do one or two ideas from your brainstormed list yourself. Return to your group and share what you have learned and what is next for you.
COMMON BELIEFS ABOUT CULTURAL AWARENESS, ACKNOWLEDGMENT, & AFFIRMATION
(Take a Deeper Dive from Month 1)
- Select from the Common Beliefs document, Common Beliefs, at least two of the beliefs to discuss with your colleagues.
- As a result of your conversations, what action does your partner or group agree to take as a result of this discussion?
PERCEPTIONS OF AMERICANS
View the Prezi presentation at the link below. In the middle of the presentation is a video: From a British Perspective, American Stereotypes. Click on the link within the presentation. (If you are familiar with Prezi, you will know to go to the settings to allow it to run on its own. If you are not familiar, you may advance each slide using the arrows at the bottom of the slide screen). Perceptions of Americans #2.
Reflect on the following questions:
- What are your initial reactions to the information in this presentation?
- What have you learned from this presentation?
- How does this speak to cultural awareness and affirmation?
- If we are to assume the information in this presentation is accurate, what do we, as educators, need to do to promote cultural awareness, affirmation, and appreciation with our students and our school community?
Guide to Cultural Awareness