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By Sheila TannerSpecial to CSMS MagazineInvisible culture implies that one cannot see with the naked eye the origins or beliefs of another person’s culture. If one was not born into a certain culture, then he may not be able to understand what that culture stands for or why, unless he becomes aware of it or learn from it. No one was born knowing exactly what to do or how to act or what is acceptable or unacceptable. Our attitudes and behavior are learned. It is important that we know how to act and how to behave respectfully in our culture, as well as in other cultures so as not to disrespect the culture and customs of others.     I think when we understand the reasons for our culture’s beliefs we can be more supportive of and sensitive to others’ differences. You see, what is important to us may not be as important to folks from other cultures. But if we feel that our beliefs or customs are being criticized or ignored then we could become offended, as could someone from another culture if we disrespected theirs.      Some cultures bow, or even kneel to those that they feel or consider superior. It would be friendly for us to do the same when visiting those countries. I find it quite interesting that one bows to some of his elderly. However, some might find it quite offensive that we as Americans don’t. It doesn’t mean that we are rude or that we don’t respect our elders; it just means we aren’t accustomed to doing that.     Understanding other cultures is important to all of us. It is the key to effective communication from which we build relationships. It’s how we understand our ancestors and what they went through. Most of us get our religion from our culture. That is where we learn our values, our roots, what our ancestors strived for and what we should now be striving for. Anybody who stands for something should know why he/she stands for it. If you bow in your culture, then you should know it’s out of respect; but you should also know why you have to show respect for.        Your culture is a part of you. It’s what you are made of. It is the why of your family. You can only understand yourself and others by obtaining as much information as you can about your culture and that of others. You may agree or disagree with the why and how of your culture or even another persons’ culture, but the key is respecting what is important to someone else and that it is why it is important to know your own culture and respect the culture of others.     After reading Lustig and Koester, I am more convinced that a lack of respect of one another’s culture can do more damage than one might imagine. I don’t have a problem with my name being mispronounced and one might even say that someone who does, has very little else to worry about. But obviously it means a lot to some people, and in some cultures it can be very degrading to mispronounce or change someone’s name to suit our own taste.  Apparently in some cultures, names come with very important meaning. Be careful when mispronouncing some else’s name. As a teacher you will encounter all types of students from various backgrounds. It is important that you can give the respect that you expect from your students.Also see Make our society a better placeWhat we need to teach our ESOL students about Nonverbal communicationIndian Culture: Vibrant and thought-provokingRole of alternative languages in our society  NoteSheila Tanner is a Middle School teacher from Austin Texas. She wrote this piece, exclusively for CSMS Magazine. 

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