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Friday, May 27, 2022

Caught between two cultures

By Erika Cruz

Special to CSMS Magazine    

Talking about people’s culture seems to be a sensitive subject. There really is no way of knowing the implication in dealing with the differences of other cultures unless one has experienced it personally. There are different ways to act and speak to people depending on whether you are at home, church, school or even a different country. Every student may experience this when different situations arise.

            When traveling to another country, knowledge and research may help in the understanding of that particular culture. Many customs and habits could be different to the extreme where it becomes an insult to those of other backgrounds. In some cultures it may seem normal for people to eat chicken with their fingers. Yet, in other cultures this practice may be a sign of disrespect.  Being knowledgeable of the customs of other countries is what helps to understand them.

            Immigrant students come from different backgrounds.  Intercultural communication is essential for the adjustment of these students. They are dealing with many changes that range from language, habits, foods, and even a difference in climate. Attending a new school means a certain behavior must be followed. Rules are enforced by adults, whom must be respected. That may be totally opposite from what is taught at home or back in their country. Students also confront the situation where in the playground they must adjust to the different “play rules” set by kids of other cultures. Many students may even resist change because the difference in values may be so strong that certain practices may seem “wrong” to them. The more understanding and communication a teacher has with the students, the easier their struggle in the adjustment process will be.

        Religious views shape our ideas about reality. In many ways family beliefs shape the way people view the world around them. When a classroom in the United States is filled with kids, chances are the majority of them are not going to be of the same religion. The range of beliefs seems endless. Knowing about the student’s religious backgrounds may not only help the teacher with a better understanding but also help the students feel more comfortable. A teacher should always know his classroom in order to make sure he is not going to have any activity or say something that might offend a possible Hindu, Buddhist, Christian or Jewish student in the class.

       All religions have the goal to keep their believers in line of following laws that provide them with some sort of discipline. Understanding the differences and acknowledging them will show a respect which is perhaps the first step in acceptance of one another. As a teacher, having children share their reasons for certain practices in their religion may help ease the tension between the children. If other children could understand why Jewish children only eat kosher meats, or what the white garment symbolizes for the Muslims, then it wouldn’t seem so awkward.  Knowing the boundaries and making sure every student has an equal opportunity to grow seems to make the classroom a more comfortable place. It is imperative that every student is treated fairly so that the adjustment process to new and different cultures could be as painless as possible.

       As a teacher, making the classroom more culturally friendly may help in understanding student’s different backgrounds and how their religion has shaped their values and ways of life. Making every student feel welcomed when they walk in and displaying different pictures on the walls about different cultures and religions may help, as many experts say.

Here are some more tips to ease the process:

  1. Making the students feel acknowledged and as important as everyone else.
  2. Assigning research projects for specific religions may also help students understand each other.
  3. The classroom should be culture friendly and students of all religions should feel comfortable where they are learning.

Note: Erika Cruz is an education student at NSU.  

Also see Great tools to understand the culture of Colombian students in American classrooms 

Creating culture diversity

Make our society a better place

What we need to teach our ESOL students about Nonverbal communication

Indian Culture: Vibrant and thought-provoking

Role of alternative languages in our society

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