Reflective Course Essay #1

Dear Allison,

Rebecca Williams Due 2/21/11 CI 415

What you said before about questioning my CI 415 class really got me thinking. After wondering about the purpose of the class and seeing what we’ve already done, I came to the realization that this class is both important and necessary for future educators. The materials and topics that have been discussed thus far are integral for pre-service teachers so we know how to work with students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. I understand your concerns with the issues you mentioned, but I think you’ll understand my class better once you read what I have to say about it. I realize that you assume some cultures are “high cultures” and some are “low cultures.” I think it will change you’re mind if you learn a couple of current definitions of culture. The first definition given in our lecture on 1/31/2011 was “(Tylor, 1903): Arts, knowledge, beliefs, morals, laws, customs, habits developed for a society to function.” That seems to be a more old fashioned view of what culture is, but it can still apply today. Another definition given in lecture on 1/31/2011 was “Culture is socially acquired, not genetically determined.” This can be interpreted as meaning that culture is not something we are born with, but rather something we acquire based on with who and what we interact. Yet another definition to recognize can be found in the Diaz-Rico and Weed (2010) reading where they discussed various

ideas that could be summed up into this statement: “Culture is the explicit and implicit patterns for living, the dynamic system of commonly agreed-upon symbols and meanings, knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, behaviors, traditions, and/or habits that are shared and make up the total way of life of a people, as negotiated by individuals in the process of constructing a personal identity” (p. 237). Even though each of these definitions is slightly different, they are all based on the same concepts of what makes a person the way they are. When discussing cultures, it is important to have a culturally relativistic stance. Dr. Garcia defined cultural relativity on 1/31/2011 as “All cultures develop ways that are appropriate for their own settings (no one better than another).” That can be further interpreted as each culture is equal, and we, as people, should strive to understand different cultures from the way they see things. It is important to see other cultures and not judge them as better or worse than your own culture. Your view of “high cultures” and “low cultures” does not apply any longer within the terms of these definitions. There cannot be one culture higher than another, since we should all attempt to live a culturally relativistic life as equals with other cultures. This also connects to a future classroom, since it is particularly important to treat all students, regardless of what culture they come from, equally and with respect. There can be many ways to interpret the word “culture,” but what matters most is how a teacher handles diversity in their classroom. Before beginning CI 415, I thought something very similar to you. I did not understand that there could be more than one standard and accepted

form of speaking English. After doing some of the assigned reading and attending lecture, I saw the error of my thinking. Just like with you previous concern, learning a few simple definitions can advance your understanding of this topic. One term that shows there is more than one accepted way of speaking English is “regional standard dialect.” According to Lindfors (1987), regional standard dialect is “language variety used by majority of adults in geographical community” (p. 396). That can be further explained by depending on your location in the country, the way you speak may differ from another region. The next helpful term is “social dialect.” Lindfors (1989) defines a social dialect as “a way of speaking (and writing) that is closely associated with a particular social group” (p. 397). One example of a social dialect is African American Vernacular English (Lindfors, 1989). Before reading this, you may not have realized that there was a difference between the two kinds of dialects. But now we know that regional depends on where you live and social can occur anywhere that people speak similarly to each other. Slang, which I previously would not have known the difference between, as Professor Garcia said on 2/7/2011, constantly changes and does not have a set system. Slang is a popular word or phrase that does not necessarily stay a part of the language for long. Slang will come and go, but a dialect is how someone speaks English. Within a classroom, we must be acutely aware of how students speak. While you may have corrected students for using improper grammar in the past, it is important to evaluate whether students

are actually incorrect or if they speak with a different dialect. Each dialect, regional or social, has its own set of rules. As was discussed in our lecture, there are a few more terms related to culture that we as future educators should be aware of. The first, emic perspective, is one that every person, teacher or not, should strive to have. According to Dr. Garcia on 1/31/2011, an emic perspective is an “insider’s perspective; interpretive understanding.” Everyone should attempt to view other cultures from the inside. You should put yourself in someone from a different culture’s shoes to try and understand life from their perspective. It is extremely important to have an emic perspective in the classroom to understand how students from other culture must feel at times. Being aware in this way could help students adjust and feel more comfortable in a new and different culture. Another term to consider is cultural hegemony. A definition Dr. Garcia gave on 2/7/2011 is “When members of dominant micro-culture buy into macro-culture, they often do not think about its influence.” In other words, it is the idea that one culture, typically American, is overwhelming the traditional cultures of other countries. As Dr. Garcia alluded to on 2/7/2011, American culture is at the center, while people from other cultures overlap at time with the assumed culture, but still maintain some of their own traditions. It becomes obvious in the ways people in the American culture identify themselves. If asked, would you feel the need to classify yourself as “white,” “US citizen,” or “enabled?” It is more than likely that you would take for

granted that those traits describe you. It would be important in a classroom to be respectful all children, whether or not they fall into the dominant culture. According to Archer (1986), cultural bumps “occur when an individual from one culture finds himself or herself in a different, strange, or uncomfortable situation when interacting with persons of a different culture” (p. 171). The Archer (1986) article we read discussed using purposeful culture bumps as a tool to reduce prejudice in the classroom. It could show students, in a respectful way, how a person from another culture experiences and interprets the same situation in a different way. Allison, I hope this clears up the confusion of why CI 415 is an important class for future educators. With all of the definitions and interpretations I have given you, maybe it well help you be better prepared for dealing with students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Your friend, Rebecca Williams As I began reflecting on CI 415, I discovered that started this class quite like Allison from the prompt. I had no idea what the class was about or why it was important for me to be taking. As we get more into the materials though, it has become more obvious why we need to hear this information. I was ignorant about how to deal with other cultures before this class. I understand that everyone is different and must have different values and traditions, but I honestly had never put that much thought into how those differences could need to be addressed in a classroom. Things like having an emic perspective rather than an etic perspective will be incredibly important when running a

classroom. Children will need to be treated with such respect to cultivate a good environment, but that can only be achieved by knowing how to address each unique child. I now see the relevance of this class for helping pre-service teachers be able to teach children of any culture. The course has challenged me to think outside of my normal bounds. I had never thought about how difficult life must be for a child from a completely different culture moving into a new school, state, or country. It is eye opening to think about life from a totally new perspective. One of the big concerns I still have is how to apply all of this newly acquired information. It is one thing to learn all about how to deal with people and students from other cultures, but the seemingly more important part of that equation is how to put it into use. I do not quite see the transition of learning all of these useful and important terms into practical use. I am sure we will learn that part as the semester continues, but that remains the underlying question in my head.