Practicing Awareness of Microaggressions

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While this instance of microaggression did not occur this week, it did take place this school year. I have a child in my kindergarten class who has a plethora of behavior issues. There are many interventions I have established for him in my classroom on a daily basis; the most significant of these is patience and love (and on my good days, an abundance of both of these). A few months ago, another teacher had a run-in with this particular student in which the student was very defiant. After recalling this incident to me, the teacher said, “you know what [this student] really needs is a tough, non-nonsense man in his life.” After taking a moment to recover and not come unglued, I responded that I thought love was truly what this child needed and that’s what I was (and am) working on providing him with every day that he is in school. To be the target of microaggression was infuriating and extremely frustrating. For a colleague who has never been in my classroom to witness the strong relationships I establish with each of my students (especially the ones that are hard to love), this comment was hurtful and I found myself feeling defensive because of it. My being a woman has nothing to do with the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of my teaching.

My observation experiences this week affected my perception of stereotypes and prejudice in that I realized that a major root cause of this is often ignorance. People can be so unaware of how their words or actions can affect others and therefore speak and act in such under thought, careless ways. It has also broadened my own frame of reference in making me more aware, sensitive, and intentional with the way I speak and act around diversity.

Perspectives on Diversity and Culture

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The three individuals I chose to interview were my sister, my dad, and one of my best friends. The following are their responses to the question of defining culture and diversity.

“Culture is the flavor and seasoning that you grow up around and exist in every day. Culture does not define who you are, but changes and alters/enhances you.” –Brandon (friend/screenwriter)

“Diversity is surrounding yourself with people and ideas that are different than you are. It can be ethnicity, sex, or ideology.” -Brandon

“Culture is an individual or group of people with specific origins, traditions, beliefs, generally developed over time.” –Carrie (my sister)

“Diversity is people’s differences. Generally coming together with other differences.” –Carrie

“Culture is something along the lines of behaving or acting in a way that is understood and accepted by a group of people in a workplace, classroom, church, etc.” –Dad

“Diversity is when there exists a spectrum of different types of people, ideas within an area or location.” –Dad

Aspects of culture and diversity that I have studied in this course are included in the above definitions in that culture is defined with words like “traditions,” “beliefs,” “enhances,” “behaving,” and “origins.” These words all contribute to the definition of what culture is. For example, traditions include how weddings and funerals are preformed, holidays that are celebrated, and meals that are eaten. Behaviors can refer to how certain cultures react to change or how they present themselves in public. “Culture refers to how particular groups of people live” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p. 55).

Some of what is defined as “deep culture” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) is omitted in these definitions. For example, the role of children, health care, and extended family relationships all play important roles in defining culture. Social identification and reflecting on one’s own practices, behaviors, and customs before understanding or categorizing someone else’s are concepts that are omitted from these definitions of diversity (Deaux, 1996).

Reflecting on these definitions of culture and diversity has influenced my own thinking on the topics in that the words “flavor and seasoning” in Brandon’s definition really stuck with me and painted a vivid picture of culture. I also appreciated the personal undertones of his definition of diversity. Brandon is one of my closest friends. He is black and I am white. He is politically liberal and I am conservative. He is male and I am female. We have apparent differences, but a bond that is closer than most siblings.

References:

Deaux, K., Social Identification. In Social Psychology Handbook of Basic Principles.(E.T. Higgins, and A.K. Kruglan ski.eds). Guilford, New York 

Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

My Family Culture

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The situation given for this week’s blog assignment is one that has never happened to me, but I’m sure many people around the world can relate to. If catastrophe were to strike and I could keep three culturally-relevant items, they would be my Bible, my wedding ring, and a family photo album.

These three items represent significant meaning in my life. The Bible embodies the importance of my faith and deepening my relationship with Jesus Christ. My wedding ring signifies my most important earthly relationship. Lastly, a family photo albums exemplifies the memories, love, and support provided by my family.

If I were told to only keep a single item, I’m sure I would feel confused and angry. I can only imagine that it would feel as though parts of me were being wrongfully taken away and abandoned. I’m sure I would feel frustrated and upset that these items could no longer stay with me.

I think a major insight I have gained through completing this reflection is the realization that some of the things I hold most dear to my life are some of the things I also often take for granted the most. While these things are tangible, material items, they are definitely items of meaning and significance in my life, but the nearest and dearest parts of my life and of my culture are the people in it. My husband and my family are the most important. While it would be frustrating and confusing to have to give up the tangible items in my life, it would be devastating to give up any of these people, these treasured pieces of my life. However, this is often a situation people around the world find themselves in whether it be after a major catastrophe or immigrating, it is a powerful reminder to be mindful of these situations and specifically these families we may be servicing that have been through or are currently dealing with trauma like this.