Chapter 3: Understanding Social Identities and Cultural Frameworks
This chapter is about understanding “our own perspective and the perspective of others” in terms of our own unique identities. If we’re able to do this, then we’re able to create a healthy, respectful classroom environment.
Our social identify refers to how “we define ourselves as members of a group”, be that gender, religion, ethnicity etc.
Our cultural framework is derived from our social identities. We all belong to a variety of cultures, each of which helps shape our view of the world.
The advantage of having both a clear social identity and cultural framework is that it helps connect us to other people.
The disadvantages? Stereotyping!
Not only that, but some groups might demand conformity from others outside the group.
What Can We Do?
We can work hard to learn about our students’ families.
We can become aware that everyone “has unique perceptions based on his or her social identities and each [person] believes that his or her perspective is correct”.
Ernst touches on the issue of poverty, which I found to be quite interesting. She reminds us to move beyond the deficit perspective (e.g., poor people succumb to a culture of poverty; they just need to work harder, etc.) and instead view it from a strength-based perspective. In other words, try to recognize the obstacles and challenges people in poverty must face on a daily basis.
Ernst also reminds us that in order to provide support to families we need to be reflective about what goes on in our classes. As an example, she touches on Show & Tell. From the teacher’s perspective it’s probably about giving the children an opportunity to speak about something meaningful in front of the class. But in reality, perhaps it’s just highlighting differences in personal wealth.
She also mentions that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions when some families are mistrustful of teachers or don’t appear to be engaged in their child’s learning. This doesn’t necessarily mean the families don’t value education. It could simply mean they’ve had bad experiences within the school system and feel marginalized.
Here’s my favourite quote from this chapter (p. 57):
We are all basically ethnocentric. We feel that our own culture is better than others. This relates to the idea that we often accept culture as truth: ‘This is how things should be,’ or ‘They should not act like that.’ As culture is deeply rooted and something that we learn about through immersion from birth, we tend to accept our realities as truths, not recognizing that others experience totally different realities.
I think if we (as a society, not just teachers and care-givers) could get our minds around THAT, most of our problems would be solved!
Disclaimer: Gryphon House gave me a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I share are wholly mine.