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Culture Questions

1. You are a 4th grade teacher with a new boy in your class from an Arab nation. He speaks
very little English. He is having a problem getting along with the other students. He has
fights on the playground every day, which he seems to provoke by constantly touching the
other boys.

There are a lot of things going on here. In the Arab nation it is common to hug your friends,
shake their hands or kiss them. I can’t say for sure this is what is going on here but there seems
to be some divide. I would keep the male students in my classroom for five minutes one day
before recess and talk to them about why this keeps happening. Once I’ve heard them all out I
will explain that sometimes we touch someone on the arm or we put our hand on someone who
is our friend. Also that our new friend doesn’t speak much English and he is probably trying to
be their friend. Compassion can go a long way, especially when we don’t understand things
about others. Then I’d probably try to integrate more about where our student is from in future
lessons because by not acknowledging their culture in class it’s already having negative effects,
as well as starting problems.

2. You have a new Korean girl in your 4th grade class. The other students in your class don’t want
to sit next to her because they say she smells funny. You have a bad allergy and can’t tell. She
appears to be a clean, well-dressed child and you don’t understand your students’ objections.

In this case there are some foods that linger or don’t make us smell as good after we’ve eaten
them. I’d point out to our class that there are things we eat like onions, or tuna fish that may make
us smell different after we’ve eaten them, then arrange for them to try some food from Korea.
Also I’d emphasize how the way someone treats others is more important than things like how
they smell and that it’s unkind to single someone out for someone like this. I’d also remind them
of the fact that in our class that everyone is valuable and has a place with us, and that because of
our flexible seating in my class (I want them to get to know each other so they’ll switch groups
every month) they will most likely sit next to her, hopefully taking these steps will move us to be
more accepting. As well as getting them to understand they cannot do things like this and learn
about her culture.

3. You are a 3rd grade teacher who is having a parent conference with parents of an Asian
student in your class. You explain to the parents that the child needs to spend more time
working on his homework. The parents keep nodding and saying “yes” as you explain your
reasons. You are disappointed when there doesn’t seem to be any follow-up on the
parents’ part.

Based on the reaction of my student’s parents, I think their reaction could be for any number of
reasons. One particular reason could be a respect situation; the parents could feel disagreeing with
me or my reasoning would be disrespectful to me as an educator. Since, education is very
important to this culture, as well as respect, it may be that they don’t want to insult me or find it
appropriate to correct me. Another situation that could garner this sort of result may be that my
student’s parents speak limited English. I know that when I’m spoken to in a language I’m not
familiar with (which is unfortunately anything except English) I tend to just nod and smile
agreeing to whatever is being said. Or with my own family my standard response is “Si, Te amo.”
And then passing the phone to my mom. In this situation they could just be agreeing with me
because they know we’re discussing their child but not knowing what I’m saying, which would
also explain the lack of questions. If the parents are Japanese, it is possible that they feel
uncomfortable answering or asking questions about their child. The reading said inviting a
Japanese parent to tea and leading with questions about their child to start things off. Overall, I
might need to re-evaluate how I’m presenting information to the parents of the child. I may want to
start of asking questions about the child before noting my observations such as spending more time
on homework. I could then move on to suggestions and offering them a chance to ask questions.
Or asking for their own input on how to spend more time on the homework and what they think
will work best for their child. I think the most important thing is to develop a relationship with the
students’ parents and make sure that they feel comfortable communicating with me, asking
questions, and informing me on matters concerning their child. Their child is their child first and
foremost, I’m just the teacher and spend a limited amount of time with the child. While I hope I
develop a strong relationship with my students there may be things I don’t know or things they’ve
already tried so strong communication with parents is so important.

4. You are a 5th grade teacher who is using a lot of cooperative learning strategies in your
classroom. In the middle of the year you get a new Arab boy in your class. The student
doesn’t follow any of the rules you have explained through a bilingual classmate. He is very
disruptive in your class.

The American School system is different than different parts of the world and my student may not
only have trouble understanding me, but understanding what is going on in the classroom. Even
with the translation from a bilingual classmate there still may be some ideas lost in translation.
From what was read this week I can see that a lot of schools work with a sort of teacher is the
leader idea so cooperative learning strategies might be something new to my student. It takes time
to learn routine and to get used to something new so I would try to give my student some time.
Additionally, it suggests in the text using an online dictionary so I might try to learn some of the
more important phrases I want communicated to show them that I am trying, since it is possible
that my student might be upset or embarrassed they don’t understand me and have another
student translating for them. I might also try to reach out to their parents to see if they might be
able to find out what might be going on and why they are having a hard time following the rules
and being disruptive. What might be off task and disruptive to me, might be the student’s way of
trying to figure out things or being lost.

5. You are Ms. Smith, a 3rd grade teacher. You don’t think your new student from Egypt is
placed in the correct grade. You set up a meeting with the parents to discuss placing the child
correctly. The student’s father comes in to see you but doesn’t seem to take your concerns
seriously.
This could be because parents from North Africa usually don’t like to disrupt the learning process
or regularly attend meetings with teachers in this culture. There is also the possibility that they
respect my opinion as an educator. I think asking the father of my student more questions about the
student’s educational background first could have gone a long way. Understanding my students
cultural background, educational background and values could have helped move this conversation
in a better direction before going straight into discussing the placement of the child. It may have
come off disrespectful, or made a bad impression on my student’s father. School there is different
than it is here and it is possible I’m not meeting my students needs as it said in the text examples
and instruction on how to do things might be something that may be done since students from this
culture are not used to or raised to question or deviate from what is expected so any questions they
may have might not be addressed. Overall I know it’s crucial to catch misplacement and other
learning road blocks early, but a previous conversation discussing my student, their needs, and
anything I might need to know about educational background would have also been just as
important.
6. You are a first-grade teacher. A Korean student comes into your class in April. During a
discussion of age and birthdays, this student says that she is 8 years old. The other students
in your class are turning seven. The office tells you that she has been correctly placed.

Based off of my research the reason my student is 8, but in the first grade, is because in Korean
culture they have a New Year birthday and their actual birthday. On their New Year birthday
everyone turns one year older at the same time, as well as the fact that in Korea when you are born,
you are born one years old. I think this would be a great time to talk about traditions in different
cultures, I know that in my classroom everyone will have different birthdays and ways of
celebrating them, as well as traditions that concern birthdays. Such as where I’m from where we
have a certain song we sing, and the fact that we believe it is bad luck to celebrate someone’s
birthday before the actual day. This would be the perfect time to integrate a little bit of Korean
culture into our classroom, as well as serve understanding of why my student is 8, but everyone
else is turning 7.

7. Guadelupe is a smiling 3rd grader from Argentina. She seems well-mannered and eager
to please. However, when you speak to her she refuses to look at you.

My student could find it impolite to look at me or stare. A lot of countries find direct eye contact
inappropriate so I wouldn’t take it personally. As long as her manners and work are going well I
wouldn’t raise too much concern over. However, I would take her aside and let her know that it
wouldn’t be rude if she looked me in the eye when she spoke, or disrespectful. But, I would stress
that I understood if she was still not comfortable with doing so. I feel like educators are very
focused on if they are being respected, but it’s just as important, if not more to respect and
understand your students no matter what.

8. You are a 4th grade teacher who wants to write a quick note home to an ESL student’s
family. You pick up the red pen that you use to mark papers and write the note. When you
hand the note to the student, she looks upset.
In some cultures, red is seen as a bad luck when you write in it. However, even without that
there seems to be a stigma against red pen ink. I know that when I saw it on my papers I’d get
nervous that I did something wrong, or was in trouble, or failing. For my student it could be
perceived the same way or even worse. Red ink tends to be a cause for alarm. I’d apologize to
my student and assure them they did nothing wrong. Depending on the content and context of
the note I may even let them read it to show them I meant no harm. I’d then either re-write the
note in a different color or e-mail their family. It would take a couple minutes to re-do but it’s
important that my student know it really wasn’t something to worry over.

9. The Japanese mother of one of your 1st graders picks up her child every day at your door.
You are upset because this mother seems unfriendly. She never smiles at you and you wonder
if you have done something to offend her.

In some culture it is inappropriate or un needed to smile at others. It is not them being rude but
certain emotions or affections are not appropriate in public settings. I would casually begin
conversation about this students parent and make sure to greet them, as I would any other parent
but I would try not to take it personally unless something does come up in one of our chats. It’s
important to realize not every culture puts an importance or appropriateness on certain acts or
things we do here.

10. A Russian student, who has learned English and is able to do much of the work in your 4th
grade classroom, copies work from other students during tests. When you talk to him about
this, he doesn’t seem at all contrite. His parents act like you’re making a big deal about
nothing.

Based on our text I have learned that cheating is no big deal for students in countries like Russia,
they see it more as a collaborative effort. I would make sure to communicate that here cheating is
taken seriously and while I know that it is not in their home I don’t want their student to get into
trouble because of this. Also, I plan to have empty file folders as shields for students work to curb
cheating so I’d make sure we have a talk about appropriate testing behavior before tests and how
we shouldn’t look outside of our fort (the files) and that if they do we will need to have a talk
about this type of behavior.

11. You have a Puerto Rican student in the 3rd grade who speaks English fluently. She
participates orally in your classroom and socializes well with her peers. She even translates for
other students. However, she is doing very poorly in her content area schoolwork.

It can be hard to learn to speak English let alone write and perform in English. I know a lot of
students who learn English as a second language do a lot of processing when speaking, thinking
of what they are saying before they say it, or other things. So with that being said they may not
understand enough English when writing it, since there are different letters, and accent marks in
Spanish that we don’t have in English. Oral projects or options would help as well as more
support in English for content related situations may help.

12. Some of your most advanced ESL students do not understand many of the geometric
concepts which are taught in American classrooms starting in kindergarten.

Just because a concept here is taught in Kindergarten doesn’t make it so in other parts of the
world. As well as the fact they may have been taught these geometric concepts in different ways
so they may look different as well. I think some support in how we figure out these sorts of
problems may help, as well as looking to see the patterns in how the student solved them as well.
I think understanding how students think or process these concepts will help a lot with this.

13. Thi Lien is a new student from Vietnam. She seems bright and alert but gets no help from
home. The papers you send home are still in her backpack the next day. Important
correspondence is never acknowledged. She doesn’t do homework and forgets to bring
back library books. Her home life appears to be very disorganized.

Communication is very important in classroom settings. I would start by asking Thi Lien why
her work isn’t getting home, from the reading I know that Vietnamese children are taught not
speak out in class (p. 137) but I would like to hear from her. I would let her know I understand
things are done differently in Vietnam, and I would like to know from her what I could do to
help her get her work done and brought to school, along with her library books. I know from the
reading students are “expected to complete the same homework each day.” (p. 137) and that
teachers are respected (p. 142) so there has to be something I can do to help. I’d also ask her if
she knows if her parents are reading the paper work being given that requires correspondence.
I’d try a phone call home to see if there is any support I could offer to the parents as well. If there
still is a disconnect or something I can do, I’d try a translator, or maybe try to incorporate more
pictures in hand outs and flyers. With the information given there are so many possibilities to
why things aren’t happening, and assumptions, but I’d rather try to get to the source and see what
I can do to support my student and their family. I’d try to get some more background and a
stronger understanding of the family and make a connection, then try to move on from there.

14. Pablo is a well-mannered boy from Colombia. He insists on calling you “Teacher”
instead of your name which you are sure he knows.

Based on my knowledge of South America, from the reading. Students from Peru will call males
maestro of professor, or females maestra or professora which means teacher. It is not out of
disrespect or them simply not acknowledging my name (Egbert, Ernst-Slavit, p.129). Pablo is
using the English version of my profession, or title, teacher. I would accept this from my student
since it is a cultural practice from where they are from. But, I would also remind Pablo that
typically here teachers are referred to as Mr. or Ms. and use the last names, so I would usually be
called Miss. Sparks, by students. I will also let them know it is okay to call me teacher still, since I
understand why he is doing it and I am a teacher. The reason for informing Pablo of the practice
here is just so they know, incase other teachers down the line might feel differently about being
called teacher. I can’t expect my student to understand the social and professional titles we use
here, and I want them to be comfortable addressing me. But, it is also my job to help inform them
and learn about how school is here.
15. You are a 3rd grade teacher. Your new student speaks Arabic. He seems to hold his pencil in
a very clumsy way and has a great deal of difficulty even copying work in English.

I believe what I may see as clumsy would actually be helpful in writing in their own language.
They also write from right to left meaning that what I see as clumsy may be them trying to adjust
to a different way of writing. If I have had difficulty trying to write in Persian in class then I can
only briefly understand what it would be like for my student trying to write a different way every
day. So I would try to let them get more practice with tracing letters, a lot of students who have
been writing in English their whole lives, and even from this country can have less than neat
handwriting so as long as I see this student trying and can read their work I’ll just leave it up to
practice (in class and with the tracing of the letters) and showing them and allowing them to see
how others hold their pencils to see if this helps.
16. Maria is a Mexican student whose attendance in your 6th grade class is very poor. It is
affecting her academic performance. After an absence of several days, you ask her why she
was out and she explains that her aunt was sick and her family went to help her. Although you
explain the importance of good attendance in school, the same thing happens a few weeks
later. You wonder if Maria’s family considers education important.
Personally, my mother’s side of the family is from Panama which is in Central America. I know
that similarly to Mexico family is very important to Latin/Hispanic cultures and valued very
much. Maria’s family may consider education very important but family is just as much if not
more so important to their culture. As it explains in Chapter 5, that deep ancestral roots are
important to people from Mexico. I think a bit more compassion could be helpful in this situation.
While education is very important, so is family, and it is very possible even if Maria had attended
class those days she missed it could still affect her performance if she was worried about her sick
aunt. School in Mexico is so important they usually leave classroom decisions to the teacher to
make because they are well respected. I think some communication with the family to get Maria
what she needs when she is gone, or to communicate how to request work if they are to leave
would help a lot in this case. Maybe her parents were unaware the toll it is taking on her
education and they do not know how to request work. This way Maria can at least be up to date
on what is going on in class in her absence. I feel like while Maria is in 6th grade meaning she is
likely 11 or 12, she is still a child, it would be important to share my concerns with her parents as
well. That does not mean however questioning their stance on education. From there I could
monitor and see if it changes anything the next time they should have to leave and I could go
from there. But, I do think most of all it is important to keep in mind of the values, culture and
beliefs of my students before questioning their dedication to education.

17. Mei, a new student from China, is scheduled to begin your 4th grade class in the middle of the
school year. On the day she registers, she is introduced to your class and shown where she
will sit. She is to begin school the next morning. You arrive in your classroom at 7:45 a.m. for
a day that begins at 8:30. Mei is waiting at her desk in the dark. The custodian tells you that she
arrived at 7:00 a.m.
Hopefully there is a before school care option where I can send my student while I try to figure
things out. But, I know that being on time is very important in different places in the world. My
students parents may not be aware we start school later in the morning than expected. I would be
sure to let them know whether by phone call, note, or face to face interaction that school begins at
8:30 and if they would like to bring Mei earlier it would be closer to 8am as opposed to 7am. If
there was no morning care for my student they may feel free to help around the classroom, read,
draw, write, or even take a nap before 8am since they were there early.

18. Thu is a 6th grade girl from Thailand. She becomes hysterical when the other girls tease her by
playfully mussing up her hair. Her parents have to come to school and take her home. While
you understand her need to look tidy, you think she has over-reacted.

I know that being well groomed and having a neat appearance is important to Thai people, so I
would understand why she is so upset. It is part of her culture and she probably feels very
disrespected. I would remind the other students we do not put our hands on each other, especially
if we do not have permission and they do not allow it. I would also try to call or e-mail her
parents to see how she is doing. The next day I would hope my students apologize to her, but
expect them to keep their hands to themselves. What may be playful or teasing here may be very
disrespectful or rude somewhere else and students need to know and be empathetic to that.

19. During a parent conference, you tell the parents of your Colombian ESL student that their
child is having difficulty in learning English. You suggest that they only speak English in their
home. The parents look confused. When you relay this conversation to the ESL teacher in
your school, she is very upset.

I would NEVER tell the parents of an ESL or anyone for that matter only to speak English to their
child as a way to help them develop their skills. That is so disrespectful, culturally erasing, and
culturally insensitive that I could never even imagine saying that to someone (I’m not trying to be
disrespectful I promise) by communicating that a parent should only be speaking to their child in
English it undermines and tries to place less importance to their own language. I understand
speaking more English at home if possible, but NEVER only English. There may also be books or
flash cards that could be used to help the student and supplement what they are already learning. I
would expect someone who did say this to the parents of an ESL student to apologize profusely and
communicate they weren’t trying to be ignorant or rude when they suggested this, but was merely
trying to think of ways to help the student. But again, I would NEVER.

20. You are a 4th grade teacher. You have a friendly boy in your class from the Dominican
Republic. He speaks very little English in the classroom and doesn’t seem to be making
much progress. When you give him directions, he seems to be confused. You are sure he is
putting one over on you by pretending not to understand because you have heard him
speak with the other children on the playground.

Conversational English is different than content area, as well as the fact that I may be using
academic language my student doesn’t understand. What seems like him trying to pull one over on
me might be him actually not understanding what I am trying to communicate to him. As well as
you can’t judge a student’s fluency on one interaction or setting. I would try to work with him more
to see what he does understand and try to add onto that using examples, pictures, and other relia to
try and communicate what I am trying to get across to my student. I might also check in or progress
with his ESL teacher to see what they are working on during pull out instruction to see where I can
adopt some tactics to help him understand me more.

21. As a reward for good work in your class you give students a packet of 4 pencils with
decorative erasers. Your Japanese students take two and leave two behind.

From some research on gift giving I have read up on, in Japan giving gifts in pairs is
commonly accepted, and 4 is an unlucky number. In the future it’s something I will have to
remember. Future rewards will most likely have to be given in an even number more or less
than four. I would likely buy two extra packages of pencils to give to the students and
apologize. I do not want my students to be offended, or think I’m offended that they did not
take the whole set of pencils. After that I will be more mindful of my student’s beliefs and
cultures when rewarding the class and try alternatives to pre-packaged items. Or make sure
that what I’m giving will not conflict with any beliefs held by my students. Candy may be an
option, or letting students pick out their own prizes from a treasure box.

22. An Egyptian student in your 3rd grade class is a good math student but becomes
disruptive when you teach a math lesson using math manipulatives.

Manipulatives are not common everywhere in the world for teaching. I would most likely model
how I would like them to be used and talk with my student so they know they are there to help
them do their math. It is their choice whether they would like to use them or not since I know they
may not be comfortable with them. But, that just because they aren’t there to distract. I would also
let them know if they have questions about the manipulatives I’d be glad to help after instructions
are given. Patience and understanding of how different or out of place they may seem to my
student would help me a lot in this situations.
23. You have a new 3rd grade student from Bosnia. During recess time, the child hides under
and bench and cannot be persuaded to come out.

In this case I may pull the child aside and ask about their home (Bosnia and here). I’m not very up
to date on what is going on there, but with a quick internet search I did see a few articles saying
that there is some conflict. I may also ask the child’s parent if they know anything about why this
is happening. I also think it might help to allow this child to pick a friend or two to either play
with at recess to make them more comfortable and get them more accustomed to everything
because recess can be overwhelming. Even visiting the playground now during my practicum
seems a little daunting with everyone running around and so much activity. Or I may allow them
to pick a friend or two to stay in my classroom during recess, I hope to have coloring, or other
activities that my students can use or take part in on special occasions or inside recesses. I think
building some trust, trying some communication with the child and their parent (about the child
and their home), as well as providing options may help show my student I care and build a
relationship so that someday I may know about this reaction. But until then, I think the most
important thing would to be making sure my student is comfortable.

24. As your second-grade class lines up for a field trip, you count your students as you walk
down the line touching each of them on the head. You notice that several students pull
back from you.

Many students from Asian, Arab, and other cultures do not participate in physical contact with
even close friends. My students may be from such cultures so instead I may have them count off, or
have a check list instead of physically touching them on the head. This will be something I will
have to work on realistically, because where I’m from in Central America it is very common to be
affectionate or use a lot of physical contact and I do not want to offend my students or make them
uncomfortable. I will be sure to apologize to the students who pulled away and explain that I will
keep my hands to myself and I did not mean to make them uncomfortable or offend them, just that
where I’m from that’s something that is acceptable, but that I will not do it again and be more
mindful and respectful towards them.

25. You take photographs of your students working in small groups for a Back to School Night.
The grandmother of one of your Chinese students is very upset when she sees your photo
of her granddaughter.

A lot of people in Chinese culture believe that pictures steal your soul. This grandparent is also
from a different time where they probably are more ridged on these types of things, in comparison
to younger more relaxed generations. I would apologize for offending this students grandmother
and explain I never meant to upset her. I would also tell her I realize why she is upset and see what
I could do to make amends. In the future I would be more thoughtful and considerate of these
cultural beliefs before taking pictures of students. I may also send home one of those papers asking
parents to sign if they are alright with their children’s photo being taken and go from there.