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How do cultural differences create classroom challenges?

In your experience, how have cultural differences created challenges in a classroom situation? How were those differences resolved or managed?

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I am an educator. I worked in a culture of poverty school for over 20 years. Many times students were NOT seen as intelligent or able to learn based upon where their adaptive intelligence existed. We were teaching at middle class and these students were adapted to poverty. It was so important for teachers to understand this so they did NOT underestimate the ability of the students who they were teaching. Unfortunately, not everyone took the time to learn the hidden rules among class and many students were totally misunderstood and suffered educationally as a result.

The Culture of Poverty
I was aware of hidden rules of class that were applied and constantly felt in our school's situation. For example with regard to possessions, people in poverty value people, the middle class value things, and the wealthy value one-of-a-kind objects, legacies, and pedigrees. Personality is viewed as a tool for entertainment for people in poverty and sense of humor is highly valued. For the middle class, personality is seen as a tool to acquire stability, and achievement is highly valued. For the wealthy, personality is strictly for connections; financial, political, and social connections are highly prized. For people in poverty social emphasis is placed upon the inclusion of people who are liked. The middle class places social emphasis on self-governance and self-sufficiency, while for the wealthy social emphasis is placed on social exclusion. For people in poverty, when it comes to food the key question is "Did you have enough?" and quantity is the most important factor. For the middle class, the key question is "Did you like the food?" and quality is the most important factor. For the wealthy, the key question is "Was the food presented well?" and presentation is the most important factor. With regard to clothing, people in poverty use it to demonstrate individual style and expression of personality, the middle class value its quality and acceptance into a norm of middle class, and the label is the most important factor. For the wealthy, clothing is valued for its artistic sense and expression, and the designer is the most important factor. For people in poverty, the present is seen as the most important time-frame, and decisions are made moment to moment based on feelings or survival. For the middle class, the idea of time is more about the future, and the most important decisions are made considering future consequences or ramifications. Traditions and history are the most important time-frame for the wealthy, and decisions are made partially on a basis of tradition and decorum. For people in poverty, destiny is a belief in fate, a belief that a person can't do much to change his or her future. The middle class believe in choice, and that a person can change his or her future with good choices. The wealthy believe in noblesse oblige, or that you are owed your future based on your lineage. In poverty, family structure tends to be matriarchal; in middle class, family structure tends to be patriarchal; and in the wealthy, it depends on who has the most money. The world view from poverty is seen in terms of a local setting; the world view from middle class is seen in terms of a national setting; and the world view from the wealthy class is seen in terms of international. Love and acceptance are seen as conditional based largely upon whether or not an individual is liked or not liked in the culture of poverty. In the middle class, love and acceptance are seen as conditional based largely upon on achievement. In the wealthy class, love and acceptance are seen as conditional related to social standings and social connections. The driving forces for the culture of poverty are survival, relationships, and entertainment. The driving forces for the middle class are work and achievement. The driving forces for the wealthy are financial, social, and political connections.

I personally experienced and witnessed situations where class mattered. How did it matter? In the culture of poverty, I saw how education was valued and revered as abstract, seemingly unreal, and out of reach. I saw how teachers from a middle class background saw education as crucial for climbing the ladder of success and for making money, and how that placed a huge divide between the poverty students and the middle class teachers. I also witnessed wanna-bes modeling after the wealthy, who believe education is a necessary tradition for making and maintaining connections. I was aware of hidden rules that were applied and constantly felt in our school's situation. It was in the language. In the class of poverty, language was in the casual register and the language was about survival. In the middle class, the language was in the formal register, and it was about negotiation. For the wealthy, the language is in the formal register and is all about the networking. The problem was all of these factors divided everyone and as a result the students' ability was NOT accurately assessed. Achievement was poor because it was based on a middle class set of hidden rules, and no one was assessing for the adaptive skills culture of poverty students had developed while surviving using the hidden rules of that very culture. This divide kept progress at bay.

Poverty is relative. If everyone around you is in similar circumstances, the notion of poverty and wealth is vague. Poverty or wealth only exists in relationship to known quantities or expectations. Poverty occurs in all races and in all countries. Poverty is at the root of many misunderstandings, especially in schools.

The notion of middle class as a large segment of the population or of society is a phenomenon of this country. The percentage of this population that is poor is subject to definition and circumstances. Economic class is a continuous line and not a clear cut distinction. In 2001, the poverty line in the US was considered $18, 104 for a family of four. Just 6% of the population earned over $100, 000 per year. Individuals are stationed along the continuum of income; they sometimes move on that continuum as well. Generational poverty and situational poverty are different. Generational poverty is defined as being in poverty for two generations or longer. Situational poverty is a shorter time-frame and is caused by death, illness, divorce, etc. The study of the hidden rules of class is a work in progress and that work is based on patterns. Those patterns have exceptions.

Every individual brings with him or her the hidden rules of the class in which he or she was raised. Even though the income of the individual may rise significantly, many of the patterns of thought, social interaction, and cognitive strategies remain with the individual. I saw this with the teachers, parents, staff, and students. The hidden rules brought by each individual were baggage brought that simply made it more difficult to understand the hidden rules of classes as a whole truth, and therefore as a way to better communicate and understand, and to move forward as a school. It was my experience that schools operated from a middle class norm. It is documented by Ruby K. Payne that schools and businesses operate from middle class norms and that they use the HIDDEN RULES of the middle class. These norms and hidden rules are not directly taught in schools or in businesses. All of these factors were difficult to overcome.

Teachers in my school needed an information intervention, which would have assisted them in better understanding the hidden rules among classes. In order for our students to be successful, educators must all understand the hidden rules of class. We need to be willing to teach students those rules that will make them successful at school and at work. We can neither excuse nor scold them for not knowing, and as educators we MUST understand their hidden rules of class and we must teach them and provide support, insistence, ...

Solution Summary

I am an educator. I worked in a culture of poverty school for over 20 years. Many times students were NOT seen as intelligent or able to learn based upon where their adaptive intelligence existed. We were teaching at middle class and these students were adapted to poverty. It was so important for teachers to understand this so they did NOT underestimate the ability of the students who they were teaching. Unfortunately, not everyone took the time to learn the hidden rules among class and many students were totally misunderstood and suffered educationally as a result.

The Culture of Poverty
I was aware of hidden rules of class that were applied and constantly felt in our school's situation. For example with regard to possessions, people in poverty value people, the middle class value things, and the wealthy value one-of-a-kind objects, legacies, and pedigrees. Personality is viewed as a tool for entertainment for people in poverty and sense of humor is highly valued. For the middle class, personality is seen as a tool to acquire stability, and achievement is highly valued. For the wealthy, personality is strictly for connections; financial, political, and social connections are highly prized. For people in poverty social emphasis is placed upon the inclusion of people who are liked. The middle class places social emphasis on self-governance and self-sufficiency, while for the wealthy social emphasis is placed on social exclusion. For people in poverty, when it comes to food the key question is "Did you have enough?" and quantity is the most important factor. For the middle class, the key question is "Did you like the food?" and quality is the most important factor. For the wealthy, the key question is "Was the food presented well?" and presentation is the most important factor. With regard to clothing, people in poverty use it to demonstrate individual style and expression of personality, the middle class value its quality and acceptance into a norm of middle class, and the label is the most important factor. For the wealthy, clothing is valued for its artistic sense and expression, and the designer is the most important factor. For people in poverty, the present is seen as the most important time-frame, and decisions are made moment to moment based on feelings or survival. For the middle class, the idea of time is more about the future, and the most important decisions are made considering future consequences or ramifications. Traditions and history are the most important time-frame for the wealthy, and decisions are made partially on a basis of tradition and decorum. For people in poverty, destiny is a belief in fate, a belief that a person can't do much to change his or her future. The middle class believe in choice, and that a person can change his or her future with good choices. The wealthy believe in noblesse oblige, or that you are owed your future based on your lineage. In poverty, family structure tends to be matriarchal; in middle class, family structure tends to be patriarchal; and in the wealthy, it depends on who has the most money. The world view from poverty is seen in terms of a local setting; the world view from middle class is seen in terms of a national setting; and the world view from the wealthy class is seen in terms of international. Love and acceptance are seen as conditional based largely upon whether or not an individual is liked or not liked in the culture of poverty. In the middle class, love and acceptance are seen as conditional based largely upon on achievement. In the wealthy class, love and acceptance are seen as conditional related to social standings and social connections. The driving forces for the culture of poverty are survival, relationships, and entertainment. The driving forces for the middle class are work and achievement. The driving forces for the wealthy are financial, social, and political connections.

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