Culture shock – sometimes you just don’t expect it!

Coffee had nothing to do with my culture shock!

Coffee had nothing to do with my culture shock!

It has taken me a while to write this post, as it has been filled with lots of emotion on a really deep level. It has caused me to be brutally aware of what I value in education. I wasn’t expecting to feel so confronted or to react in such a way. I feel glad that I have had such a strong response to these things, but at the same time am concerned.  Do I miss these things in my own culture, due to being immersed in it and it being ‘normal’.

The other week the speaker at Rotary talked about an Amesville Elementary School that had suffered funding cut backs and the result was no provision for a librarian which led to the school library finally closing a year ago. Immediately my heart sank at understanding their predicament. My firm belief is that libraries are extremely important to learning and supporting learning. They provide incredible resources, not just in the books or technology that can be found in them but in the human resource. Librarians are incredible people, their knowledge and ability sift through things and provide solutions astounds me. In my own teaching career I have relied heavily on the librarian, they have been a sounding board, a thought provoker, a source of knowledge and so much more. My classes have benefitted from the impact that one person has had on my teaching practice. To know that a school does not have a librarian (teacher/librarian), someone who is passionate about that space (regardless of the form that it takes, being aware that some schools are considering dispersing the library around their school) and its involvement in learning, would strongly suggest a significant element is missing with regard to supporting learning. How would I operate as a teacher in that school? Who would support me in the way I am usually supported by that person? What flow on impacts would occur in my classroom?

This school is a privileged one in the sense that there is a wonderful retired librarian and a committed group of caring people who have spent many hours of their own time trying to change this situation. The old books have been sorted through and removed (there were lots of them, most being published in the 50’s and 60’s) and a fundraising campaign is underway, with a target of raising $16000. These students and teachers will benefit from the kind generosity of this group of people, and more so from the depth of knowledge that the retired Librarian brings to the situation. She is currently ensuring that any books purchased are fit for purpose, fit for the inquiring student minds that exist in that school.

The other situation that occurred, which you would be aware of due to media coverage, is that of the shooting and consequent passing of Michael Brown. The moment that I felt utter despair was when I read about the school he attended. It can be found here, and is worth reading, http://dianeravitch.net/2014/08/14/this-was-michael-browns-high-school/. Diane Ravitch is an educational historian here in the USA and her work is certainly worth reading. She has a position on Charter schools and other aspects of education reform, she is honest about her own journey with regard to such policies that have been implemented and their consequent impact. One piece she wrote in 2010 can be found here http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/summer2010/Ravitch.pdf. It too is worth taking the time to read, it is rather long so I suggest if you choose to read it that you have a quiet space and some time on your hands.

So for me the culture shock has not been the food or the little things that occur from day to day, but a significant realisation that equity and equality are important to me on a very deep level. So much so, that they have resulted in me feeling angry, despair, and sadness and led me to question my responses. What is it that’s evoking such emotion, do similar inequalities and inequities exist in Australia, do I not notice them? How do I ensure that in situations that I have the ability to bring about effective change, that these are at the forefront of  decision making…

4 Comments

  1. Ken P says:

    I was stunned at the inequity in the UK, some of which was class-based. What REALLY stunned me was the fact that most people thought here was no class inequity.

    • dbatty1 says:

      I wonder if we become numb to our own culture. The concept of normal is ok and does not get challenged.

      I realise that we still have inequities in our system and they don’t stand out due to them being ‘normal’. Having the opportunity to work in a range of schools and areas (rural, isolated, city etc), due to teaching online and face to face, does suggest to me that we are on the path to ensure that we aim to eliminate inequities where we can. Some areas that are more value laden/culturally embedded take much more time and are harder to change. It is something we need to be ever mindful of to ensure that we, as educators, are empowering our students.

  2. Mrs Cresdee says:

    This is a wonderful reflection on a very serious question. I often wonder the same thing. Based on the reading I have done regarding the US system and my experiences in Australia I think we are doing okay, but we can not afford to become complacent. Thank you for the ‘food for thought’.

  3. Inequalities and inequities as in the United States, I doubt there are else where even though every country of rank has some riots every now and then. But yes, there are a lot of inequalities and inequities I bet you don’t see as you might not be aware of them.

    It bothers me too, inequalities and inequities, but on a much more basic level as it’s where I can make a change. It was enough to get a daughter to open my eyes and start the fight. I can make the list long…

    Why do boys have a monopoly on superheroes? My daughter couldn’t play with the boys at the kindergarden because the boys told her there were no female heroes. Sorry. Get lost! I went nuts!

    But the world is changing, one step at a time:
    http://www.cnet.com/news/dc-comics-and-mattel-team-up-for-superhero-action-figures-for-girls/

    When she’s sick we, my wife and I, share the sickleave like 50-50. As it should be as it’s the most equity and equality. Do our bosses understand that? Well, my former boss (female) asked me if I didn’t had a wife…

    What comes to education and her in first class: paper and pencils? Really? 2015???

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: