When my mentor had to leave early on Monday for a meeting, I conducted a social studies read-aloud and discussion with a sub also in the room. It went very well. We were taking our time on each page to point out the wildlife (it was a book about the baobab tree) and discuss ideas. We talked about how the native people name each individual baobab with a specific name that always starts with ‘um’ meaning mother. At this point, we talked about how unique this was and I noted that the people’s culture was different than ours.
I then realized that perhaps not all of my students understood what culture meant. We started discussing what my students thought culture was. They didn’t really have any ideas, so I explained that a person’s culture had to do with how they lived, what they ate, what kind of music and dancing they liked, their religion, and many other different factors. I explained that everyone was part of a certain culture and that there were many cultures in the world. Obviously, I was flailing to come up with a wholesome definition for culture, but I thought I at least gave them an idea. However, one boy’s hand shot up and he declared “I don’t have a culture. Some people don’t have one. Me and my mom and my dad choose not to have a culture.”
I was silenced. What in the world do you say to a child who thinks they don’t have a culture?! He felt very strongly about it, so I didn’t want to contradict him, but I also wanted to make sure the rest of the class understood what culture was. AHHH! All I did was nod my head and try to explain a little better what culture was, but then decided I would probably just confuse everyone more. We moved on to talk about bugs and birds, and boy was I relieved. I wonder if every teacher has those moments where you don’t really know what to say or how to react. Helppppppppp!