Date: Sep 18th, 2006 6:29:02 pm - Subscribe
I am thrilled about what happened to me today. I can truly say that God works in mysterious ways. In search of an area to observe, I ended up visiting a boutique and salon that I always thought was too expensive for me. I h
had planned to visit a church. I had been talking to a friend who was a member of a Pentecostal church. He was very excited about taking me with him for a visit. Unfortunately, our conversation took place on Thursday, and their services are on Wednesdays, so I was not going to have a report ready for this week.
I decided to visit “(name)”, a hair salon and boutique. The building is so unique that every time I drove by there, money came to my mind. I knew this was a place I could never afford, so I never even stop to visit the place. As I started inside the store, I immediately felt out of place. A lady approached me and asked me if she could help me with something. I quickly told her that I was just looking. She looked at me without saying another word. I looked around. I couldn’t wait to look at the prices to the clothes and jewelry.
The store not only carried clothes and jewelry, but it was also a hair salon. There was a section for men, one for women, and even one for children.. I didn’t want to walk through the area without telling the lady that I was actually on a mission, so I told her what I needed to do. She was very nice about it and welcomed me to see the entire area. As I started to look at some of the prices, I heard someone come from behind and said, “That right there would fit you perfect sweetie.” I turned around, a black lady appeared from some where and started talking to me. I said. “Thank you for your kindness, but I don’t think I can afford this suit.” The lady laughed and said, “sure you can.” In the process of our conversation, she told me that this particular store was a blessing to her. After talking for awhile, I realized that she was the owner of the store. I told her about my mission and that I was actually looking for a church to attend, but was unable to attend one. The lady laughed and said, “Did you say you were looking for a church?“ and I said “Yes ma’am, but you know how it is. Services are usually on Wednesdays.“ The lady called on all the employees to come meet me. I felt so embarrassed, because everyone’s attention was on me. She told the employees that I was looking for a church. She smiled and said, “This is a church sweetie. You see, we the people are the church. You were looking for a church and you found one. Come here let me show you around.” I was surprised to find that this place actually had a prayer room.
It was then when she started to tell me that God had sent me there because God was telling her that I needed someone to pray for me. Everyone was so nice to me. I loved the entire place, but the prayer area was the one I loved the most. Her employees were all of different cultures. Each attended different churches, but they had united to work for the praise of God. They were all there to do there job and while doing their work, they were making people feel better and comforting them through conversation. They never missed an opportunity to invite customers to go to the prayer room when in need of prayer. We talked about the different people that visited their place and routinely came back.
I saw many people in and out of “(name)”. We discussed about how equal we all are. By the time I left that place, I realized how blessed I was to have gone there for my observation. I even forgot about the clothes I was wearing. I was so comfortable that I didn’t want to leave. Betty, the black lady was such a unique lady. The name to that store was the perfect name. What an experience. She said you could call her and ask her about the wonderful observation “(name)” had provided for me. (number). I always thought this store was only for rich people. I never thought of it as having something rich to give me.
Date: Sep 18th, 2006 6:23:29 pm - Subscribe
My observation took place in a funeral service very different than one that would take place in my own church. A very dear friend’s husband was killed in an auto accident. He left behind his wife, three children, both parents, two brothers, and a sister. He was a very young man of only 27 years old. Needless to say, his entire family, circle of friends and acquaintances were very upset.
All funerals are difficult, but I expected this one to be the worst ever. I was greatly mistaken. Funerals as I know them are very solemn and quiet. This funeral was extremely solemn to begin with. His young family sat in the front, just as they would in a protestant funeral. They were accompanied by his parents, siblings, and then, of course, the rest of his family. Again, this was all very familiar.
Now things begin to get a little uncomfortable. The priest begins speaking in Spanish. After a short time has past, the priest begins to speak in English. He goes back and forth from Spanish to English for the entire service. After the priest finished speaking, several people from the audience spoke to us about the deceased. Again, they spoke in Spanish and then in English. As the speakers went on, the people in attendance wept and cheered. Depending on what was being said by the speaker. If it was something happy the speaker had to say about the deceased, some of the crowd would cheer. If there was sadness in the story, of course, weeping followed. At the end of the funeral, the young man’s father raised his guitar up over his head and began to play festive “Spanish” music, as they all danced out of the building. WOW!! What a great idea to celebrate someone being able to move on to be with their Father in heaven. I was completely struck by this.
This behavior was very different from what I am accustomed to. I was definitely the minority in the crowd, not only by skin color, but by religion and language. I seemed to be the only one in attendance that was not Catholic. I was probably the only one in the building that was not able to fluently speak both Spanish and English. I am sure this was not the case, but it certainly seemed that way at the time. I really gained an understanding about being “outside my comfort zone” during this funeral. I have come to respect other people’s beliefs more than I might once have.
This experience helped me to imagine what it must be like for a new student to come into a new classroom, especially one with special needs or who speaks a different language. The latter is much more likely to happen in our part of the country. This experience really helped me to realize how easy and how often judgments are made on each and every person. Sometimes Hispanic children are passed off as being “slow” or “unmotivated” by those who make judgments. I have always tried to have a different frame of mind, but now, after seeing so many people in one service speak two languages, I will have no problem understanding that the Hispanic children who come to my class are very capable of learning whatever they want to.
Date: Sep 18th, 2006 6:02:00 pm - Subscribe
My daughter’s dad lives in (city) and is a DJ. Over Labor Day Weekend, I took (daughter) to visit him. Her thrill of the weekend was to help her dad DJ at a party for a teenager at (name) Pueblo. How I got roped into following them, I do not know! But, I am glad that I went, as I now have an experience to write about. First of all, the Pueblo is about 20 miles north of (town), and with John’s great driving directions, I got lost. I was able to see the whole town, though. I saw quite a few people heading to the local nightlife establishments! While lost, I drove by the cultural arts center and decided to have a look. I was definitely a minority! I learned a few things about the (name) Pueblo that I did not know. They are one of the most traditional of the Tewa speaking pueblos despite contact with outside cultures for must of its history. Tewa (also known as Tano) is one of three Kiowa-Tanoan languages spoken by the Pueblo people of (state). Though these languages are closely related, speakers of one cannot fully understand speakers of another (similar to German and English speakers). There are about 4000 speakers of the three languages in the American Southwest today. Archaeologists say that the Pueblo existed before 1200 AD.
After leaving the cultural center, I drove to the actual pueblo, and there were many cars there. I did not stop, but kept looking for the house I was supposed to be at. Finally, I found it! (Daughter) & her dad had the DJ stuff set up outside, and were playing some music, but to my surprise nobody was really there. I was sure he had told me that the party was from 8pm to 12am. It was about 8:30 pm. Well, I sat down and enjoyed the music, and the breath taking views of the nearby mesas. I could not see (name) Rock from where we were, but the views were great all the same. Another thing I learned on my jaunt is that (name) Pueblo owns and operates (name) Casino. In a little bit, the girl’s mother came out and told John that they were at the Pueblo eating, and would be showing up soon. I continued enjoying the scenery! Around 9pm John asked again if the party was going to start, and the girl’s mother told him that people would be showing up soon. Then, she told him “you are on Indian time now, it’s different”. I was thinking, “Why pay for a DJ from 8pm if the party isn’t going to start until after 9”? This was one of those cultural barriers that the book had talked about. We sometimes perceive and portray Indian people as slow and/or not smart…probably because of this very thing. We make them “other” and a cultural difference about time becomes a cultural border and makes one culture look upon another with scorn…all because some people live by the clock and some people do not. Our fast-paced rat race is probably just as abhorrent to their culture! My thoughts about paying for the DJ were not even relevant…it was not any of my business! I find the Indian culture so much more peaceful than our own, and now I know why! I would fit in much better among a less time-driven culture!
People started showing up around 9:15, and though I expected that maybe some of the music would be different from other parties I had been to, wrongfully assuming that they would have more of their own cultural music played. The music was much the same. Urban hip-hop had the teen crowd dancing, country and oldies had the grown-ups dancing! The party was pretty fun, though I was definitely an outsider so sat most of the time near the table where my daughter was helping her dad DJ. I observed most of the night; because of course I could not pry my daughter away before almost midnight…she was working! The similarities in the interactions between the people seemed just about the same as at any other party I have been to. The older people wanted their music played and the youngsters wanted theirs played! The adults won out…without very much outcry from the youngsters, so I assume that the music choices of the older people were to their liking also!
One thing I definitely learned is that Pueblo people are as diverse as European cultures. I had previously assumed that they were all similar, but that is a misconception. They have differences like Scottish from Irish from German from Dutch. They also have different dialects of the same or similar languages that make it hard for them to understand each other. Sometimes I think that Europeans can categorize themselves as Dutch, Italian, or Scottish and people understand that though similar these cultures have vast differences. But, in other cultures like American Indian, African, or Latin people do not understand that though sometimes similar, these cultures have fast differences. Peruvian has vast differences from Puerto Rican, West Indian has vast differences from Kenyan, and Navajo has vast differences from Pueblo culture. Chapter Two in Banks says it best “when we essentialize culture, assuming that all persons in a given social category are culturally similar and focusing on the unitary cultures of various Others without reflecting on our own cultures and their diversity, we open a Pandora’s box of opportunity for negative attribution.” This statement is so true. If only we could learn to live amongst each other in peace!
Date: Sep 18th, 2006 5:48:42 pm - Subscribe
I decided to attend a local meeting of Narcotics Anonymous for this observation. This experience reaffirmed everything that I have been reading about and know that I need to be aware of in my interactions with all people. I worked as Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor for eight years before I began teaching, so I am aware of how the Twelve Step of Narcotics Anonymous works and have attended self-help meetings with the adolescents that I worked with; but this was the first time that I attended a community meeting under the capacity of an observer and my observations and thoughts were definitely different.
I arrive at the meeting about ten minutes early. An older gentleman is there making coffee and setting up some folding chairs around the room. He asks me if I am new to the program. I briefly explain my situation to him and he says that’s good, that I need to pay attention to the twelve traditions when they are read at the beginning of the meeting, and that I should let everyone know why I am here.
As I sit waiting for more people to arrive I scan the room. The walls are lined with motivational posters, two huge posters have the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Narcotics Anonymous we on one wall. A few more people arrive and introduce themselves by first name only. I later found out that anonymity is key, that’s why everyone is known by their first name only. Everyone keeps asking me how long I had been clean. The closer it gets to 8pm the more people I see arrive, but they haven’t come into the building. This is a smoke free meeting and they are “getting their nicotine” before the meeting. Sure enough, right at 8 o’clock everyone herds in and takes a seat at the table.
The gentleman chairing the meeting (John) hands certain people paper that contain the different parts of the beginning ceremony. John is dressed in a large baggy sweat suit with a “doo rag” on his head. He has four gold teeth. Not the type of guy that would stop and ask for directions anywhere. I take note of all the people in the room; there are ten men, four women, and two toddlers. I later learn that the small children belong to the man chairing the meeting. He and his wife are both in recovery from alcohol and drug use. One man (Sam) continually gets up to get a cup of coffee and fills everyone else’s cup. He is nervous and can not sit still very long. Another man (Luis) is covered in tattoos and is dressed in the attire of a local motorcycle gang. Next to Luis is a man dressed in clean pressed semi-casual attire. He (Dan) is well groomed and looks like someone that could work at a bank. One of the women appears to not want o be here and constantly shifts around in her chair and stares off into space. Another woman (Janice) has the look of a woman ready to wrestle the Devil and has one inch long blood red nails ready for the battle. Her clothes are extremely tight and revealing.
After all the formalities are over the topic of “gratitude” is chosen for discussion by all. The chairman speaks first. John discusses his inability to find anything to be grateful for the first 30 days that he was sober. John was the epitome of poverty; he was in treatment, CPS had custody of his children, he had no job, no family support, and his wife was still out in the streets using drugs. John states that he was told to be grateful for what he did have; he was alive, not in jail, healthy, able to work, and had the possibility of getting his children back. It took a mean counselor telling him to get off of his “pity pot” and do something about it. John was able to take the one resource he had, the treatment program, and begin building. John’s casual-register discourse pattern allows you to empathize with him. John is now drug free for fifteen months, considers himself blessed, and is very grateful for all he has on a daily basis.
Luis speaks next and discusses some problems that he is having with his job. He states that he came in frustrated and ready to either drink a beer and/or beat up his boss. Hearing John speak he had changed his mind and is now grateful that he has a job to gripe about. I later learn that Luis has been drug free for five years, is attending college, and is a member of a Christian motorcycle club where he chairs the annual “Toys for Tots” campaign. I imagine how Luis would be treated in a public high school today. Would be in advance classes? Would he be monitored so closely that he would end up in an alternative discipline setting after just a few days? Would he even be allowed in school? It saddens me to think that Luis probably wouldn’t even be given a chance to try advanced classes simply based on the way he looks.
Dan is the next to speak. He has been drug free for 90 days. He works as a car salesman and lives in an extended stay hotel. Dan struggles with wanting his previous life back. Through his drug use he has lost his wife and son. Dan is negative about his ability to stay drug free and getting his “old life” back. When Dan speaks I have trouble seeing him going to a drug dealer’s house trading his wedding ring for cocaine. Even though Dan looks more successful than everyone else in the room he is one of the least. The only resources that I see Dan possessing right now are physical, mental, and knowledge of hidden rules of poverty and middle class. Dan’s use of the formal-register of discourse pattern does not mask his pain. What frustrates me about Dan is the fact the he would be treated the best of all the others if they were in high school today. Would he be allowed to excel in our school system because he is a nice looking, well put together, European American?
Janice speaks next; she has been out of prison for three days, is living with her mother and must come to these meetings as a term of her parole. She began working her road to recovery in prison. She was in prison for eighteen months on drug and prostitution charges. She flat out states that she is having trouble being grateful. But she also reminds herself that “It is hard to be grateful when you are hateful.” Under the rough exterior is a gentle woman crying out to live a healthy life. Some thing I believe that I take for granted at times.
All Sam has to say is that he had been in treatment two days; he has the shakes from withdrawing from heroin, and is grateful that he was not dead or in jail. Sam’s lack of speaking makes me focus on him for a short time. I wonder what makes Sam the person he is. I then think of what “labels” our education system would put on him. I believe Sam would be pigeon-holed as a special education, high-risk for drop-out, emotionally disturbed nobody.
And the children quietly played on the floor with colors and books while all this went on.
I came from this experience much more grateful for all the things that I have in my life. I am one that can get whiny about things if I get a little too tired or overwhelmed. Since this experience, I whine no more! I saw many different levels of poverty and it became clearer that poverty is not about how much money you have, but it’s about how much of the other seven resources you have. After the meeting I talked with John about Payne’s definition of poverty being “the extent to which an individual does without resources,” and he agrees with the necessity of having all the other resources. John says that he knows poverty, and he is glad that he is not anywhere near as poor as he once was. He continues to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings to get his spiritual needs met, have a good support system, and building important relationships and have positive role models.
I also noticed many hidden rules among this group. Even though not one particular person had much money, most were able to give to help support the program. Someone noticed Sam asking for a cigarette and gave him an entire pack. When Banks discusses how, “groups possess a continuity that transcends the lives of individuals,” I could see the importance of this group in the success of its members. This group allows them to believe, feel and do. As an educator, working with a parent or student in recovery, it would be necessary to understand where they were coming from so that I could understand their behaviors and not jump to any irrational conclusions. If I had seen any of these individuals at any other place, I might not even make eye contact; but here I was able to see the damaging effects of stereotyping. I believe that I am the one that came away a better person form this experience.
Date: Sep 16th, 2006 7:48:47 pm - Subscribe
For my observation, I attended a school talent show in (town, state). This may not sound like much; talent shows are fairly common. However, in (town) over 90% of the student population is of Mexican descent. Some are citizens and some are not. Most of the parents who attended the talent show did not speak English. If they did speak English, it was very limited. This was definitely out of my comfort zone and out of my normal daily life.
In the beginning, the show began as expected. The emcees were two high school students, who were dressed in baggy jeans and long shirts. One would speak to the audience in English, while the other was responsible for translating in Spanish to the parents and other Spanish-speaking students. Occasionally, the emcees would neglect to speak in English at all. It was a very strange feeling for me. I felt that I was hundreds of miles removed from the United States; it was as though I had stepped into a small Mexican village.
Each time that the boys spoke, I realized that they were comfortable in this auditorium of people. They spoke in only the casual register. When introducing acts, they always showed great emotion and told a humorous story about them. So many grammatical errors occurred during their speeches that I began to lose count. I began to realize that their use of English was often intermixed with their use of Spanish. Specifically, grammar rules from both languages often appeared in the same speech. This is just a part of language acquisition that is hard for English Language Learners to master.
Many of the acts gave small dedication speeches before or after their performance. Most of the students displayed a strong devotion to God, particularly as part of Hispanic Catholicism. Many of the students had large crosses or T-shirts with Jesus on them. As my eyes peered over the crowd, I noticed more of the same. During the intermission, a Catholic prayer was dedicated to a student who was killed in a car accident. The prayer was stated in English and in Spanish. Almost everyone in the auditorium knew the prayer, proceeded with the Sign of the Cross, and kissed the crosses that they wore around their necks.
I thought about school functions at my own children’s school. The differences were striking. My children also attend public school, just as these students did. However, my children’s school does not lead a prayer at school functions. If one were to begin, it would not be largely intertwined with Hispanic Catholicism. My children are native English speakers, as are the overwhelming majority of students at their school. The other parents resemble me, and I don’t feel as though I stick out. I felt very out of sorts as I thought of these differences and I felt so far removed from my “norm.” It was a combination of everything. I was definitely in the minority there, I didn’t speak the language, and the customs were so much different from my own.
As I talked to other teachers in the auditorium, I began gathering more information. The majority of families in (town) live at or below the poverty line. The talent show is an annual event that everyone looks forward to. It is a time for families to gather and entertain each other, to catch up with each other, and to pray together. Many of these families have no one to turn to because they left so much behind in Mexico. This talent show is a time of community gathering that is very needed in this small migrant community.
While I am still trying to reconcile my feelings about having to translate everything into Spanish, I feel that I am learning more about this culture. I truly wish that the students here would work on their grasp of English because I think it will make it easier for them to make their way in the world. I think that teachers need to have higher expectations for ELL students than they realize. If teachers don’t expect them to speak properly in English, then the casual register will prevail and language acquisition will not be complete.
While I would not necessarily love to attend another talent show here, I do understand its purpose. I think that the community of (town) needs chances to gather together as often as possible. I would imagine that there are other places that have similar needs. Immigrant communities, rural villages, or very poor areas need a chance to support each other without financial strain.
I gained some insight into what makes a migrant community different from mine, but I also learned that there are similarities. Both love to gather to watch their children perform. Both take every chance available to make connections with their friends and families. Both enjoy entertaining each other, albeit in slightly different ways. I am looking forward to more observations that allow me the opportunity to investigate unfamiliar cultural territory.
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