Observation 1
Date: Sep 16th, 2006 7:45:14 pm - Subscribe


A childhood curiosity was laid to rest, or at least that is how I felt as I walked into the Catholic church on Sunday September 10th. I have spent my entire life driving by the Catholic church every day on the way to school. From the outside it looks like every other church in town, but I have always wondered what went on inside those walls. What are the services like and most importantly what are their beliefs? Many of my questions were answered after completing this observation. I certainly felt I had stepped outside my religious boundaries as I sat through this service. I even asked a colleague of mine after the service to explain a few things that I did not understand.
I had many misconceptions about the Catholic religion. I grew up Methodist, which some people say is the closest denomination to Catholicism, but in my small town our Methodist services are very similar to a Baptist service. A huge misconception of mine as I was growing up was that all Catholics were Hispanics. Of course as I grew older I learned this wasn’t so, but in my community a huge percentage of Catholics are Hispanic. During the service I attended I observed that the congregation was approximately 70% Hispanic and 30% Caucasian. During my time spent in the Catholic Church I observed many rituals of which I was previously unaware. Walking into the church I saw people dip their hands into holy water placed in a ceramic bowl attached to the wall, and before turning into their pews, they would make the sign of the cross. I later learned this is done out of respect. During the service the congregation uses missiles instead of bibles. These missiles have all the important bible versus for the upcoming Sundays placed in them. The service began with the priest entering the sanctuary. Next, a lay person read the scripture. This was followed by the sermon and then communion. I learned Catholics take communion every Sunday, whereas Methodists take communion the first Sunday of every month. During this time I was very uncomfortable, because I did not know what was expected of me. I wondered how many times my students feel this way in my class when they are put in an uncomfortable or unknown situation. As I sat through the service I looked around the building taking in my surroundings. In the front of the sanctuary are pictures of the Stations of the Cross that represent what Jesus went through prior to crucifixion. There are statues of saints placed on podiums in the front as well as a cross with the likeness of Jesus hanging from it. The service concluded with a time of reflection.
I learned many things during this observation. At the beginning of the service, I saw students from my classes sitting in the congregation. I had previously assumed some of these students did not even attend church. This was an opportunity for me to realize that there are things about my students of which I am unaware. As the texts explains, there are many groups in society that an individual can be a part of and as a teacher I need to be able to identify and understand characteristics of these groups to better relate to my students. Second, I learned to be more respectful of different denominations. Even though the Catholic service was very different from my Methodist services, I could still pick up on basic similarities, such as people joining together to fellowship with one another, the enjoyment of music, the valued sermon, and the belief in Jesus Christ. The most important conclusion I came to was that people, groups, and religions are misconstrued because individuals simply do not take the time to ask or observe things that are outside their cultural beliefs or values. This observation really did help me to integrate what was written in chapter one of our multicultural textbook about multicultural education. For teachers to implement multicultural education in their classrooms, we have to be willing to learn and experience other cultures and groups.

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Observation 1
Date: Sep 16th, 2006 7:41:09 pm - Subscribe


My first observation involved a class taught by (name, school). I arrived shortly before the fifth period bell sounded and took my seat near the back of the room. Mrs. (name) announced me as a visitor, but many of the students thought that I was just a new addition to the class. The class started with a warm-up involving the students journaling their thoughts regarding a statement proposed by (teacher). After an incident occurred in which a student had to autograph (teacher's) “little book” for not being adequately prepared for the journal discussion, two other students offered their opinions to the best of their abilities regarding the journal assignment. Mrs. (teacher) then proceeded to use a PowerPoint presentation to assist in the understanding of certain vocabulary words taken from the current novel being studied, The Lottery Rose, by Irene Hunt. Students were called upon by (teacher) to interact and describe their own perceptions regarding the vocabulary words. Mrs. (teacher) then showed a video clip of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to once again reinforce the vocabulary words as they were now being placed into context. The five-minute video clip covered such words as frantic, bewildered and monstrosity. After this video clip, Mrs. (teacher) read from The Lottery Rose all the while constantly probing the class for understanding of the text as well as introducing them to new literary terms and connotations.
Well, that is how the class went…nothing new from the perspective of an educator, but there is one aspect that I left out. Mrs. (teacher) fifth period class happens to be an ESL (English as a Second Language) reading class with 100 percent of her students being of the Hispanic origin. Not only were the ethnic proportions of the classroom out of my comfort zone, but most of the students in this class also had a difficult time even conveying the simplest of messages in English. Granted, I was raised in (town) and have always been immersed in the Hispanic culture, but I do not ever remember a time when I was the only “white” student in the room. In addition to that, I could not understand a word many of these students were saying. As the class filtered in during the break between periods, the only language being spoken was Spanish. It made me a little uneasy because they were staring at me and conversing in “their” normal language. I tend to like the ability to understand what people are saying, especially when the conversation is about me. As far as my own beliefs are concerned, individuals who decide to move to the United States should adopt our language and customs. If I as an American decided to move to any other country, I would have to do the same. In fact, most countries do not even offer an “ESL” program to their foreign students. With this being said, the students that come to the United States from other countries have no choice in the matter. They are transferred into a completely different environment because they are simply “with” their parents. Does this give us a right to deny them an appropriate education…absolutely not. Our laws and values dictate equality, regardless of situation. Yes, these students need to learn English to function in American society, but their education has to start somewhere. I was truly stunned by Mrs. (teacher) class as even in that single class, there was much diversity. Some of the students seemed very fluent in English while others had a great deal of difficulty even getting basic words out of their mouths. It was extremely frustrating to see their minds working and churning, but helpless as to communication and comprehension. Although Mrs. (teacher) did have an assistant, the goal was not to simply interpret, but to assist in comprehension. I noticed a bond between the students that probably filters from class to class. Those who were more fluent in English tended to aid those who were not as fluent. The one discouraging, but extremely reversible aspect was the fact that some of those students had sheer looks of desperation on their faces because they could not understand or relay their thoughts in English. I tried to imagine myself in foreign country, thrown into a class where my culture essentially vanished and left with no means of communication. I can only imagine the level of frustration these students may feel, especially coupled with the fact that “high stakes” testing determines their future. I would like to commend Mrs. (teacher) for her patience and persistence as well as her obviously penetrating teaching methods. During this observation, she tried to focus on the students’ strengths as visual learners to break that language barrier. She was also culturally responsive by trying to incorporate the students’ culture and experiences into her instruction and response methods.
As this observation occurred in an educational setting, it greatly strengthens the text that I have read. The most revealing part of this observation was the fact that Mrs. (teacher) held high expectations for her students. She did not allow the language barrier to become an excuse for her students. She expected participation regardless of fluency in English. Banks suggests that high expectations generate an overall positive climate for learning, and this was clearly evident as the students felt very comfortable responding to questions that were asked. Observing this class also made me realize the importance of self knowledge as it allows for development of positive relationships with students. I can not imagine trying to motivate students to learn without knowing what those motivators are. I believe that a teacher with knowledge of their students’ culture can level with the students to enhance learning. This observation also reiterated the fact that personal values may greatly affect student/teacher relationships. If I as a teacher have a preconceived idea that culturally diverse students have no potential to achieve success, then what would motivate me to set high expectations for my students? I believe that there are preconceived notions relating to all cultures. As Banks suggests, the goal of multicultural education is to evaluate those values and notions that we do possess as they essentially generate self-awareness. This self-awareness allows us to basically look at our methods through a microscope to ensure educational equality across the board. Although Payne primarily focuses on poverty, I did notice a few comparisons with her text as well. For one, students who are trying to translate their thoughts into a different language commonly do so, but the response tends to follow a casual register. It is important as educators to not only teach “English,” but to also teach appropriate structures. During this observation, I noticed that the casual register was the primary means of discourse as the students’ English was so limited. The responsibility of educators does not merely rest with the English language itself, but to directly teach use of the formal register, so that students may function in educational settings as well as in society as a whole. Although ethnicity and language barriers were my primary focus when selecting this observation, it became clearly evident that cultural differences can sometimes overlap. For instance, there were several children in Mrs. (teacher) class who were not only culturally diverse due to ethnicity, but also culturally diverse due to social class (poverty). Payne discusses the hidden rules among classes in which education in situations of poverty is not a reality or concern; the main concern of those suffering from poverty rests with attention and entertainment. Although I can not make factual statements regarding the social class of each student, I can say that those students with characteristics of moderate poverty also exhibited the need for attention. Those students tended to be disruptive and careless. With the endless cultural attributes that can be assigned to one classroom, it is evident that educators may have to cross several boundaries to reach such students.
In conclusion, the one lesson that hit home was the fact that “ideal” classrooms do not exist. Every classroom is going to be culturally diverse in some form or fashion. As evident in this observation, there may be several cultural “hurdles” to jump before finding those techniques to ensure educational equality. I truly believe that education is an ongoing process as is life. There will never be two classes that will be completely alike. It is crucial for teachers to recognize the cultural factors exhibited by their student because those factors can sometimes be applied exponentially. Every student deserves an education, and because of that, teachers are facing constant cultural challenges. I commend those teachers who “jumps through hoops” to reach their students.

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Observation 1
Date: Sep 16th, 2006 7:30:08 pm - Subscribe


The first observation is to go out of our element to some location that is tied to a stereotype or some place where we are not in our comfort area. This is a challenging project. I am from a large city. We moved to a small town in (state), and, I am not in my comfort zone right now. I could speak of our life here, how different things are living is a small town. As stated in Banks chapter two “Cultural innovation is always occurring within local communities of cultural practice.” Living here is culture shock; everyone is connected to someone in this town. At times we feel like foreigners from a different planet. Being from (city) we are liberal, which in a small Republican village, the term liberal is like being a Communist in the 50’s. There are many things that are wonderful about living in a small town. Our neighbors are great and I have been able to meet the right people to pursue my career. The commute to work is about ten minutes’ verses forty-five minutes to an hour and a half to get to work. One way and that commute it was only ten miles away. That is one of the best things about living in a small town.
The one thing that affects the family in a negative way is a place to eat out. We have to travel more than a hundred miles to find restaurants and clothing stores that we are familiar with. So in our pursuit to find a place to shop and eat we decided to go to (city), which is a hundred miles away or an hour and a half away. Going to (city) to do some shopping at the Mall and at Old Navy clothing store, is nothing new, we have done this many times before. It was a cloudy day with an occasional rain shower, when we just stepped out of the Old Navy store and it started to pour down rain. We made a mad dash for the car. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon. As we all sat in the car we were trying to figure out what to eat, we were hungry! Old Navy is located across the street from the mall, but we did not want to eat mall food. Then on the other side of Old Navy’s parking lot was a “Hooters” a place with many stereotypes attached to this establishment. My wife said, “Lets eat there, I heard that they have good food.” Feeling a little uncomfortable because my fifteen-year-old daughter was with us, I hesitated, only for a moment.
As we walked into the restaurant a young woman greeted us and showed us to our table. My preconceived notion of this restaurant was shattered in an instant. As stated in Banks chapter two “We continue to learn new culture until we die” It was an ordinary restaurant with people from every walk of life. Yes, it did have three tables where there were only guys at the table. Across from us was a couple with two children and a baby in a high chair. Down and across from us was an older couple in their late 60’s or 70’s having lunch. When I scanned the area I noticed that almost every culture was in this restaurant. We ordered our meals. I had heard that they had a specialty “fried pickles” another preconceived notion. What were they thinking! So, for the sake of research and assignment requirements I ordered the fried pickles also. When the meal came it was pleasing to the eye, and the food was great, even those scary “fried pickles.” Yes, they do have waitresses dressed like carhops, but coming from Southern California and a beach area, the waitresses seemed to be over dressed. As for my image or my stereotype of a well establish restaurant have changed, we all have prejudices and it’s a constant battle to change our preconceived ideas.

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Observation 1
Date: Sep 16th, 2006 7:25:42 pm - Subscribe


Having been raised in a European American home where we were very involved in our church, I chose to have the experience of attending an African-American church service on Sunday morning. My first observation was of the men standing in clusters outside the church to greet people. Everyone was dressed in suits and the ladies (most already seated in the church) were attired in nice “Sunday dresses”. Some of the ladies wore very ornate and large hats (crowns, as they referred to them). Already both of my observations were in direct contrast to my typical Sunday morning experience at my own church. As the church service began a gentleman introduced the special musicians for the day, including the drummer (the pastor’s son) and the guitar instrumentalists. The music was a mix of very traditional hymns similar to those I sing at my regular church, African American gospel tunes and more modern soul music. Most of the music was very loud, and everyone fully participated. After the special music by an all women’s choir, the African American pastor, Brother (name), approached the stage with his Bible in his hand and begin to slowly speak his message. As he moved through his message he got progressively louder and faster and more passionate. He frequently asked for the congregation to respond to his statements. (Something Payne discusses in her work on Story Structures.) After taking an offering while the “band” played, a passionate prayer completed the service. Lots of socializing/visiting occurred as everyone slowly departed.

I found myself comparing every phase of my observations to my own experiences in my own church. Although everyone was very friendly, I felt I was clearly in someone else’s territory. I couldn’t help but think of the African American children that attend the school where I work. Our school is in a middle-class white neighborhood across town from where most of them live. I had a renewed commitment to learn about their culture and find ways to bring that into our classrooms. It was clear that just as our text points out, the community that I was visiting in was much more group focused/dependent than my own community where individualism is encouraged. The “hidden rules” of the African American community were foreign enough to me that without someone from that community guiding me through the rituals, I was often lost in the expected responses during worship. Their language patterns (rhythm, pronunciation and semantics) as both of our texts have pointed out constantly made me struggle to get the full meaning of their discourse. I was fascinated by their minister’s story structure per Payne’s work. He followed Payne’s outline exactly…first he talked about the characters, the ending of the story and then told snippets from the Biblical story which were intermingled with audience participation or responses. His focus was clearly on the characters. As he moved through his message he became more and more involved with the audience and “entertainment” took a stronger part in his message. Each of these elements was again supported by Payne’s work. This pattern was very different from what I have become accustomed to in my own culture and worship experience. My pastor utilizes the more formal-register story structure with emphasis on chronological order of the story and the plot. Sometimes I found it hard to follow the pastor of the church that I was visiting. The congregation, just as our text points out, shared a feeling of unity. Their service was more openly emotional than my usual church experience, but this matches my observations and new learning about the African American culture. The rituals although based on similar Biblical beliefs often kept me from being able to fully participate in the service. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how our students feel when they attend classes that are so far from the daily rituals of their home life.

As the service ended some of my current and past African American students came up and hugged me. I caught myself immediately feeling more relaxed and secure. Relationships can help break down barriers and borders. I was also interested to observe the choir director who is also an African American teacher in our district (not on my campus). His persona was different than I have observed when he is on the multicultural, middle-school campus where he teaches math. He took on the culture of the people he was working with on this Sunday morning. I studied these differences and realized that he is definitely “bi-cultural”.

During my reflections on the visit I have noted many connections to the information that our texts have shared with us on the beliefs, symbols and interpretations of different cultures. I am seeing what seems to break down these cultural borders and barriers as I am becoming more aware of other cultures and their “hidden rules”. I am now constantly examining my own thinking and actions to make sure that others feel honored and respected for who they are and the place that each of our cultures has in our relationships. The next step is to be sure that I am leading my staff to a similar awareness and response.

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Observation 1
Date: Sep 16th, 2006 7:20:54 pm - Subscribe


As I was driving up to my designated location for my observation, I could already tell that I was looking towards an evening of interesting events. My observation took place at the P.W.F.G. or Producing Warriors For God establishment. This is a non-denominational establishment. It is located in an almost abandoned building in an alley suite of (city, state). To my surprise, there was already someone outside the suite door awaiting my arrival. Nervously, I followed the individual inside the building.
The door opened and there before me were six individuals, all of whom were African American (I am Hispanic). Six bright smiles flashed and I felt relieved. One of the females stood up and introduced me to the whole group that consisted of her daughter, who is eight; her husband, who is the pastor; her mother in-law, who is the visionary; a young adult male, who is in the process of learning how to preach; and his wife. The suite was very intimate. There were only four rows, each containing only five chairs for a limited amount of members. This is their place of worship. My church, which is a Catholic church, can hold hundreds of people, and it was awkward for me to feel “watched”. The young man who is preparing to be a pastor stood behind a podium. He seemed very nervous. During his preaching he constantly swayed, looked up at the ceiling and used numerous hand movements. I believe that this is the way he usually preaches because it makes him feel comfortable. By moving and indirect eye contact he is able to concentrate on his words. There were no expressions by the audience. Everyone sat there, taking notes and listening, even the eight year old.
At the end of his sermon, the pastor asked him a couple of questions, directly but quietly. Next, the pastor’s wife spoke. Her voice was much more dominant than her husbands. She was very outspoken and very detailed. A thought came to mind that maybe the male feels intimidated by the female. It was obvious to me that while the “learner” was at the podium, there was a tremendous respect for the individual, but when the time was available to speak, the women were ready to express their thoughts. The men listened. After both the pastor’s wife and the visionary spoke, it seemed as if the pastor then felt that he needed to elaborate more on his comments. While the pastor spoke, the women gave signs of approval by giving some “u-huh’s, Amen’s, and that’s rights”. A lot of nodding of the head was also done by the women. The women, being so outspoken are also very encouraging when the man speaks. They also have the tendency to repeat the same words after the men.
At this point, the pastor was really “giving it” to the adult learner. I believe he might have thought that I was frightened by his reactions because he felt the need to turn to me and say “I believe that it is important to be hard on him because it is crucial for him to completely understand what he is preaching so he can walk the streets and be able to face any questions that might be thrown at him by any individual. This might be his chance to save a soul”. Wow! I sat there…understanding and delighted of the fact that even though this happens to be the smallest member establishment of worship I‘ve ever been to or seen, they indeed had the same beliefs and hearts as millions of others, as myself.
To conclude the evening, they played a song. It was no song that I would hear at my church, but the message was just the same. It was a modern rap song and everyone stood and danced. I recalled where Banks stated that in the early stages of religion diversity “the chant, song, and dance central to much tribal religiosity fused with the enthusiastic and often emotional style of evangelicalism to give African American Christianity a distinctive expression that grew and developed alongside the churches with European roots.” It was as if more movement was done, then more worshiping was done. The eight year old was on the side performing some “steppin’ and struttin’”.
I had noticed signs around the room throughout my whole observation and I brought it to myself to ask them what the signs stood for. The signs looked a little like “ZOZ”. Apparently this stands for Zeta Phi Zeta. This is a Christian fraternity/sorority. Their goal is to “produce a Christian culture on college campuses that will encourage everyone on the campus to seek a true and right relationship with God.” There are currently nine chapters of this organization in the nation. (City) is the newest city chapter.
I’m glad that I was able to experience this observation because it allowed me to see a different way of worship with individuals who have a diverse ethnic background. It also gave me the opportunity to see how they interact with each other. They were very respectful to me and I appreciated their hospitality.

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