ICC Day 2

Culture Glasses

Yesterday was a professional development day. I was lucky enough to get in on the first round of “Day 2” of intercultural competency training. (I did Day 1 in August.) Our ICC committee has actually designed this curriculum for us with help from Janet Bennett from the Intercultural Communication Institute. It includes activities and topics specifically targeting what the school as a whole needs to work on. The workshops are facilitated mainly by teachers and involves all faculty and staff. The scope of this is what the implementation of real change looks like.

Our first task yesterday was to draw something that represented our cultural self. I did the drawing above because I like schematics (see here or here).

  • First, I “failed” the kindergarten eye screening and found out I had an astigmatism in both eyes though much worse in the right eye. I have vivid memories of walking out of the building where the eye doctor’s office was and thinking the case was really cool. We went from there to story hour at our small town library. I can still picture walking in, very aware that I was wearing glasses. We sang “A Farmer in the Dell.” I wondered if others would look at me weird. My dad and I were the only two people in our family that had glasses, and I remember him cleaning them for me, because as a kid I left them get ridiculously dirty. They are always a part of what I look like. As an introvert, I like that they are a kind of barrier between me and everyone else.
  • Second, the glasses represent the cultural lens through which I see the world. I’m working with a colleague right now on developing a video series about Visual Culture, and she does this great activity with kids on having them draw a pair of glasses and having them write in all their cultural identifiers to help them see how it colors their perceptions.
  • The map in the left lens, centered over the Atlantic ocean, represents growing up in between Shawano, Wisconsin, and Paris, France. When I was in college, I learned about the term “Third Culture Kid.” This defined by David Pollock as, “A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.” (Wikipedia) I am neither French nor American, but I identify with parts of both. Finding peace in this has been a lifelong journey.

As we went through the day, there were various “pearls” that I wanted to remember to refer back to:

  1. Taking the time out of our busy schedule to work on intercultural competency is like “sharpening the axe blade.” You could chop down an entire forest in one go, but if you stop and sharpen the blade from time to time, it makes the entire process easier.
  2. Telling stories is as valuable as making a clear point. I often get impatient when people tell stories, which I think is part of my direct, action oriented values and TCKness.
  3. It is important to work with people with different styles because if gives you broader perspectives on issues and greater creative potential.
  4. Our school culture tends to be low-context/low-scan, meaning we rely on direct verbal style in communication. Predominantly, we require the sender (teacher to student or student to teacher) to take responsibility for being clear and say what is meant.
  5. Good ways to phrase statements in an indirect way: “Let’s explore…” “It is difficult…” “Could we…” “I’d like to here someone’s perspective on…” “I’m thinking about this differently…” “I hadn’t thought about it that way…” “It is complicated”
  6. Beginning with an affirmation of why we are here or what we’re working on.
  7. DIE a situation: Describe, Interpret, Evaluate.
  8. Values can be aspirational. We may not have perfect equal opportunity in the United States even though it is a cultural value.
  9. How is success measured? This can be a cultural difference.
  10. You often don’t know the cultural norms until you’ve transgressed them, like “tripping on a rock of culture.”
  11. Innovation pre-1700s was a bad word. Some cultures want things that are about tradition or the past.
  12. Who is responsible for intercultural awareness? The visitor or the host?
  13. How do you separate culture and personality?

It was revelatory for me to identify that I conflate indirect communication with weakness or insinuation, both of which I see as negative. I think I, as a white woman, have worked to be direct, particularly with my male colleagues, so that I am taken seriously and not perceived as weak. You can see on my glasses “Young” and “Old” written on the right lens. For the last 8 years, as a teacher, people have told me how young I am, which I feel makes them take me less seriously. And I want to be taken seriously. I’m also the youngest of my siblings and have always had an attitude of not wanting help just because I’m the youngest. Perhaps this is why my brother tells me that I’m “13 going on 30.” Part of my intercultural competency growth will be working to decode indirect communication.

Because I’m action oriented, here are a few goals:

  1. I want to get my ICI profile debrief so that I can know where I’m at and have goals to work on. Reflection is good, but data is easier for me!
  2. I’m signed up for POCC in December.
  3. Think more about how teaching spaces could facilitate cultural competence. Space is a way to change behavior, and “spaces transmit culture.” (from Make Space by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft, Stanford d.school) Could the configuration of the space make people act in a more culturally competent way? Hmmm…

And because I value effective use of time, this was a day extremely well spent.

Meta-reflection: One of the reasons I love having this blog is that it gives me a space to bring all my thoughts together and reflect on experiences.  When I first started writing, it was quite  a task to make sure I got a post in once a week. Now I find myself prioritizing blogging and looking forward to it. I would have never expected that.

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