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Personal Culture Artifacts
Transcript of Personal Culture Artifacts
It is impossible to describe my culture with just one story, just as is true for my students. I am at the intersection of many different, even conflicting communities
I had a high standard of living compared to some undeveloped countries
These are my definit
ion of an accep
table quality of life
I have a uniquely American worldview
Simple, mundane life with
Rural countryside covered in fields
and rolling hills that go on forever
under a big blue sky
Not exactly rural: I live in the capital city
Not exactly conservative: This is the "gay pride house", a response to the Phelps protesters. Topeka is an oasis of liberals in a sea of red. Roughly 1/2 of Topekans are Democrats. The Kansas Democratic headquarters are in Topeka.
I was 12, not 8 when I was baptized, and my mother is
still fairly inactive. I'm an only child, and she's my only family. I learned the Mormon culture, I didn't grow up in it. As a result, I tend to gravitate towards other converts or those with moderately liberal attitudes
My mom has bipolar disorder. She's a widow now, but my dad had schizo effective disorder when he was alive.
I went to their psychiatry appointments when I was little.
Mom or Dad w
for a month or so
to the mental hospital
Mom was paranoid that SRS would take me away. I wasn't allowed to play with friends. I was barely allowed to leave the house until 8th grade.
Dad never read to me, even when I asked.
I found out later that he was illiterate.
I ignored their fighting and Mom's
manic monologues by reading books
My dad never finished 8th grade. He was admitted to a mental hospital because of his strange behavior. When I was eight, Dad started. walked around the house naked, wrapped in a blanket. That was before his big breakdown. He ended up assaulting a police officer and spending a few nights in jail.
Mom was a homeless prostitute in Kansas City at age 21. She went to jail and was then placed on probration for trying to stab my dad with a steak knife during a manic episode. She got to come back after he died.
Rule 1: Do not go out alone at night.
Rule 2: Don't be too friendly. You'll become a target.
Rule 3: Stay inside.
I live in the bad part of Topeka, often called the
Educated Upper Class Values
These are the Zimmermans, my best friend's family. I met Anna in 4th grade and began spending most of my time at her house beginning in 8th grade. Her parents, pictured here, own a law office, which I work at during the summer. They push their children to get good grades and encouraged Anna and I to do debate and forensics in high school. Larry (left) is fiercely feminist and Angel (right) is an enthusiastic workaholic. They were my way out of the bad side of town.
Debate and forensics opened my mind to the world around me. I learned the value of being informed, working hard, and having an activist attitude.
I valued education and strove to get good grades to get me into college. I took AP classes and did extracurriculars. I rarely broke rules in school and stressed when I didn't do well on assignments. I was much more like the kids from wealthy white families than the kids from my neighborhood.
My value of education shaped my identity as I defined my tastes in media and books
Alice in Wonderland
to the Galaxy
But how does my complicated culture affect my future classroom?
I quickly realized how difficult it is to precisely define my own culture. I'm many different, even conflicting things all at once. Every label I put out there has to be carefully explained to prevent misunderstanding from stereotyping. Even now, there are parts of this presentation that I feel are imprecise. This is solid proof to me that nobody can ever be explained by a single story, but by their different and probably conflicting stories. What an important principle to apply to my students as I attempt to understand them.
The next question is how my worldview will impact how I treat my students. I'll begin with the bad news to get it out of the way. Education was my escape from a less satisfying life. I value good grades and good behavior because, to me, those things represent freedom and opportunity. I'm in danger of quickly judging students as "good" and "bad" by trying to fit them into the mold of the student I used to be. It is arrogant of me to assume that my style is the best learning style out there. It's not necessary to be the angelic 4.0 student to change the world. In fact, I think the other sorts of students are even more vital. They have perspectives and ideas that the "perfect" students would never have even thought of.
Now for the good news. I can understand how it feels to be excluded from society. I have never met another person who lived alone with two mentally ill parents. Once I realized how different my parents, my impoverished lifestyle, even my social skills, were I felt intensely embarrassed for years. I can express real empathy for those who feel like outcasts.
Getting to have the parents I do has blessed me in another way too. I spent most of my life taking care of them, trying to love them despite their many flaws. It taught me patience and kindness. It makes me slow to judge and quick to look at potential. I hope that these characteristics of mine will outweigh my prejudices about attitudes towards education.