Family Culture in the Classroom

Family culture is the beliefs, traditions, lifestyles, values, religions, customs and communal participations that impact and shape individual families.  Family culture relates to how children experience the world.  Children, especially young children believe almost everything that they are taught and everything that they see.  Young children often imitate or automatically act in ways in which defines their family’s culture.  For example, a child who regularly attends a Christian Sunday School and sings “Jesus Loves Me” will assume that everyone in his daycare believe in the same God.  Once a child is old enough to understand that different family’s have different beliefs, his or her family and his or her teacher must explain that different family culture makes us all special.

Many different families of different cultures can live in the same community.  A teacher needs to be prepared for a variety of cultural influences in any given teaching environment.  Also, a teacher will have to understand and appreciate the values of all students in a classroom regardless of her own cultural beliefs; therefore, a good teacher will place his or her personal/family culture on the backburner in order to keep an open mind about the cultures of others.  For example, an Indian (from India) child in a daycare may not eat beef on a day when all the other children are having hotdogs.  Most Indians practice Hindu and observe the cow as a sacred source of life.  The other children at the daycare or school may notice and either want the food that child is substituting for hotdogs, or they may make fun of that child for not eating the hotdog.  A teacher can help the child adjust by not having a hotdog that day, or by choosing a book about different cultures to read to her students; nevertheless, it is very important to make all children in an educational setting to appreciate other family cultures, even if just at a basic level of understanding.

Teachers should also promote the understanding of other cultures in classroom activities or themes.  For example, during the Christmas season, a teacher can talk about Hanukkah or have the children make clay dreidels, or read a book on different holiday customs.    At the same time, a teacher must not have activities in which the children or their families would see as offensive to their family values.  A primary example might be during a Presidential Election.  Young children may talk about a certain candidate during circle time, perhaps repeating the beliefs of his or her parents.  Other children may join in the conversation, and they may all ask the teacher who is right.  It is important for a teacher to encourage all children that different beliefs are all okay, and that they make us who we all are.  It is important that a teacher (unless in a specialized setting such as a Christian daycare) avoid impacting the children with personal beliefs that may offend or cause them to rebel against their own family culture.  However, a good teacher can show personal values such as kindness, love, and understanding in order to impact the children in a positive way without influencing or tearing them away from the values of their families.  I think influencing children to have good morals and manners and respect for others is a great way for a teacher to make a difference and to help children appreciate diversity.