What’s Hot – What’s Not: And how knowing your students’ cultural climate may affect your classroom communication

Beach-SceneLast month I wrote that I plan to read more this year:  I am happy to report I have found my next book, Foreign to Familiar by Sarah LanieI.   I came across this book recommendation while looking at the ESL writing website from Colorado State University.

Perhaps I was drawn to this book and CSU’s own post regarding Foreign to Familiar by Sarah LanieI about how the climate where you live can be a predictor of cultural values and behaviors because of the unusually warm weather we are having in Syracuse.  Eating traditional cold climate comfort foods in 80 degree weather has been a bit peculiar.  Does a steamy cup of pumpkin soup taste just as good when it is not 40 degrees outside and I am bundled up in my favorite cozy green sweater?  Why do I feel a bit out of my comfort zone because I am wearing sandals and it is October 1st?

While living in Madagascar for five years I had this feeling many times.  As the Director of the Fenerive-Est English Language Center, I would show up for meetings, classes, workshops and even cultural events at the appointed time just to wait 15 – 30 minutes for the rest of our group to show up.

Dropping by to say hello to my colleagues was expected and anticipated, but I still had to arrange for a “drop-by” in advance because I needed to have this planned.  This planning of a serendipitous meeting was a practice I continued for five years even though my colleagues always told me just to stop by.  I just could not bring myself to just “drop-by” unplanned.

This cold-climate and hot-climate values post has started me thinking: what other cultural values are indicated by our cold, snowy Syracuse winters?  And, how has living in a warm-climate and returning to a cold-climate illuminated my cultural values?  Have my values become more warm-climate?  (This question will have to wait for another blog post)

Considering climate and its relationship to cultural values may be another thread to understanding how and why students may (or may not!) participate in your classroom.  The folks from CSU underscored how we as the ESL instructors may want to consider how students’ native climate may indicate how they learn in terms of how we communicate, create groups, build relationships and even pose questions in the classroom.  Of course this is just one framework for understanding the cultural values of your students and not an either/or.  Always be mindful of over-simplifying, making assumptions and reifying stereotypes.

After looking at the chart on the CSU website, does this ring true from your own cultural values and climate experiences?

Reading through the hot-climate and cold-climate descriptors has given me pause to reflect on my own values and experiences in different climates – and the desire to read the book.

Has climate been an indicator of cultural values for you and your students in your classroom?  Please let us know.

If you are interested in examining multi-cultural spaces in more depth, please consider attending the Cultural Barriers & Assumptions of Parental Involvement workshop presented by Sally Doran in Watertown on November 5th, 2013.
Registration Link

Looking for more information on culture in the classroom?

Visit our RBERN resource page and the Culturally Responsive Teaching tab:

and these other webpages:

Lisa R. Pye

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