Shaping Our Culturally Responsive Selves

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"I know she was lying," Estella said of the 3rd-grade girl, "because she wouldn't look me in the eyes." Estella, in 6th grade, is part of her elementary school's conflict mediation team. She's been trained to help her classmates resolve conflict that happens during recess and lunch play. Estella and her "Peace Team," as the conflict mediators are called, have been trained on skills that include tips that indicate when a person is not telling the truth.

Unfortunately, what Estella hasn't been trained on are the personal and cultural dynamics inherent in conflict and conflict resolution. For instance, in some cultures, children are taught to avert their gaze to those in authority. Was the 3rd-grader lying, or just responding in a culturally appropriate manner to Estella?

Many educators believe that students speaking and mediating their peers is the best way to not only resolve conflict, but to prepare children for life as democratic citizens. Attitudes toward conflict and conflict resolution are shaped by people's cultural backgrounds and life experiences, however, and, in our multicultural society, conflict resolution programs must be sensitive to the many cultural nuances involved in cross-cultural communication.

First, it's important for each of us to understand our own multicultural selves and the cultural norms that shape the way we see and interact with the world.

Before endeavoring to develop cultural knowledge and awareness about others, we must first uncover and examine personal social and cultural identities. Guided self-reflection allows us to better understand how social group memberships inform who we are. This exercise is an important vehicle in any peer conflict mediation program to help students embrace the concept of being culturally responsive and culturally sensitive.

It’s important for each of us to understand our own multicultural selves and the cultural norms that shape the way we see and interact with the world. 

Lesson 1: My Multicultural Self
Students explore their own multicultural selves and the cultural norms that shape the way they see and interact with the world.

Lesson 2: Conflict Resolution and Peace
Students reflect on the importance of conflict resolution.

Lesson 3: Checking on Stereotypes
Students learn to check themselves against the tendency to believe that everyone within a given identity group believes the same way.

Lesson 4: Nurturing Optimal Classroom Community for Culturally Responsive Conflict Resolution  
Students understand ways to nurture classroom community for culturally responsive conflict resolution.

Lesson 5: In-Group Favoritism
Students examine the way in-group favoritism hurts instead of heals the conflicts we might have with each other.

Lesson 6: Communication—The Total Impact of Your Message
Students understand the ways others communicate from their cultural norms, including verbal and nonverbal behaviors.