Inquiry starts from within. As far as teachers are concerned, we would really like to generate inquiry within the students. Yet there are factors beyond our control which we have to grapple with. According to Anthony Salas’s article on Poverty and Education( n.d.), students spend over 5000 hours a year away from the school environment. Their social environment therefore must have a significant role to play as far as their learning behaviour is concerned. Therefore as educators, it is our duty to find out more about the cultural background of our students.
The student demography in class is different from what it used to be 50 years ago. Children are constantly migrating with their families. Educators need to learn about their background and create communication channels with the families in order to really understand their students.
In India, my student nod their head from side to side as if saying ‘no’ when they mean ‘yes’. This is often made fun of in other cultures. Initially, (even though I am an Indian) I had a really hard time figuring out whether they understood what I was saying. I came across another article, where they students would wrinkle their noses at the teacher when she asked them if they understood. In this particular culture, it meant, “No, i do not understand”. The teacher misunderstood this gesture and moved on with the lesson.
We need to stop thinking of culture as merely celebration of festivals, food and clothing and start inquiring into students gestures, tone of voice, slang language, even their way of walking…as indicators of diverse ways of expressing themselves.
Establishing a healthy relationship with our students will open up minds. Teacher and student can start reading each other accurately. The ground is ready for real inquiry to begin. It is time to plant the seeds and see what happens.
Anthony Salas, (n.d.). Poverty and Education. Retrieved from http://sitemaker.umich.edu/salas.356/life_out_of_school
Picture retrieved from :http://www.ocol-clo.gc.ca/html/ar_ra_2005_06_8_e.php