5. The Culture Tree
Framing the Student-Teacher Relationship around trust and rapport is important. We use culture as a trust builder. Students that don't feel safe, are not willing to risk failure. If students don't take risks, they are unable to grow, academically or personally.
Zaretta Hammond, in her work on culturally responsive teaching, has created a visual called the Culture Tree as a way for us to understand culture. There are three parts or levels of the tree.
This level is made up of observable and concrete elements of culture such as food, dress, and music.
This level is made up of the unspoken rules around everyday social interactions and norms such as attitudes towards elders, concepts of time, nonverbal communication, and rules about eye contact, or appropriate touching.
This level is made up of tacit knowledge and unconscious assumptions that govern our worldview. It also contains the cosmology that guides ethics, spirituality, health, and theories of group harmony.
Levels of Culture Consideration for Health Education
- This level of culture has a low emotional charge so that changes don't create great anxiety in a person or group.
- This level is made up of observable and concrete elements of culture such as food, dress, and music.
- In health education it is important to consider how these surface elements relate how student analyze influences and perceptions of these observable characteristics of culture.
- Provide opportunities to explore literature, music, holidays, and talk style from a variety of perspectives. In health education it is important to examine stories and examples that are shared through the lens if these surface cultural differences.
- Since these aspects of culture have a low emotional charge they are ways to initially engage students in differences.
- Examples include: · Appearance ideals and how they impact body confidence · Food people eat and impact on health, belonging, tradition
- Consider using these categories and have students create a piece of art work or representation who they are related to these categories.
- This level has a strong emotional charge, At the same time, at this level, we interpret certain behaviors as disrespectful, offensive, or hostile. Social violations of norms at this level can cause mistrust, distress, of social friction
- This level is made up of the unspoken rules around everyday social interactions and norms such as attitudes towards elders, concepts of time, nonverbal communication, and rules about eye contact, or appropriate touching.
- These shallow cultural elements have strong emotions associated with them. Many of these shallow levels of culture are directly related to health education,
- Eye contact, non verbal communication, personal space, gestures are all aspects of communication that can potentially be in conflict when perspectives regarding communication are not taken into account.
- These aspects of shallow culture can come in conflict with the norms of the school or classroom and impact students behaviors, potential leading to disciplinary actions.
- Examples include: · Communication techniques that different people use: different families, cultures, different ages, etc. · How people have different expectations of time- when you show up for something · Differences in personal space while communicating or hanging out · Expectations of honesty, accountability
This level is made up of tacit knowledge and unconscious assumptions that govern our worldview. It
also contains the cosmology (view of good or bad) that guides ethics, spirituality, health, and theories of
group harmony (i.e. competition or cooperation). Deep culture also governs how we learn new
information. Elements at this level have an intense emotional charge. Mental models at this level help
the brain interpret threats or rewards in the environment. Challenges to cultural values at this level
produce culture shock or trigger the brain’s fight, flight, freeze or appease response.
- How decision are made, spirituality concepts of self, notions of farness and definitions of family are areas that have a close connection to health education.
- Two different cultures can look at the same event and have very different reactions based on their perspective and their deep culture. The world view of a situation can impact decision making and behavior.
- Teachers may bring a world view to the classroom that conflicts with the students world view, for this reason it is important to build space in the classroom that allows open dialogue.
- Examples include: · How people make decisions about different health choices · Different beliefs about how the world functions · How you see your health and its’ impact on others in the world
- Identify your own culture whether that is based on ethnicity, race, faith, politics, sexuality, etc.
- Now identify one or two Surface, Shallow, and Deep Culture features that you experience.
- How does something outside of your cultural group view or experience those same Surface, Shallow, and Deep Culture features?
- What judgements or beliefs do those outside of your cultural group hold about those Surface, Shallow, and Deep Culture features?
- How might implicit bias play a role in how others, outside of your cultural group, view you?
Classroom Application Questions
- How have you recognized/integrated Surface Culture in your teaching?
- How have you recognized/integrated Shallow Culture in your teaching?
- How have you recognized/integrated Deep Culture in your teaching?