Kite Running and Tea: Customs of Afghanistan

Two of the more intriguing and beautiful customs I’ve learned about Afghanistan recently are extremely different types of activities: Kite Running and Tea Drinking. Here is some more information about these two popular past-times of this mysterious country.

1. Kite Running

Although soccer is an extremely popular recreational activity in Afghanistan, kite running is also popular, especially for young boys. (You may have heard of a popular 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini called The Kite Runner?!) Kite running and soccer were actually both banned under the Taliban regime (it was “wasteful” to spend money on kite materials and both activities wasted time) but are now permitted again. Kite running is more than just kite-flying, it is more like fighting with kites! This is a popular past-time because kites can be fairly cheap to produce and in a country with a diverse geographic landscape, kite flying is more practical at times than sports like soccer. I liked this custom because it seems that there are so many ugly facts about this beautiful country, but this custom has so much fun and beauty to it. Here is a short video that discusses kite running: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfeNUaKxufA 

Here is a NY Times article about Kite Running in Afghanistan http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/world/asia/14iht-kites.4.8751433.html 

2. Tea with guests

I know that having tea is certainly not an exclusively Afghan custom, but it is an integral part of their culture. For a country that does not have an “ethnic majority” and is extraordinarily diverse in most other aspects of culture, extending hospitality is probably the most predominant theme that permeates the country. Tea is a popular drink in Afghanistan, but especially when having guests. All guests should expect to be served tea and snacks, often chocolates, pistachios and almonds. Guests will be encouraged to eat and drink and be offered refills unless they turn their cup upside down or cover the top of their cup with their hand signaling they’ve had enough. (I witnessed this firsthand at my home visit!) Hospitality is so vital to Afghan culture that children’s stories integrate the theme of hospitality and hosts would be dishonored if they felt that their hospitality wasn’t accepted or wasn’t adequate for their guests. Afghans could even be compared to the British in the amount of tea they consume, except they have to import all of their tea! I found a really neat blog that shares some recipes and she has guest bloggers that discuss the importance of tea to the people of Afghanistan.

http://www.afghancultureunveiled.com/humaira-ghilzai/afghancooking/2013/10/tea-and-hospitality-in-afghanistan.html

 

 

Culturally Responsive Teaching

“When a class sees their teacher as an ally in their quest for an education, they perform better.”  

     -Monica Fuglei

I love this powerful quote by Monica Fuglei! If this doesn’t fire you up as an educator to reflect on your practice and make sure the students in your room know you are their ally then I don’t know what will! Students who are taught in a culturally responsive environment feel supported and are more successful academically than when their teachers do not take the time to foster culturally responsive teaching.

According to Fuglei, Culturally Responsive Teaching is “making students’ own skills, languages, and attitudes meaningful in the classroom.”

According to Ladson-Billings (1994), there are seven principles of Culturally Responsive Teaching. These include:

  1. Positive perspectives on parents and families
  2. Communication of high expectations
  3. Learning within the context of culture
  4. Student-centered instruction
  5. Culturally mediated instruction
  6. Reshaping the curriculum
  7. Teacher as facilitator

Here are some helpful resources I have compiled with more information and suggestions for CRT.

1. Culturally Responsive Teaching Brown University Although I’m pretty sure we all know what culturally responsive teaching is, I thought the short article on this website was helpful because it explicitly lists 7 traits of culturally responsive teaching.  https://www.brown.edu/academics/education-alliance/teaching-diverse-learners/strategies-0/culturally-responsive-teaching-0                                                            Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishing Co.

2. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Empowering Students Through Respect                by Monica Fuglei of Concordia University This article asks teachers to examine their own belief systems and reminds us of the importance of encouraging students to code-switch/use their own languages By giving students comprehensible input we are not lowering standards but having high standards that ALL students deserve and can learn at high levels. I also like that it reminds us that students will take ownership of their own learning when they feel validated!  http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/news/culturally-responsive-teaching-empowering-students-through-respect

3. Culturally Responsive Teaching Matters! from the Equity Alliance has some really great reasoning for CRT. This is a short PDF that defines key terms, explains why CRT should be the norm in teaching, gives non-examples (I always love having non-examples! I’m just that kind of learner I guess. I like when things are explicit…) and then it has LOTS of great examples of how to be more culturally responsive.  http://www.equityallianceatasu.org/sites/default/files/Website_files/CulturallyResponsiveTeaching-Matters.pdf

 

4. Edutopia  This is basically a collection of articles all about culturally responsive teaching. So many great articles and ideas!  https://www.edutopia.org/blogs/tag/culturally-responsive-teaching

5. Kentucky Department of Education KDE has compiled some fantastic resources for CRT including diagnostic tools, lesson plans, lesson resources and articles about CRT. I wish I had found this sooner!  http://education.ky.gov/educational/diff/pages/culturallyresponsiveinstruction.aspx

Perceptions of Time: Differences Across Cultures

white rabbit

One of the biggest differences between the United States and other cultures around the world are perceptions of time. Every culture has a different understanding and value of time. To Americans, “time is money” and we have to “save time” and “not waste time.” We constantly multitask and do everything automatic, instant and drive-thru. Most (not all) other cultures are much more relaxed about their idea of time than we are. This is important to understand, especially when meeting people from other countries and cultures in order to avoid misunderstandings and to better understand how they approach time-related tasks. To help educators become more informed about this topic, I’ve compiled some interesting articles and a short video to contrast how people from different cultural backgrounds perceive time.

Check out these articles:

On Cultural Time – Intercultural Communication

NOBA Time and Culture

How Different Cultures Understand Time

 

Cultural Taboos Around the World

In the United States we tend to either be offended by nothing or everything it seems. The only cultural taboos I could really think of are that it’s impolite to discuss a person’s weight, age or salary. Many cultures have certain things that are considered disrespectful or rude to do and these tend to differ among cultures. For example, in Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East, it is extremely disrespectful to give the thumbs up sign, to sit with the soles of one’s feet/shoes pointing toward someone or to use the left hand to eat or pass dishes. These simple actions wouldn’t be given a second thought in the United States, but would be EXTREMELY offensive in certain other cultures!

Check out this video for more interesting examples of cultural taboos from around the world.

“You live in a made-up country.” It’s the little things…

The scene: A small group of fifth grade ELL students are chatting as they work on writing in the ELL classroom. All of the students are from Mexico, except one boy, who is from Malawi in Africa.

Student 1 (from Mexico): You know “_______’s” little brother from Africa? He said you are lying. He said Malawi isn’t a real place and that you made it up. He said you can’t be from Malawi because it’s not real!

Student 2 (from Malawi): I’m not lying! I am from Malawi!

Student 1 (from Mexico): How do we know that?

Student 3 (from Mexico): Can we look on Google or on the globe to find Malawi?

Student 2 (from Malawi): Malawi is on Mrs. Tolson’s door! How could it not be real! Of course it’s real! We don’t have to look on Google if it’s on her door! It must be a real place!

Not the fact that this child lived in Malawi for years.Not that he speaks four languages that he learned while living there (Swahili, Lingala, French, Chichewa) or the fact that he hasn’t seen his grandparents and brother in over two years who still live there. Not the fact that he has photographs and memories from there. It’s not even that it exists on maps, globes, in books and on the internet. The fact that Malawi was on my door (or more accurately, the flag of Malawi was on my door – an activity we did the first day of school to represent all of the countries in our ELL classroom). THAT is the defining moment for this child that proves to the world that his homeland exists.

Teachers, PLEASE take the time to cherish and honor and nurture your students’ cultural backgrounds and languages, no matter how irrelevant or distant they may seem to you. They mean everything to these children and we need to make sure they never forget them.

Flag Door Tolson

 

How Do Mexicans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo?

I’ve heard conflicting stories about Cinco de mayo. As a Caucasian, American girl who is a lover of all things Latino (especially comida rica, musica y el idioma!) I want to celebrate Cinco de mayo, but not if it’s at the expense of being culturally insensitive to Mexican people or culture, so I decided to investigate. This short video does a nice job of summarizing some misconceptions about May 5th.

Using Sesame Street to Help Refugee Children

sesame street

We all know what a wonderful success story that the children’s program Sesame Street has been over the last few decades. Not only has the show been fun for children to watch, but it has also served as a way for public television to help reach impoverished children who may not have access to preschool and help them to learn literacy skills, math skills and even about culture and inclusion. Researchers are trying to figure out the best way for Sesame Street to be culturally appropriate and help refugee children who have experienced trauma and displacement. This would be a wonderful opportunity for the refugees if the developers can be culturally sensitive in their planning, especially since Sesame Street is already broadcast in hundreds of countries around the world.

Check out this NPR article When Elmo and Big BIrd Talk to Refugees – NPR for more details.