Creating cultural bridges for children
Article by: Gina Paul
Most children, no matter where they’re from, the cultures that they grow up in, or traditions that they follow, they enjoy making new friends. Humans are social beings. Most of us enjoy spending time with others, whether family, friends or co-workers. Going somewhere for the first time can be challenging, no matter the individual’s age or the reason. When meeting people for the first time, one of the first things that we tend to do is find out what we have in common. Once established, most people learn to build on the commonalities in order to form a friendship.
In addition, the first day of school can also be challenging for children. Over time children start to make friends and form groups, which of course eases such anxiety. While this is typically the case with most children, some may have a more difficult time adapting. This atmosphere creates an environment where peers gravitate towards some children and not others. Again, there are various factors such as race, culture, popularity, and even gender, as to why separation happens among kids.
My book “I Am Not Being Lazy, I Just Don’t Understand,” was written based on some of my experiences in the fifth grade. The title means a lot to many people; and it goes beyond the topic that the book covers.
When I was 10 years old, I moved to the United States from Haiti with some of the members of my family. Moving is never an easy decision to make, especially when children are involved. Moving to a new country, which can include new languages, cultures, races, etc., is even harder. As adults, there are different responsibilities moving add to our lives, however, we tend to forget the difficulties that children go through when moving to a new country. Some things that have been shared with me that adults have said to children are: “you will meet new friends, don’t worry,” “it is going to be exciting, you will have tons of new friends,” “change is good,” “you will love it.” Most adults usually have the mindset that they are the only ones who suffer from anxieties and fears when moving to a new country; any negative effect that it has on children will be quickly forgotten once they start school and start to make new friends. That is definitely a misconception.
In my book, the main character, Georgette, moved to the US at the age of 10. She does not speak English and right from the start, started having challenges fitting in. She was called many things including “lazy,” because she was not meeting expectations that others set for her.
As the story developed, we learned about what Georgette had to do in order to prove that she was not lazy, that she simply did not understand the language. We learned about how she felt and why. We also learn how unfairly she was treated by her peers and even the teachers. As educators, parents, and guardians we need to create cultural bridges for our children in school and at home. In order to create that bridge, we need to educate ourselves as well as the children.
My book can be used to teach children about: social differences and responsibilities, social justice and awareness. It is important to teach social emotional skills early in children’s education in order to teach them how to show empathy, have self-love and love for others, regardless of differences. Lastly, the book can also be used to teach about kindness and responsible decision making.
Most people do not use algebra in everyday living, but they use self-management as well as positive leadership skills daily. But yet, many schools either do not teach those skills at all or stop teaching them too early.
I would definitely encourage parents, guardians and educators to pick up a copy of the book and read with their children/students, to start an open dialogue about any of the above listed topics. It is never too early or too late to teach about love, kindness and responsibilities.