Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Super-Machine and Cultural Poster

I was sitting at my computer working on a lesson plan, when all of a sudden, a message popped up on my screen that said: “Hi! This is nurse teacher! Everybody is gone home, come visit! ^^”

I messaged her back saying that I needed to finish my work, but that I’d visit later in the afternoon (I needed to make sure the teachers weren’t going to leave without me again).

The day neared its end, so I took a quick stroll over to the health room in the adjacent building. I knocked, went in, and was greeted with a cup of coffee and a plate of Oreo cookies. In the middle of the room there was a huge machine (still partially wrapped in plastic), a set of metal handles, and an open instruction manual on the ground. It didn’t take very long to figure out why she wanted me to come over.

I read through the instruction manual, finished setting up the machine, and calibrated the different instruments. It was a state-of-the art medical check-up machine to accurately record the height, weight, BMI, percent body fat, water volume, bone density (and much much more) for each student in the school. The user simply had to stand on the metal plate, and within twenty seconds, the machine would produce a medical assessment that could be saved on a flash memory card, printed, and retained for school records.

Out of curiosity, I stepped up onto the plate and allowed the machine to work its magic.

As soon as the assessment was complete, the nurse immediately took the flash memory card, saved the form onto her computer, and placed a printed a copy into her files…. She’s a sneaky one…

I left her office and was quickly intercepted by another elementary school teacher (who had kidnapped me a couple of weeks ago). She pulled me into her classroom and showed me a project her kids had been working on. It was a huge Bristol board with hand-drawn pictures of people from all over the world illustrating how different cultures greet each other. Naturally, I looked for Canada, and found two Inuit people facing each other with a small caption saying, “In Canada, people greet each other with smiles!” Next I looked for the United States, and found a woman on a bike wearing a short skirt, knee-high socks, pigtails, and a huge brace-filled smile. The caption said, “In America, people greet each other with a wave!” As I looked around the poster, I was thoroughly amused by the skewed cultural stereotypes that were portrayed by the many little cartoon people. All of them seemed strange and entertaining, except for one: Korea. In the Korean box, there were two businessmen (each donning a well-pressed suit, dress shoes, and a briefcase) facing each other in a slight bow with outstretched arms in a handshake. The caption read, “In Korea, people greet each other with a handshake!”

At first, I was slightly bothered by the poster. I thought to myself, “Geeze. Now all the kids are going to think that all Canadians are Inuit… And why the hell are the Koreans the only ones who look civilized? The world doesn’t revolve around Korea!!!”

But then I started thinking of my own Elementary classes…

I remember making a “cultural” poster almost identical to the one I was currently staring at, with a few subtle differences. The first being that the Canadians were the only ones shaking hands in business suits, and well, the Koreans weren’t even on there. They were grouped in with the “Asians” (who were all wearing Vietnamese-style rice hats and bowing with their foreheads to the ground)…

I guess we’re all guilty of being a little self-centered at times.

Teaching students about cultural differences can promote interesting and healthy classroom discussions. It also helps encourage them to open their minds to understanding human differences from a global perspective.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to ride my polar bear to the depanneur to pick up some beer and maple syrup before the hockey game.

Take it easy eh!

- Ken


  1. I love the perspective thinking.

  2. christine(jess' mom)9 November 2009 at 18:03

    'I guess we're all guilty of being a little self-centered at times'... yes, we all... there are differences like specific characteristics, cultures and religions. but those things are secondary. if we can leave the differences aside, i think we can easily communicate, exchange ideas, and share experiences... a belief in the value of compassion, a belief in a policy of kindness, and a sense of commonality among all living creatures... bring us to better world

  3. Wow, thanks Christine for your wonderful comment. I'm learning so much through Jess and Ken's experiences - their honesty and excitement is contagious. Their thought-provoking entries always leave me smiling, or tearful - but they always touch my heart. So Ken - you're not bringing me a rice hat as a souvenir???