Welcoming families from around the world

href=”https://lyharwell.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/kazakhstan.gif”>Kazakhstan

The country I chose is The Republic of Kazakhstan. Located in Central Asia bordering China, Russian and the Middle East, Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world. It gained its independence in 1991 with the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. There are two languages spoken in Kazakhstan, Kazakh and Russian. Despite their economic growth due to exports in wheat and oil, only three percent of the country’s income is spent on education. Although 95 percent of their schools are state-run, many are in need of overhaul, particularly in the rural regions where resources are sparse or unavailable.

To prepare myself as an advocate to assist the family in adapting to their new community, the first place I would begin is to investigate their home country to learn about their culture and what visible similarities we share with them. I would also try to determine what region of they lived in to determine if the family had access to educational services and resources. This would provide me with a baseline of where to begin in knowing what additional resources that the entire family may need, along with their children.

The next part of my preparation would be to enlist services of their local community available in our community. If none are available, I would check within my state or contact a local UNICEF office. I believe this is important to provide the family and me with additional resources to bridge the language, customs and cultural barriers so we can communicate effectively.

I would create a package of information listing meetings and resources that I would attend with the family regarding health, social and educational services to help make their transition easier. Within this package I would provide background information on our community, the schools and local events to make the family feel welcomed.

And she’s black

My first memory of oppression came when I was in the second grade. I knew that I had brown skin, but my parents never discussed what the difference my skin would make. Their emphasis was always on getting good grades and being respectful. The only true difference my father use to say was that I was made to be a girl, and then there boys. We sleep, eat and cry the same but learn life lessons and experiences differently. Whatever you put your heart and mind to, you can achieve.

This particular day in class I learned that I was the only black student in my class. The way the teacher implied it was like she thought I already knew that fact. I can’t even remember what we were talking about in class only that she said “we’re white” while pointing towards me “and she’s black”. As everyone turned to look at me, I turned too and then realized she was pointing at me. My feelings hurt and confused, I thought is this better or worse than whom I was five minutes before this conversation began. I thought did I do something wrong as the entire class turned and stared when she simply stated “and she’s black” and why was being black different or important? I thought I was a pretty shade of brown, when did I become black? This was the first thing I mentioned to my mom when I got home. Both her and my father was livid.

In retrospect the teacher could have said more to make me feel less uncomfortable and discussed what similarities we shared. I don’t believe that her intention was to be malicious or prejudice, but at 7 years old I don’t believe I could make that judgement. The next day in class after a discussion with my parents and the principal, we did have another class discussion specifically about race and an apology was given. As educators of young children it is important to know their background and home life. It provides us with valuable information on what our students know and how to approach them without making them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.

From that moment I learned two valuable lessons. First, I still needed to make good grades, give respect and earn respect. Secondly, the color of my skin had nothing to do with achieving the first.

Observing Microaggressions

In our discussions this week we’ve discussion several types of microaggressions. Dr. Sue defines microaggressions as “brief everyday indignities that are verbal, behavioral or environmental, that they may be intentional or unintentionally communicated to women, to people of color, to gay/lesbians that have an insulting message behind them that often time causes severe psychological distress and harm” (Laureate Education, 2011). My example of such witnessed behavior is below.

Last week I observed an interesting interaction between a senior manager and a colleague of mine. Over the course of the last three years, the various IT departments have been merging into one division. The organization has elected to adopt the infrastructure of the current contract team that I along with my colleague and senior manager is assigned to. The primary responsibility of our organization is to ensure that each IT task is properly managed from security concerns to daily operational procedures and to provide excellent customer care to our clients.

The senior manager, who is African-American, responsible for our specific contract is fairly new to the team. There are three women, one white and two black (one of which is me) that comprises this mostly male dominated team. The cultural diversity of our team is well blended with several Middle Eastern, Caribbean, African, United States Caucasian and African-American staff members. Upon his arrival, he made a statement that he would personally meet each staff person and get a broad view of our job responsibilities and concerns. The conversation took place with two team leads and a few other staff members. I have been team lead of my group for seven years. He’s had conversations with my co-worker about our duties but has yet to ask me anything specifically. The manager has made snide comments passing them as light humor which many of the staff members are uncomfortable with. I don’t think it’s his intention to be blatantly insensitive but his verbal and non-verbal cues scream “I’m more superior than you, deal with it attitude”. This attitude is not only being observed by direct staff members, but other colleagues from other agencies as well. After a couple of weeks, the senior manager initiated several office changes to the dismay of the staff that was not open for review or discussion. The manager often mentions his former career in the military as his defining character of discipline and order. His efforts and commands come across extremely rigid and unbending.

Last week, there was a meeting to introduce some new policies and team members to a sub-division of the operations staff. The other black female on our team has met with the senior manager a few times to address valid integration issues coming our way and how they are going to be managed. She is well-respected, and has been involved in implementing procedures and policies for her specific job function for several years without incident. Each meeting the senior manager has been dismissive and not taking her initiatives or comments seriously. The senior manager scheduled a meeting regarding the integration meeting without consulting her or her team lead, who always has agreed with the initiatives and policies she’s helped implement. Minutes prior to the meeting he told her “there will be no bantering initiated by you”. The entire office heard him and the tone of his voice was extremely offensive. Because she voiced her concerns in a professional manner that he was unhappy with and took five minutes away from the office to compose herself after being belittled, the manager contacted her primary hiring company and had her reprimanded for insubordination. His actions could cost my colleague her job.

There are so many wrongs I can’t name them all. I’ve decided to address my direct concerns at our next all hands meeting to see if the posture he takes is regarding the entire team or he’s targeting specific individuals. I’d like to believe that all of my life experiences has prepared me to work in a professional and courteous manner with any person that I meet. As an educator and parent, I try to maintain a conscious level of compassion in my discussions on cultural and diversity and to respectful of other’s values even if they are in direct conflict with mine. By showing them that respect I believe we can find compromises and understandings. For those unwilling to change, I will still show them the same courtesy and respect that I’ve been taught to show.

Reference

Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Microaggressions in everyday life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

My Family Culture

It would be difficult for me to categorize three things that I owned that summed up my life or represented a heritage that I’m proud to be a part of. If I were placed in a situation where I had no choice and knew I wasn’t returning to the land of my birthplace, one of the items I would bring would be the journal I started writing for my son before he was born. Diligently for the first year I wrote about the journey his dad and I were embarking upon, his arrival. Each year since his birth I update it with memories of accomplishments, family history but mostly to give him a sense of worth, determination and reference of what we endured that year. My journal to him captures more than what pictures show of how he grew from a thought, to a baby and continuing to grow into adulthood. It helps tell our story and reaffirm to him what’s important in life. What I was taught, I instill those same lessons to my son every day of his life. My family taught me that having faith, maintaining your self-respect and knowing your self-worth will get you through any circumstance placed before your feet.

The second item would be my iPod. Music played an important role in our family. Music, like writing is my heartbeat and therapeutic. I remember as a child visiting my paternal grandparents and hearing jazz and big band on Saturday mornings while we cleaned. My maternal grandparents and their Saturday drives and gathering to play dominoes listening to Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Ray Charles. My uncle returning from the Vietnam War and sounds of War, Earth Wind and Fire and the Isley Brothers blaring through the speakers of his Thunderbird. My Dad rocking his head to the sounds of the Doobie Brothers, The Eagles, Chicago, ELO, Santana and southern rock. My mom and Sunday mornings filled with worship and praise, singing along to the Hawkins Family, Clark Sisters, Andre Crouch. Summers spent with my aunt listening to the Carpenters and Chuck Mangione. All those different sounds invoke wonderful memories, eases difficult times as I played music to walk through stormy paths and new adventures. For this is the music of my family. We related to the lyrics because it was our lives, their struggles, the future and our dreams to be better, stronger as each new generation came forth on the shoulders of the last.

The third item would my pearl necklace. It was given to me on my 21st birthday by my step-great grandmother Scott. Her husband had given it to her when he returned from World War I. I wore these pearls the day I married my husband. It symbolized the merging of my family with his, another generation of proud humble people. When I look at the necklace, I see generations of women from my mother and aunts, to their mothers and aunts. I think of the struggles they went through to become women, sisters and mothers. From seamstress and housekeepers, to librarians, educators and professional women. We are strong willed and resilient.

If I had to narrow my choices again to carrying just one with me then it would be my iPod. My hope would be that through music and my voice, I could tell my story, show how diverse I am. They could feel my compassion in the words and music that sway me. They can feel my strengths and see our common threads. That would be my wish.