Education + Culture = Perspective

spice market-qatarCulture permeates everything we do, who we are, and how we view the world. So when I hear about someone purposely seeking to educate themselves about a culture different from their own I am excited to hear about their findings. I believe that getting out of our box can only help to create life-changing experiences, tweaking our perceptive and the perspectives of generations to come. It’s this type of self-reflection that lends itself to new educational opportunities and challenges us to connect with people who appear different from ourselves. It can be as simple as trying a new restaurant or as exciting as traveling to a new country. By getting out of our comfort zone we dare to uncover a new world of possibilities and make it okay for our kids to do the same.

My dear college friend, Johanna or Hanna as we call her, has certainly taken that challenge to heart.  Hanna is nothing short of a vibrant, jovial Texan.  A heart of gold and a passion for the nuances of the English language, Hanna is currently on leave from the University of Houston’s Language and Culture Center to teach English at The Community College of Qatar [CCQ]. That’s right, she’s living and working on the other side of the world where her ESL skills are put to the test, and she’s loving every minute of it! It’s the exact place where her love of culture and education sync up in perfect harmony.

Read how Hanna eloquently describes her new experiences, relishing in the history and diversity of the Qatar Souq Market and its parallels to her Qatari classroom:

My Life of Spice: By Johanna Campbell

I saunter through the souq , with its twists of alleys and exposed earthen walls and spices perfuming the air. The souq is modern construction of the ancient, a marketplace open to sun-soaked skies and all who shop its wares.

It is a meeting place, a converging of nations, brought together in the singular quest of pursuit. We souq-seekers are searching for something: Turkish lamps, so finely and intricately cut brasses and tins wreathed in light that your breath is lost in the viewing; spices and perfumes and ouds that bewitch; hummus and cheeses of halloumi, fresh grilled, with mint and Arabic coffee, that make the mouth melt with anticipation. A tambourine. Pearls of Qatar.

My smile of realization grows. The souq is not unlike my Qatari classroom. Our tile hallways turn and twist and lead to sun-lit classroom caves, our students’ heels clack-clicking like their chatter between classes. They know the secrets, our students do, of the highly guarded fragrances of the East, perfuming our campus and their papers and tests with their mystery and allure. We come together, our students and their teachers, and meet at CCQ. We are a souq of knowledge. We search for answers. We ask questions. We pursue. We educate. We are educated.

We are a convergence of nations. As we interact, we learn. We learn of each other, our cultures, our beauty, our languages, our shared experiences of life at the college. Our students are pearls, each one rare and beautiful and truly unique, and we teachers are challenged to refine and polish. To cultivate. We are a faculty diverse in discipline, united in professionalism, with strengths and abilities as unique and highly crafted as the finest of the souq’s luxuries. Together, we are pearls of Qatar. We are CCQ.

[Johanna Campbell is a second-year teacher of English as a Second Language at the Community College of Qatar. She holds a Masters in Applied English Linguistics from the University of Houston, where she is currently on leave of absence from the Language and Culture Center. She has been in the ESL field since 1999.]

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

To Assimilate or Not to Assimilate, That is the Question

melting potJuly 4th is just around the corner, people! While you’re trying to decide  where to spend the holiday and how to get there I thought it might be important to acknowledge a question that, although never asked as bluntly as I’m posing it, nonetheless, permeates the history of our Independence Day: To Assimilate or Not to Assimilate. That is the question.

The Melting Pot

E Pluribus Unum: out of many comes one. America is born and bred on the concept of stirring up the melting pot of  many cultures, religions, ideologies, creeds, and ethnicities and creating an American, one whose foundational concept of respect for each other’s differences is reflected in the law that we follow. That is our hope anyway.

A Little History

In the early 1900’s immigration in the United States nearly tripled! “Why”, you might ask? Well, people wanted to come here to escape persecution and poverty mainly from Eastern Europe, and America’s doors were wide open, ready to accept those who wanted to cultivate this land with new businesses and lots of babies.

Although immigration policies were much more relaxed during this time in history there was still the formality of the Naturalization Ceremony. Before immigrants could be Naturalized they had to attend a series of classes on what it meant to hold American Citizenship. (Today, we call this a Naturalization Test.) During the early 1900’s the INS (now USCIS) had a rather elaborate naturalization ceremony that often included a little skit to illustrate the melting pot concept, whereby a representative from each country would hop into a life-size pot and when they emerged they carried with them an American flag. Yep, I know. Kinda ridiculous. I gotta hand it to our government though as it was certainly a creative way to get the point across.

Immigration Today

Although obtaining US Citizenship is much harder these days due to the in-fighting by our elected representatives and even our neighbors, it is important to remember that all Americans carry with them blood lines that lead back to an immigrant. It doesn’t really matter whether you have a Great-Great Grandmother from Italy or a Mom from Trinidad; we’re all the same–thrown into a great big pot, stirred up with (sometimes questionable) cultural values, and definitely mixed with a lot of patriotic pride to create a truly unique American.

Will My Child Be Better Off If They Assimilate?

I for one am happy I’m a mutt of Scottish, English, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, and Russian descent. And I feel privileged to live in one of the of the most diverse cities in the nation (Los Angeles). Because I do so I have the opportunity to work with many types of families, including immigrants. Assimilation is a big topic of discussion, especially when it comes to a child’s education. Do I send them to a school where the isolationist viewpoint is part of their education? Do I allow my child to mix with people different from myself? If I do, will my heritage, culture, religion, and language be set aside in favor of the American Way, however that is defined at the moment. The bigger question that is never asked but always wondered is, “Will my child be better off if they assimilate?”

If we take a look back at the reasons our family members came to this country we’ll understand that the gist of this argument rests on equality. I firmly believe that Education Is Still The Great Equalizer. Although money and power will take you far in this country, education will sustain you. In America, we value education because it can transcend race, culture, religion, and language. Education allows us to stir up debates about who is right and who is wrong, creating conflict and angst, hopefully with the end result of becoming more accepting of another’s view even if it doesn’t remotely comport with our own. Parents wrestling with this question are right to worry though because things can get a little uneasy when those views lead to persecution. Although no one should be chastised for their beliefs, and in an ideal America we should be able to have a respectful round-table discussion about our differences, our frustrations and alienations often manifest themselves in unhealthy ways. But we are not a risk averse people. The concept of an American is premised on an unknown figure of hope, one by where if she just reaches a little higher and walks a little farther she can climb out of her station in life and make a new one for herself and her family. I think it’s important, then, to acknowledge the risk in assimilating but more importantly it’s when we stop asking these tough questions that we should all be worried. America is, after all, a nation built on differences and one that continues to strive for tolerance, and that is a risky endeavor; one with a great payoff.

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com. We think we’re pretty awesome! Go on, check us out.