Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cartoon 24: Cultural Competency

Granada, Nicaragua.  Working with kids down here is a different story coming from working with the tough cookies in L.A., the Bronx and Atlanta.  I remember when Joaquín (from México) came to work with me in New York and was almost knocked flat by the force of the attitudes of those ten year olds.  They knew how to strategize around getting anything they wanted and they were more decisive than I will probably ever be.  They tested the inner strength of every single person who walked through the doors of their community center.  You had to earn the right to teach them. 

Down here, although kids often start working and doing 'grown up things' at a young age, somehow it seems like their childish, playful, open spirit remains intact.

This cartoon is of a first acrobatics lesson I did with a group. It was a lesson in cultural competency for me. I left them alone for free human pyramid building time and I almost had a heart attack when I saw the positions they had gotten themselves into. Three boys were doing a three-high (one standing on another's shoulders and then another on top of him!!)!! It was like they had no fear and they trusted each other right off the bat. I ran up freaked out like "Okay um okay that's great!! How creative you all are!!! Umm okay let's just get down now." To myself I'm thinking, 'How the health are they gonna get down????!'  And they proceeded to calmly and easily help each other down to the ground. After this I was like, 'Light bulb! We do not need to practice teamwork and trust building here! Working as a team is much more often part of everyday life here. I imagine that all types of cultural factors play into this: bigger families, less resources, tighter knit communities, less value placed on individual achievement...  Here we needed to focus on stuff like individual expression and forming and sharing personal opinions. Taking leadership!
I flashed back to my class of super vocal, willful individuals in the Bronx... How amazing would it be if these two groups could work together! I wish I could just smash the two classes together and, with good facilitation, watch the learning sparks fly...

Don't you just love how teaching is an endless source of education? Yeek!

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