What is Culture?

Hall, S. (1997). Representation, Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

In Hall’s analysis of culture he provides a variety of theories and definitions of culture to allow the reader to understand the limitless variables that make up a culture. Whenever I hear the word “Culture” I immediately think of the past, the traditions, and often religion that is associated with the word. There are so many more factors, each with their own degree of influence on culture that should be considered. Is religion separate from culture or is it all intertwined? There is no true answer, which I believe is what Hall aims to achieve through his analysis. The most difficult thing to wrap one’s mind around is that culture is an ongoing process. It is rooted in history and tradition, and is influenced by time, and most importantly, by the perspective of those that are part of it and who consider themselves observers.

As teachers, we must be aware of our influences of the variety of cultures in the classroom. What we see as one representation of culture, may be ignored by others. When teaching, our intention is never to create stereotypes or prejudice, but how aware are we of creating them? Classrooms are where culture develops and shapes the most. The combination of music, food, ideas, traditions, representations, symbols, should be embraced and balanced within the classroom. Just as the students are the ones learning, while the teacher is the facilitator, the same can be said for cultural diversity. The safety and well-being of students depends on this.

New students in the classroom, traumatized students from whatever has happened out of the classroom, depression, anxiety, are all factors which teachers must take into consideration in their lesson planning in order to provide a safe environment and thus allowing students to contribute to the current created culture. This article by Joyce Dorado (2013) provides 5 really simple tips that any teacher can do address trauma in the classroom. The final one stands out the most as it makes reference to the idea of in the event a plane is going down you must put on your oxygen mask first before helping others. Teachers must take a moment and self-analyze before helping others, and should teach students to do the same. Furthermore, the representations of culture, and of stress, must be recognized as they can take so many different forms. What some teachers think is bad behaviour, may be a cry for help in other ways.