This is the seventh of nine installments about how I attempt to teach the whole child. Last week’s blog reflected on how I teach Interpersonal Wellness in Physical Education and Health. It also discusses how I believe it is every teacher’s duty to teach the entire child. After writing my original blog on why I teach Physical Education and Health, I received feedback from Shrehan Lynch (@misslynchpe) that there are currently nine dimensions of wellness that are being taught at the collegiate level. Armed with that feedback and the encouragement of Mel Hamada (mjhamada) this has now morphed into a nine-part blog series. I fully expect that I am derelict in my teaching of several areas of wellness. This blog series will allow me to highlight those areas I need to improve.
This blog may be the most important blog in the series. Our country is in a state of flux right now. The hate and anger that has been festering in people has now risen up and showed itself to the world. Hate crimes are rising, police are shooting unarmed People of Color at an alarming rate, and the White House is run amok with antisemitism. (link). The only positive I can draw from this is that we have the power to change the mindset of young America. We can do that by addressing Cultural Wellness in our classes.
“A culturally well person is aware of their own cultural background, as well as the diversity and richness present in other cultural backgrounds. Cultural wellness implies understanding, awareness and intrinsic respect for aspects of diversity. A culturally well person acknowledges and accepts the impact of these aspects of diversity on sexual orientation, religion, gender, racial and ethnic backgrounds, age groups, and disabilities.” (link)
Before we delve into how exactly I am teaching cultural wellness I must state that if we are not addressing this in your class that is a moral failure on our part. We no longer have the luxury of teaching children without understanding and including cultural wellness in our class. If we are ignoring cultural wellness we are harming our students. We may be using microaggressions, which are racist, without even realizing it. A microaggression is,“A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.” (link) Unintentional racism is still racism though; just as ignorance of the law does not excuse you from the consequences of it.
I know the term racist gets white people hot under the collar. I myself was called it and it devastated me. What some people don’t understand is that our society is racist. Every time we see movies, magazines, news articles, and television shows we are bombarded with the racist messages. (link) This impacts teachers without us even knowing it. (link) I am not excusing our racism. I am just showing you that just because we don’t hate black and brown people doesn’t mean we aren’t racist. We have an implicit bias simply by living in America. I know for a fact I have implicit bias because I have taken the implicit bias test from Harvard University.
Cultural wellness is more than just racism though. Some of the ways students can be discriminated against is by, disability, nationality, ethnic or national origin
religion, belief or lack of religion/belief, sex, sexual orientation, age, being or becoming a transsexual person, being married or in a civil partnership, or being pregnant. There are probably many more groups of people that I am missing. The main point of this blog is that we can help raise the awareness that people are being discriminated against in the world. More than that there are students in your school that is being discriminated against.
I have to be honest though, my teaching of cultural wellness isn’t even close to the level it should be. I have taught for 11 years. I would say 9 of those years I wasn’t even aware of cultural wellness, either my own or my students. Once I became aware that I needed to look at how and what I taught from a cultural wellness perspective I have started to slowly implement it into my teaching.
The first way is by honoring the some of the designated months. So far I teach the history and game of netball during women’s history month. I teach chess, yes chess, during black history month. You can read more about that here. That is not enough though. I don’t do anything for any other months. I also don’t teach enough about black or women history outside of those allocated months. This is a weakness that I am attempting to remedy more and more every year I teach.
Other ways that I address cultural wellness in my class is by avoiding the term boys and girls. If that bothers you check your bias. The students are dismissed by color of clothing, birth date or the classic if you had fun line up. I will also say those who are boys or identify as boys get the equipment. That plants the seed that there are people who may not look like a boy who identifies as a boy.
The greatest impact in my class is during our circle time. This is a restorative justice practice where one person is speaking while the rest of the class works on active listening. This is a time where the students can share anything with me. They are able to tell me about their personal lives. This allows the group to get a different perspective on their classmates. Students can see their similarities and differences in a controlled and safe environment.
Health class allows me to address cultural wellness explicitly. My favorite lesson for 1st grade that I tie into racism uses the Dr. Seuss video Sneetches. I use Edpuzzle and show the video with questions embedded into it. The video will stop automatically and we can discuss the questions as a class. Click this link to see the video and the questions. Another great video to discuss race with 6th graders is the TED talk with Mellody Hobson titled Color Blind or Color-Aware. The students use Edpuzzle to individually reflect on the talk and then we discuss it as a class afterward. Click this link to see the video and questions we discuss in class.
Another great resource to discuss racism comes from the show What Would You Do? This episode shows a white man, a black man, and a white woman all the same age and dressed similarly stealing a bike from a park. The video shows different people’s reactions to them. It is a great conversation started about implicit bias and racism. If you would like to see the video with the questions I use click here.
There is so much more to say and write about cultural wellness that entire books have been written about it. One book I would highly recommend you buy is Social Justice in Physical Education: Critical Reflections and Pedagogies for Change. It is written by some heavy hitters in the Physical Education world. I would say this is my bible for how to learn more about cultural wellness in physical education.
My final thought on cultural wellness is that we need to be aware of what is going on in our town, our state, our country, and the world. Hate, fear, and prejudice is still rampant in our country and around the world. There are concentration camps where gay men are sent to (link), Our President and Vice President do not support the LGBTQIA community (link), and Roe vs. Wade is in it’s most precarious situation since its inception (link). The only way we can fight hate is by having our children become humanists. “Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” (link) The beauty of humanism is that it doesn’t run counter to anyone’s religion nor is it anti-religion. It is simply the idea that ALL people deserve personal fulfillment and that we ALL need to work toward making the world a better place. Hopefully, I have given you something to think about. Thank you for reading my most important blog yet.
These are certainly good points of discussion. I think as teachers we have the responsibility in making sure that every child feels honored and proud of their culture and heritage. This should be reflected in the books on our shelves and images hanging on the walls within the building.