As I was growing up cultural studies was a window dressing. A move of solidarity wrapped in appeasement. Something we did when it was time for Missions’ Conference. We never looked at the impact of navigating spaces through our cultural lens. We never discussed the intricacies of it or how our cultures shape and inform us. How knowing where you came from and how you got there is relevant beyond the past tense but also in the present.
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about my personal reflective work is doing a deep dive into my cultural identity. Last year, I did a really great set of reflections with other Latinx educators on IG. This year, I’ve been doing a lot more professional reading. It’s been great to connect with not just my Panamanian roots, but my roots as an Afro-Antillean.
These cultural studies can be integrated across content areas and can be a really wonderful time for students to learn about other cultures. In my room, ELA was comprised with a posterboard project, Math related to exploring scale in maps, Science had to do with looking at the different types of ecosystems present in Panama and social studies explored the culture and diversity of Panamanians.
I explained to the students that sharing my culture through story telling is something that is common in most cultures. Keeping your culture alive through these exchanges and recollections are so important. We learned about the Panamanian flag and about one of my favorite indigenous cultures: the Kuna Indians. I have many Kuna pieces in my home today, some that my Mom got for me, others that are family heirlooms. We created a map and learned about what an isthmus is.
We recorded our recollections in a cloze form anchor chart. The students got a chance to explore my mola art and then create mola art coloring sheets themselves. What I love best about what we did is that it centered the students’ labor and learning, but also my own. Teaching is a beautiful blend of listening and learning, of sharing and receiving. I am so thankful that we have these moments to breathe and grow together.