Monday, April 14, 2008

cultural clarity

from whence i came, my coworkers were all very friendly. my mothering hens, our unofficial men's club, the interns that became my friends by the simple proximity of our ages and our interests. i still maintain (or attempt to maintain) contact with a handful of the interns that came through our little school in my time there. outside of school, their varied interests in college football and live music and boisterous barrooms lined right up with my very same interests! my mothers always looked out for me, and to some extent they still do. i know when they get to meet the macaroni to my cheese, they're going to love her. how could they not?

i digress. our men's club also worked together in a very woman-dominated school. i was the lone classroom teacher representative. we had a music teacher representative, the expectedly male p.e. coach, and one administrator. add to the mix our awesome custodial crew, and the seven of us could often be found on monday afternoons playing armchair quarterback after the kids left. yes, our female colleagues were also as knowledgeable and could hold their own in these conversations, but we men were the constant. the women varied.

i sometimes wonder why that cameraderie isn't quite there at my new school. she and i were discussing perceptions and stereotypes and how our own experiences shape and color (no pun intended) our interactions from a very young age. suddenly it clicked. the culture that some of these very same men come from colors their perceptions of work, and their interactions with we teachers. our head custodian is korean, and i finally figured out that his cultural perceptions of work dictate less personal communication and a seemingly stronger work ethic. [note the time: yes, i am writing at work! the kids are gone, i'm leaving as soon as i finish, but still...] the building supervisor is a loquacious salvadoran man. he always has a big smile on his face, always willing to have a short conversation with a teacher when he comes into their classroom. again, to what extent does his culture play a role? is it merely personality, or is it more of how he was socialized? on the surface, it would seem that an older black woman would have little to talk about with me. however, my conversations with her are filled with laughter and joking and good-natured kidding. is it that talking with her reminds me of those friends i left behind, that she has more of a southern, slow-talking mentality? a reminder of the fictive kin i formed in alachua?

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