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MAPPING MY COMMUNITY

CLAUDIA PATRICIA ROJAS CORREDOR


MASTER PROGRAM IN APPLIED LINGUSTICS TO TEFL
INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH 2012

DESCRIBING THE COMMUNITY

Nowadays, the school has a pivotal role in any community as a scenario where knowledge,

learning, interaction, values, beliefs, life experiences, ideologies, personalities, genres, identities,

culture, social status, families, needs and dreams take place. That’s why I want to start my

description from that place: the school, specially the one where I am currently working at with

students from 8th to 9th grade. This school is called “Colegio Religiosas Oblatas al Divino Amor”.

From this name, a word that most of my relatives and friends find unknown is “oblatas” or

“oblates”. According to this private school philosophy, this word is used to describe any people

who have been offered to God, or have dedicated themselves to His service, in holy religion. This

seems interesting to me because it is not only to serve God, but also to serve the whole community.

Its mission is to provide the school community with a holistic, Catholic instruction to build up a

“Civilization of Love” in which honesty, respect, punctuality, responsibility and order are

experienced towards themselves and the others.

Colegio R. Oblatas al Divino Amor

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This religious school is located in Normandía (Engativá), a neighborhood that is located in

the northwest of the city.

In terms of transportation, main avenues such as Calle 26, Avenida Rojas, Calle 53 and

Avenida Boyacá, are excellent options for all the members of the community to move around the

city. These avenues are useful for some of my students because they live in different

neighborhoods like Kennedy, Fontibón and Chapinero. But, most of them live in Normandía. The

students’ socioeconomic status varies from stratums 2 to 4 according to the District Cadastre of

Bogotá.

Normandía has more than a 70% of residential units and many social places around, where

my students hang out and go together. These places include 1) Bakeries and Restaurants on 53rd

Street; 2) Parks; 3) Bars (Discos); and 4) Video arcades. During the period of observation, I could

see many students eating and sharing in those restaurants and playing in the parks (Normandía and

Simón Bolivar). In the case of the Discos and Video arcades, they are common in their

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conversations. Although they are not 18, there are many places where they can get in and dance

without any problem, they say.

Some other areas near the school that are visited by students, but not regularly include the

Botanical Garden, Salitre Mágico and malls like Gran Estación and Salitre Plaza.

Av. Boyacá Restaurants where students sometimes go


after clases.

One of the social places where they go Students near the school
dancing.

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Normandía Park: Place where students play A very popular bakery: In this place some
b soccer and volleyball. students refresh themselves after playing.

Something that called my attention of the process of observing the students in the dynamics

inside the community geographical location was that they have 3 interests: a) Sports; b) Dancing;

and c) Eating. Regarding sports, some of my students are in soccer and volleyball teams and play

after leaving school. In terms of dancing, according to their conversations, they sometimes go out

to spend some time at the neighborhood social places. Finally, as I saw most of my students eating

at many restaurants that were around, one day, I decided to go to one of those places.

Coincidentally, I found out that the restaurant where some students were at that moment

belonged to the family of one of them.

Restaurant of one of my student’s family

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It was a wonderful experience because I had the chance of knowing something about the

culture of this student. His name is Hao Lin Wu Wu. He is in 9th grade. His family is from China.

Hao’s Parents don’t speak Spanish “although they have been living in Colombia for the last 18

years” He says.

He’s Hao Lin Hao is sometimes in charge of the Restaurant

When I started to talk to Hao about his culture, I realized about the importance of

developing this exploration in the school community. There are lots of things that as teachers we

ignore that are in each one of our students such as their likes, abilities and, in this case, their

culture. Knowing the students’ culture enriches our classes and gives us the opportunity to share

with students values like tolerance and respect. Besides, it is an excellent way to include the

meaning of diversity in our classrooms. Schecter & Cummins (2003) assert that teachers need to

develop appropriate foundational knowledge about the social, psychological, cultural, political,

and economic forces that affect teaching and learning process for individuals and groups (p.82).

When teachers are aware of the previous issues, they will avoid that students judge, assign

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stereotypes that can hurt or offend people from different cultures, religions, races, socioeconomic

position, etc.

In the case of Hao, he told me he felt angry when some people confuse the Japanese culture

with the Chinese culture. “Some Latin people think we’re the same, but , we’re not” He says.

According to Hao, other examples of misunderstandings dealing with the Chinese culture are: 1)

Every Chinese knows Kung Fu or other Chinese martial arts; 2) All Chinese are good at math; 3)

Chinese women are subordinate to men; 4) Rice is the only source of food in China. He says that,

additionally, he disagrees what some textbooks do when they represent the Chinese culture by

drawings or by sharing wrong information. Hao says: “The problem is that some people in the

world believe what the textbooks say.” When these kinds of situations take place, stereotypes

emerge. We should be careful with the information we share.

ASSESSMENT

From the experience of “Mapping my Community”, I found many significant connections

to what I can do in my future classes. The experience that I have in the classroom was divided in

two. The first one was given by the English textbook students have. One of the units was called “A

taste of China”. There were some images of panda bears, dragons and cartoons which exemplified

the “Chinese” eyes, the big “rabbit” teeth and the hat that many people perceive as Chinese

characteristics. In that class we discussed about what we could see in the book and the information

that Hao was sharing. He expressed that he hated the way some books used to “ridiculize” Chinese

through drawing. At the end, the group (it was 9th grade students), concluded that it was important

to know first before judging or creating false stereotypes.

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The second part of the experience was an activity that was carried out with the same

students of 9th grade. They had to imagine they were the presidents of a country they had to create.

They had to make up the rules (using “be allowed to”) and the map of the place. The students did a

brief presentation of each one of the countries. Thanks to this activity I could check the interests of

my students and their abilities. For example, some students connected their country with the sport

they liked or were good at.

This student loves a


Colombian Football team:
“Millonarios” and reflected
his love in the name he
selected for his country
and the names of the
streets which were the
names of the players.

This student loves


Volleyball and created a
map of her country taking
into account some places
of her community: malls,
banks, bars, a volleyball
court, the school, etc.

Through this activity I gained more understanding about the community where I am

serving as a teacher.

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REFERENCES

Schecter , S & Cummins, J. (2003) . Multilingual Education in Practice. Using Diversity as a

Resource. Heinemann.