Portfolio 3

The Multicultural Project

My selected culture is the local community of Tarkington Prairie, founded in 1822 and still serving as home to many families from the beginning of the 20th century (Various, 2007). This small rural community has a very strong sense of self-identity, and I am one of the outsiders brought in by the school district.

I selected this culture because for the last four years I have worked with the people of this community, and still do not have a firm grasp on what makes them tick. I realize this is not the “typical” meat for a multicultural investigation, but in the face of the research I have been doing for this course, I realize that it is my responsibility better to understand the people I work with and the students I teach.
The community is insulated geographically and by choice: several miles from the nearest town, it has no industry other than a couple of gas stations, a Subway restaurant, and some hairstylists who work out of their homes. Most adults either work on their ranch or drive 40+ miles to work in refineries or at the Port of Houston. The heart of the community is the school district, made up of four schools (Primary, Intermediate, Middle and High), the library, and the many churches in the area.

I do not live in Tarkington, but drive 21 miles each way between Shepherd and Tarkington. If I need to go to Wal-Mart, I do not head in the direction of Tarkington’s nearest neighbor, Cleveland, but drive north to Livingston. I am not a member of any of the local churches, and have little contact with the members of the Tarkington family outside of school hours.

My own background is very different from that of the teachers who have “come home” to teach. Though born in Texas, I lived all over the place growing up, attending a new school every two years and following the path the corporate world of Texaco set for my father. I find that quite often I have trouble understanding the cultural context that is the foundation of my students’ lives, just as much as I have trouble understanding their heavily accented language. For these reasons, I have set myself the task of learning more about their culture.