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Commentary: Culture Shock

Author(s): Deborah Haskins


Source: College Teaching, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Fall, 1999), p. 122
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27558960
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to the Commentary
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of 900 words.

We

COMMENTARY
Culture

Shock

Deborah

Haskins

A few years ago, 1 switched from teaching at a community


college with a diverse student body to a private Catholic col
student body. I am an African Amer
lege with a homogeneous
ican woman.
experience

on my

I reflect

As
was

more

traumatic

I now

transition,
than

see
new

that of many

that my
teachers,

although I realize many new teachers question their ability to


I
teach and feel insecure. Using my background in psychology,
would describe my transition to this new environment as one of
culture

shock.

In my

country.

new

case,

I experienced

however,

teachers

who

have

experienced

culture

shock,

new

were

environment

not

used

to seeing

Amer

ican women

in positions of authority. At times, they challenged


my authority. They also used me to test the stereotyped images
that they had learned from themedia and
of African Americans
their

parents.

They

were

surprised,

for

instance,

to

learn

that

to a college prep high school.


Second, the crisis affected my relationship with my col
leagues. In the community college environment, 1 had felt free
to teach what I thought was most appropriate. But in my new

went

environment,

some

of my

ideas

about

course

content

of my
Eventually,

cultural

identity
able
I was

so

that others

to overcome

would
my

accept
culture

seemed

me.
shock.

of

some

tions

culture

shock.

One

clear

way

gender,

not

may

less

sources

student

supplement

to

into my

classes,

the
pus

priority
Thus,

teacher
norm

sexual

or handicap.

identity,

should understand
an accurate
such

measures,

picture
as peer

of

because

authoritative

Those

that student evalua


of

the

teacher's

per
should

evaluation,

evaluations.

that care enough about their culture tomake diver

Colleges
sity

and

credible

ethnicity,

present

Other

formance.

want

their

new,

a new

entering
or the college.
should

strive

should
who

Professors
to overcome

their

to suc

teachers

less-traditional

culture

not

a crisis

create

do
culture

not

fit
shock

the
so

for
cam
they

I do not
can fulfill their desire to achieve teaching excellence.
think it is overly optimistic to believe that students ultimately
recognize good teaching, no matter who is filling the role of
professor.

Deborah

of

as

in the role of evaluator

College

impact

orien

opportunity
then provide

could

sessions

information
During

an

teachers

multicultural

incorporating

race,

measures

the

The

experiences.

professors

their

believe that other faculty members who feel like immigrants in


a foreign land can survive their transition if colleges enact
to reduce

new

offer

offer

transitions.

cultural

but I would have appreciated knowing that other faculty mem


bers understood their importance.
Finally, itwould help if department chairs and deans became
informed about the extent to which many students perceive

ceed.

some of whom had limited


untraditional to my colleagues,
to
multicultural
exposure
psychology. Finally, the crisis made
me question my identity. Iwondered whether I would have to
change aspects of myself to fit in. I knew I did not want to let
go

could

their

value

espe

African

and

about coping strategies for the transition period.


Mentoring programs should intentionally focus on new teach
institutions offer
ers' cultural experiences. Although many
new
few assist their
for
and
programs
faculty,
junior
mentoring
All faculty
transitions.
cultural
in
acknowledging
faculty
should learn about curriculum infusion. I already knew the

shock

culture

shock

sessions

could

orientations

faculty

culture

information

cially given the efforts of colleges to promote diversity.


For me, the crisis had a number of dimensions. First, it
affected my relationship with students. Undergraduate students
in my

Moreover,
tation,

as a consequence.

leave

and

couraged

describe

when I became immersed in a campus climate that was differ


ent from what I was accustomed to. I suspect I am but one of
many

to prevent "different" faculty members from feeling isolated


and insecure is to surround them with more people like them
selves. Hiring a handful of diverse faculty in a pool of a few
hundred relatively homogeneous faculty is not enough. That is
true when the handful of diverse faculty changes
especially
every year because professors who do not fit in become dis

regarding

to the dictionary, culture shock is "a feeling of


According
impotence that results from the inability to deal with the envi
ronment because of unfamiliarity with cognitive aspects and
role-playing skills." We usually think of culture shock when
to a new
we imagine immigrant groups visiting or moving

an editorial

It presents

page.

Haskins
in Baltimore,

is an assistant

professor

of psychology

at Loyola

Maryland.

122

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COLLEGE TEACHING