I dreamed of the day where I open my brown lunch bag and finding a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In reality, I take out a clear film wrapped rice ball filled with ingredients such as dried pork shreds, eggs and small pieces of daikon. “Ewww what is that?”, a kid yelled. Kids started gathering around me to see what I had in my hands. Some would use their fingers pulling their eyes to the side to mock my eyes and some would make disgusted sounds. This happened when I arrived in the United States when I was 7 years old. It was the first time I realized I was different than other kids and a casualty of social categorization and became a part of the out-group. I remember it was me, a Korean kid and an Indian kid and we would sit at our own table during lunch time eating our not so American lunches.
One day, my second grade teacher, Mrs. Powell told us that she was going to divided us into groups and the groups are to sit together twice a week and complete an activity as a group. Thinking back, she purposely placed a member of the out-group kid with the in-group children. At first, as you could imagine nobody wanted to talk to me partly due to my poor English and they can’t understand me. Mrs. Powell would sit with each group communicating to us about diversity, getting everyone involved and never neglected to involve positive affirmation when someone did something good. She also encouraged us to say positive things to each other. This activity promoted peer assisted learning. Through self perception theory, in which a child may learn by observing others that certain behaviours can result in desirable outcomes. (Schineider, 2012) Kids begin to know me as a person and felt good about themselves when they helped me. It helped many of us to eliminate or overcome fundamental attribution error.
I almost forgot this this experience until I was thinking what I should write for this week’s blog. I remembered what a wonderful teacher Mrs. Powell was and how she tried to establish a positive learning environment so we can successfully build our perception of the world. For this, I will be forever grateful to her.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.