We Are More Alike Than Unalike

Angela Censoplano Holmes
Sep 2 · 4 min read

“I think the Lower East Side inspires me. That whole neighborhood, a lot of the people I worked with, seeing what we’ve gone through in life, being given an opportunity to understand who I am; my identity, my culture, and my roots.”

— Luis Guzman

I love the rich culture that permeates the community where I teach. The Hispanic population has really held on to its beautiful roots in so many ways. I think the invisible ties that bind them to their heritage is part of the glue that holds them together with their families, the community, and carries them through the difficult times. It is those bonds that contribute to supporting them in their lives and carrying them through, and that add so much color to life.

Whether building the foundation for their native language and becoming biliterate learners, or keeping up with cultural traditions at home, or supporting local businesses and restaurants run by immigrants in the area, it comes down to keeping the culture in the forefront of their lives and recognizing its richness and how it feeds them.

When I began teaching in the mid-nineties there was a huge focus on cultural awareness in the classroom. Cultural awareness involves being aware of the different cultural values, beliefs, and perceptions held by the various cultural groups that our community of students call their own. By becoming aware and including these elements in our teaching, we teach the importance of each culture’s traditions, beliefs, and language. This helps to build a sense of pride, ownership, respect, and value among our students, which, in turn, contributes to the overall self-worth of a child. When a child has a sense of self-worth, learning is more likely to occur and take root.

Today, with 21st-century learning, we move more into a global awareness, which is an underlying theme in the classroom. Global awareness helps students appreciate cultural diversity. It’s a conceptual understanding of global and cultural perspectives while embracing the assumption that the world envelops environmental, social, cultural, political, and economic relations, and we all depend upon each other. Regardless of the term with which we label it, we teach the concept of having consideration for others. We attempt to provide an understanding that we are all alike, and we must tolerate, respect, and honor each other’s differences in this rapidly changing world if we are expected to live together in it.

No matter our cultural, racial, political, religious, or societal differences, or whether we look at those differences from a humorous point of view, an unforgiving outlook, or from a place of acceptance, like Maya Angelou said in her poem, “Human Family:” “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

I’m sharing her poem in its entirety below, because one of the purposes of education is to cultivate the ability to pursue happiness, and this poem brings me great joy.

Human Family

Poem by Dr. Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences

in the human family.

Some of us are serious,

some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived

as true profundity,

and others claim they really live

the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones

can confuse, bemuse, delight,

brown and pink and beige and purple,

tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas

and stopped in every land.

I’ve seen the wonders of the world,

not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women

called Jane and Mary Jane,

but I’ve not seen any two

who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different

although their features jibe,

and lovers think quite different thoughts

while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,

we weep on England’s moors,

and laugh and moan in Guinea,

and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,

are born and die in Maine.

In minor ways we differ,

in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

Angela Censoplano Holmes

Written by

Author of 🍎Life is a Classroom, a teacher's journey. Reading Specialist, K-6 & Teacher Educator who ❤s learning and advocating for students & teachers.

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