As I stated in an earlier post I am a senior in an engineering program here at PSU Berks. Even though I am still working on my degree I have been an engineer for, let’s say many years. So even if I’m not equal in age or wisdom (but do share a preference in hairstyle) with Master Po in the 1970’s TV show “Kung Fu” as seen below, I sometimes feel like him. The old master in this show tried to pass his knowledge and experiences to a much younger student by acting as a guide throughout his lessons. I am not a teacher nor do I try to pass as one, but in many ways I have unknowingly accepted the role of cultural informant.
I had never heard the term “cultural informant” prior to this class and had no idea that I could be considered one. Now with accepting the responsibility of tutoring this semester I realize that I am even more involved in this role. Some of the challenges that I found from serving as a cultural informant were the age and cultural differences between me and my fellow students. The cultural differences that I noticed are not mainly based on language or geography, although these did exist, but mainly on the generation gap that exists between us.
Now that I am a writing tutor and work exclusively with primarily first year engineering students I try to use these differences as an advantage by emphasizing the difference in practical experience versus the difference in age. When working one on one with a student I try very hard to not assume a role of authority. Instead I try to use my experiences and abilities to set an example for the student to want to write better reports.
The main thing that I have realized about being a cultural informant is that it is a two-way street. I like to think that I usually add something good to a tutoring session or just a discussion, but I have noticed that I always take something away with me as well.