Gamal and Sherry were human services students placed in the same child development center for their fieldwork.

Gamal and Sherry were human services students placed in the same child development center for their fieldwork. Gamal was from a working-class family that originated in the Middle East. Sherry was reared in an upper-middle-class family from the northeastern United States. Although the two students were in the same setting at the same time, they had vastly different reactions to and concerns about the children and families served by the child development center. Gamal had requested a placement in a child development center, despite his family’s strong views about the importance of traditional gender roles. In spite of Gamal’s flexibility in thinking about his own roles, he found that he was uncomfortable when he saw little boys in the classroom play with dolls or with the play kitchen. In fact, he was so uncomfortable that he sometimes approached these children to initiate a different form of play. Gamal was also amazed by how much “stuff” all the children seemed to have—toys, books, games, records, and videos. Not only did the center possess these items in vast supply, but the children brought even more of them from home. Gamal sometimes felt overwhelmed by all of it and frankly felt that it was very wasteful and extravagant. Sherry, who was in this same setting, had not thought twice about the little boys playing with the dolls and the kitchen, nor had she really thought about the supplies, materials, and equipment within the center. All of this seemed quite natural to her. She was, however, very concerned about some of the children. She was upset to find that some children were left at the center for 10 to 11 hours per day, feeling that this was far too long for a child to be in a day-care center each day. She was also concerned about seeing some children wearing the same clothes to the center two or three days in a row. She saw this as evidence that the children were not being properly cared for. Gamal and Sherry worked under the supervision of the same field supervisor and talked with her independently about their observations and feelings. The supervisor noted their markedly different reactions to their experiences and recognized the real learning opportunity that was present in getting the two interns together for a discussion. They were amazed at one another’s reactions to the center, and each was able to give the other a different perspective on the issues that concerned them. Most interesting of all, neither student recognized that he or she was having an ethnocentric response to the situation until they met together. Only through this discussion did the two students recognize how their own cultural make-up—that is, their own cultural lenses—colored their perceptions of their experiences in their fieldwork.

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