Professor Estelle Blair-West
Cultural Studies: Let's Get Shocked! (Years 1-4)
Mon Mar 20, 2017 14:02

“Umph.” Estelle hefted herself on top of the desk at the front of the lecture hall, wiggling until her back was flat against the blackboard with legs stretched out in front and then smoothing her cotton shirt over her belly. It was April. She was nearing four months pregnant and increasingly sick of it. Due to being a very tiny woman, the Australian looked more pregnant than she actually was: she just got bigger faster. Cue her reluctance to spend any length of time on her feet. Also her appetite. Close on hand was a bag full of pickles and chocolate Oreos, which had been her same favourites with Kid #1, because pregnancy was weird, apparently.

Reaching around the materials beside her, including a pyramid of small boxes and a folder stuffed to exploding, Estelle retrieved her attendance list as the first students trickled in. “Morning, lads.” Brown eyes stayed focused while more students entered, marking off names. Estelle never took roll after the first day of class, since RMI was small and it would’ve been harder to forget names than remember them, but she still kept an attendance record. Mostly because detentions were fun, but hey, it had other uses, too. Students consistently present and engaged had a (slightly) better chance with her if they wanted to challenge their grades, for instance. She suspected some might try that after today’s class.

When the clock hit time, a silent wave of her wand caused the auditorium door to slam shut. Estelle’s policy towards latecomers was zero-tolerance. This late in term, she assumed those who missed class were intentionally skipping, hence her enthusiastic detentions. “First off, I graded your tests from last week,” she stated gruffly in her thick Aussie accent, another wand-wave sending the papers from her folder to their respective owners. “Half of you did respectably. The rest, well...” Stretching out her sore legs in front of her, Estelle shot a glare round the room and snagged a pickle from her snack bag. The crunch was satisfying. “Luckily I have office hours after class, so come see me if you have questions. But I expect good questions. Otherwise I’ll just tell you to read your textbook better, and that’s a waste of time.”

Finger-combing cropped brown hair back from her face, Estelle continued at her natural loud volume. “On to our lesson, then.” Using her wand tip to write in midair in front of her, the words Culture Shock appeared on the blackboard over her head. “Anyone have an idea what this means?” A few students offered suggestions, and she nodded or frowned as needed before explaining further. “Culture shock is a reaction to new environments, which can have different side-effects. For example, think back to your first ever day at RMI. Maybe you remember feeling stressed, not sleeping very well, or having bellyaches. These are signs of culture shock. It’s completely natural, and it makes sense – after all, you went from living at home to living here. Exciting, I’m sure, but also overwhelming, with a lot of different things you didn’t expect.

“So why do we get culture shock? Is it just because we can’t handle different things?” It was a rhetorical question. “As you older students know, the word culture can be boiled down to mean the way that a group of people live. It includes language, food, government, etcetera. In other words, culture is what a group of people thinks is the normal way to live life. So culture shock is when you realize that a different group has a different idea of the normal way to live life. The differences aren’t really the problem; it’s the sense of normal. It’s like your brain goes ‘woah! My normal isn’t the only normal?’. So your brain has a lot of stress at first, and that’s why you feel different when you go in a new environment.”

This topic hadn’t been taught to her very well when she was in their age range, but she thought it was pretty important. Younger students might find it hard to understand; hopefully their older classmates could help. “For today’s discussion, you’re gonna look at culture from other perspectives and really think about what culture means. Now, when I defined culture as the normal for a group of people, I wasn’t just talking about human people. Merpeople have their own culture, their own normal. So do centaurs, goblins, giants, and even people with lycanthropy, or werewolves.” As she spoke, Estelle wand-wrote these terms on the board. She also added Wizard, Wizard-raised, Wizard, Muggle-raised, and Muggle.

“Partner up, preferably with someone in a different year than you.” She didn’t care enough to enforce that, but it was great when students of different ages worked together and she firmly believed they should take advantage of it. “You’ll be drawing slips of paper from a box. Each slip has written on it an item or scenario, which you will discuss with your partner in the context of these groups. For example, you could ask which group would be most familiar with it, or have the most culture shock, or if groups are equally familiar, how does it look different to them. And the biggest question – why? Never forget why. We’re critical thinkers, here.”

The next part was of greater importance at an international school like RMI, especially in light of the drama (to put it mildly) that had gone down in the older years. Considering individual views was a valuable lesson that couldn’t start young enough. “If you want a challenge, try comparing your personal opinions. Because, believe it or not, each of you has a different definition of culture. Even if you come from the same place with the same culture group, your own experiences change how you interpret that culture; it changes your perspective of normal. And make sure to take some notes with your partner, too,” Estelle added, intending to assign them an essay next class on this topic, though she didn’t bother to explain that part. Surprise essays were her self-claimed speciality.

She was hungry again. Scowling, Estelle flicked her wand, and the cardboard boxes beside her flew out so that one box hovered in front of each pair of students. The boxes were full of paper slips she had filled out. ‘Item’ slips ranged from Galleons and pencils to stereo speakers and mushrooms, while ‘Scenario’ slips outlined things like stargazing, stung by a Billywig, and riding a roller-coaster. With some magical, some mundane, and some plain bizarre, she hoped the slips would encourage a good thoughtful discussion among her students.

“Right, you lot. Start up a good chat with your partner. If you need any help, come down to see me, or just wave around until I see you. I’m not getting up unless it’s absolutely necessary.” Could she be blamed for that, really? Conjuring a pillow for her back, Estelle took an Oreo from her snack bag, put a pickle on top, and bit down, immediately happier at the taste.

For the paper slips, you can use any of Estelle’s suggestions above, or put your awesome creativity to use and invent whatever. Just give us something fun to read! If you need Estelle, tag her in your post title and I’ll respond asap. Happy writing!

    • I prefer my jolts from coffee - Russell Drew [4th year, Cetus], Thu Mar 23 22:13
      Russell managed to literally jump off his chair when the classroom door slammed shut. Well, literally wasn’t the right word. There wasn’t quite enough space between the rows for him to jump properly, ... more
      • *~Oooo Shock Treatment~* - Remington Burnham (Draco 1st Year), Sat Mar 25 17:47
        If there was one class that Remington felt was easy, it was Cultural Studies. Her mother, a witch, was a sociocultural anthropologist who focused on understanding Muggle culture and explaining it to... more
        • As long as we don't get burned - Russell, Sun Mar 26 13:53
          The younger girl agreeably drew from the box first, which gave him a chance to study her from behind his sunglasses and try to figure out if he had seen her before. She was definitely more than a... more
    • Thoroughly shocked - Connor Farnon [Cetus], Wed Mar 22 06:26
      As a lofty second-year student, Connor had hit his stride in all of his classes. Spellwork and Potions were okay, Astronomy was boring and chilly but it wasn’t the worst thing ever, History of Magic... more
    • I would prefer actual electrocution right now. - Brynjolf Nilssen [Draco], Wed Mar 22 00:31
      Brynjolf Nilssen was never late to class. But if there was one class he was consistently early to, it was Estelle Blair’s Cultural Studies. The woman reminded him of his mother and that was never a... more
      • ZAP! - Leopold Harris (Lyra), Thu Mar 23 13:08
        Leopold had arrived uncharacteristically early to Cultural Studies and no one was more surprised than himself. Indeed had he been asked the Lyra would have admitted that his original intention was... more
    • "Shockingly" disinterested - Dade Farnon [Cetus], Tue Mar 21 05:14
      Dade Farnon was wearing robes, khakis, an olive-green vest over a light blue shirt, and a grumpy expression on his face. The dark-haired boy had dragged his feet coming to Cultural Studies, as usual, ... more
      • Can't say I'm shocked about your attitude. - Petra Stiglitz [Aquila], Tue Mar 21 21:25
        Petra was not normally afraid of Professor Blair. The woman taught a cool class and it really helped the girl fill in the gaps of knowledge that came from her muggle/wizard raising. Being the third... more
        • What a shock - Dade, Thu Mar 23 04:53
          He hadn’t worked with Petra before but Dade knew her name, if nothing else about her. She seemed to be pretty quiet, unlike some others in their year, so that was nice, but Dade had never worked with ... more
          • Simmer down there, sparky - Petra, Tue Mar 28 15:31
            Petra thought that Dade had some really good questions about the lesson. The first one, the first year really wasn’t sure that she could answer and it made her frown in displeasure. She didn’t like... more
    • I'm feeling a little shock - Marley Chapman [2nd year, Lyra], Mon Mar 20 18:27
      Yawning widely, Marley shuffled down the steps of the Lecture Hall and plonked down in an aisle seat, right on the front row. Pulling out her notebook, she began twirling her pencil aimlessly. She... more
      • Shock level is not decreasing - Claudia Dubois [2nd year Cetus], Tue Mar 21 17:37
        Claudia enjoyed cultural studies. She knew she lived in her own privileged little bubble, and she was fine with that, thank you, but she didn’t enjoy ignorance. Cultural studies was fascinating,... more
        • Stabilizing a little, though - Marley, Wed Mar 22 11:59
          “I’m not sure it’s any of your business.” “...Oh.” It was weird to be turned down like that. Marley was, very very briefly, stumped on what to say in response. Because, well, why wouldn’t it be her... more
          • Sure we can shake it up again - Claudia, Fri Mar 24 16:12
            Having observed her peers - especially her own yearmates - for the past year and a half, Claudia was not in the least bit surprised when Marley began talking at a hundred miles a minute. However she... more
            • You've sure shook me up - Marley, Sat Mar 25 14:03
              Claudia confirmed that she didn't actually know much about centaurs, and Marley nodded, happy to go along with talking about humans first. Well, really just happy to go along with talking. Some... more
              • Likewise - Claudia, Mon Mar 27 05:30
                For a split-second, it seemed to Claudia as though she had rendered Marley speechless; her partner was opening and closing her mouth but no sound was coming out. Claudia couldn't think of anything... more
                • Claudia usually took a lot of notes. Marley had noticed that, of course, because she took hardly any and so the scribbling of students around her often caught her attention, if only for a few brief... more
                  • Are we speaking the same language? - Claudia, Tue Mar 28 14:52
                    Stripping down Claudia’s points to their barest minimum, Marley summarised, “So you just wanna marry someone who’s rich and Pureblooded?” There was something in her tone that suggested skepticism.... more
                    • I'm gonna need a translation - Marley, Wed Mar 29 01:26
                      Claudia was obviously trying to make her feel better, except it wasn’t actually very obvious, because she hadn’t answered her question about if she thought a Muggle could be a good marriage partner.... more
                      • Or a mediator - Claudia, Thu Mar 30 05:29
                        For just a moment, Claudia optimistically believed they were beginning to get back on track, but then Marley had to take offense at her use of the word ‘fine’ and they were back to square one.... more
                        • Or a distraction - Marley, Fri Mar 31 22:32
                          Marley had heard about the witch-hunts and stuff like that, but she didn't think it was really relevant. Obviously not all Muggles would be quick to get on with wizards, and vice-versa too (as was... more
                          • Or a brief break - Claudia, Sat Apr 1 16:31
                            Claudia wasn’t sure exactly what she was feeling. She was disappointed with Marley for not being able to sway in her point of view, and she was frustrated that she couldn’t accurately convey her own... more
  • Click here to receive daily updates