How English Teachers Can Manage a Cultural Sensitive Class
Today there is an increasing diversity not only in schools but also in other business aspects due to the result of globalization which in general dictates that we must develop more understanding of culture in order to exert true understanding among diverse populations which I believe is the base for maintaining a cultural sensitive class. But before I go in details, it vital to understand the true meaning of Culture, Sensitivity, and Culture sensitivity combined.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Ntegyereize C.
What is a culture?
Culture can be defined as the social behavior and norms found in human societies. It is more considered a central concept in anthropology which includes a range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies.
In simple terms, we can define cultureas the way of life certain groups of people live encompassing language, art, religion, rituals, clothing, cooking, etc.
What is cultural sensitivity?
Now that we understand the meaning of culture, what about being sensitive to culture? Being culture sensitive simply means one’s understanding that culture exists with the consideration that there are differences and similarities between groups of people.
At this point, try to reflect what culture is, differences and similarities towards a multicultural class, and pose a question, For example: A class of 25 students, whereby 5 are from India, 6 are from Japan, 5 are from South Africa 4 are from USA and 5 from Thailand, all these students have different beliefs, religions, dressing codes, music, and even the pronunciations. if you were a teacher how would you handle such a class?
In consideration of today’s globalization point of view, a multicultural class can be very important but the problem arises from how teachers or school administration is going to handle the issue of culture within students. However, there are many ways through which such a class can be managed.
Approaches to manage a culturally sensitive class
- Equality: treat all students equally as much as possible without the recognition of some students and neglect of others during class activities.
- Student Background recognition: in case you happen to discuss one’s background, for example, Religion. If you discuss Islam, make sure you also discuss others like Sikhism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.
- Class materials: make sure you provide enough book about different cultures, even though they are not in class but stocked in the library. Ask students to bring any cultural items or picture to class so that you can discuss them openly, in case you discuss the difference, make sure you also discuss the similarities. This will help students feel they are the same at a certain point and respect for each other.
- Use cultural pictures, paintings or other art pieces as class decorations: this helps students feel recognized and have a sense of belonging, being welcomed within their hearts.
- Learning your students: remember every culture has its own way of doing things, for example, some students write starting from the Right-hand side, others from the Left, therefore knowing your students will help you as a teacher make the students realize their goals.
- Activities that bring cultural recognition: these activities can be asking students to write family stories and share with the class, use of Ball games whereby a ball is thrown to a student and that students speak about his or her culture, then throws the ball to another student and so on, asking students about cultural heritages, learning experiences, etc.
- Establish a positive rapport with each student or cultural group by asking about there culture and letting them what you like about their culture. I experienced this when I was studying in India and teachers would ask about our culture during the one-on-one drilling/ Viva voice, some times group drilling. Other teachers also can use this as a technique not only for establishing rapport but also for studying students needs and aims.
Every good thing must also have a bad side, It can also be noted that a teacher will most likely be able to experience some advantages and disadvantages of a multicultural class in the English teaching system among which may include the following:
Advantages of Teaching a Multicultural class
- Helps in creating a critical thinking class.
- Students have no common language other than English.
- Both students and teachers get exposure to a variety of experience.
- Students have more exposure to the English language (L2).
- Promotes acceptance and tolerance among students.
- Promotes the creation of international networks (Globalization).
Disadvantages of Teaching a Multicultural class
- Different backgrounds which make it difficult to study each individual.
- Each of these students due to their background has different needs, therefore, teachers skip some lessons in order to meet the needs of all students.
- There can always be a communication problem between teachers and families due to language barriers.
- Students have no common learning difficulties meaning the teacher has to take time to analyze each student's difficulties.
Will you try your best to teach a culturally diversed ESL group?
For I have enlisted some of the ways in which a teacher can manage a multicultural class, I, therefore, conclude by saying that multiculturalism cannot be taught by the use of course book or textbook based on a particular group, however there are many more ways of dealing with cultural differences in class in supplement to what I discussed above and not all teachers can teach a multicultural class, These teachers must be having certain skills such as, Motivational skills, Caring ability (most important factor) this is also sighted in hospitality industry which is also a multicultural industry during caring for guests, Excellent communication skills and awareness of social and cultural beliefs and norms.
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