Learning with Diversity
One of the main things to keep in mind at all times as a TEFL teacher is the concept of cultural sensitivity. As a TEFL teacher, many possible scenarios may come up as culturally inappropriate for the country that one may be teaching in at the time. It is important to develop a thorough understanding of how to prepare oneself beforehand as well as the importance behind that understanding of the difference in cultural beliefs and norms. There are many benefits to showing an attitude of acceptance and respect for the cultures. This issue needs to be addressed from all angles to secure a healthy relationship with the students.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Zahra A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Reasons to be culturally sensitive
First of all, it is important to understand just why teachers need to keep cultural sensitivity and acceptance as value throughout their careers. Every country in the world has their own beliefs, values, principles, traditions, food, art, norms, and limits for everything. For example, giving a “thumbs-up” to someone in western society would mean something good. A “thumbs-up” in the U.S. means to tell someone “well done” or that something is good. However, signaling that exact gesture towards someone in some middle-eastern countries is considered to be a very rude act. Now if a teacher from the U.S.A was to travel to one of these countries without knowing how this gesture is interpreted there it could create a very awkward situation. If a student does well on a task and that the teacher signals that gesture towards the student, the student might likely ignore it because they know the teacher probably means something else, but if every student is different and that particular student might take it to the offense. This is just one reason why it is important to open the mind to the different cultures and be able to adapt oneself to the environment they are present in at the time.
Benefits of cultural diversity
Now if someone were to take a look at some of the benefits of having a sense of cultural differences and being able to adapt to the environment they may find it to be helpful in many aspects. One of the benefits of developing this sense of acceptance in cultural diversity is the effect it has on establishing a good rapport with the students. By learning more about different cultures and their norms the teachers can show the students that they care and have looked into a major part of what makes the students who they are. This will help students to feel more comfortable not just in the classroom, but also with the teacher. It creates a sense of belonging and a sense of trust because the students can feel free to talk to the teacher about how they feel or what areas they are struggling in and explain why. Another benefit is the fact that it can play a large role in involving students in in-class activities. By understanding the culture, the teacher can implement activities that are more suitable for the students and their culture, since it plays a role in the interests of the students as well. These are just a couple of advantages of cultural sensitivity, among many more.
Lastly, a question may pop into mind. How can teachers show the acceptance of diversity and culture in the classroom? The answer to this question is quite simple really. All it takes is a little bit of patience, as well as determination. For example, in a lot of cultures around the world, the concept of approaching someone or something cautiously is interpreted as a polite gesture. Especially in a TEFL classroom, learning an unfamiliar language, the students will be hesitant may take time to open up or to complete certain activities. During such times, a teacher should show patience and calmly approach the students to aid them through any difficulties. Another way to show patience is to remember that the students are not very conversational in English and to speak to them slowly with a clear pronunciation of every word. This is a part of adopting the teaching style of the country that the teacher may be working in, and to implement practices of their own cultures in that style to create a harmonious blend.
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In conclusion, diversity is something that should be well expected by TEFL teachers as they will have to teach many different people from all over the world. To become a successful and admired TEFL teacher, one must learn the art of cultural sensitivity. This involves preparing oneself before entering any new position in their career. Especially during the time of traveling to teach in a new country, a TEFL teacher must consider it to be a priority to educate oneself on the differences present in terms of culture, beliefs, traditions, and social norms. This is beneficial to the TEFL teacher as it teaches them more about their class and students, but also helpful to the students when attempting to create a bond between teacher and student. By being accepting and avoiding topics that may be socially unacceptable the teacher makes themselves more approachable for the students.
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