Relationship Building in Another Culture
Rapport has long been considered military term-when servicemembers humanize their identity amongst their captors during the time of war. The fashion of rapport has since evolved into a meaningful approach in the teaching world-most notably teachers who chose a career abroad. The important factors listed below could prove to be the difference between miserable teaching experience and solid one.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate James A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Teachers moving abroad to administer the English language are often relocated to remote countries, where English is not only a second language-but an overall distant alien sound. Counties like Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia are now focusing their efforts on the English language and are doing so through companies that provide a hands-on approach to their citizens. Teachers from the United States and New Zealand are common marketplaces for these countries to provide the language to their would-be learners. But what is often common-is a teacher coming into a classroom expecting their students to conform to their way of life with little or no efforts in absorbing the local community? This approach can prove catastrophic in so many ways, as it leaves most students in an environment that is built on no effort, no flare for design and a view of being money hungry for the fortunes of teaching and not for the overall experience.
I can speak first hand on this subject for I have been an active duty servicemember with the United States Air Force and have lived abroad in Japan for over 13 years. Servicemembers often moonlight as English instructors to the local Okinawan community only to find that their overall experience was one of dread and misery. The teachers I viewed first hand had no interest in learning about the Okinawan culture-which, in turn, left their students distant to their approach at education. The successful American teachers all have the idea of establishing a human connection with their students-admiring their way of life, their cuisine, and past times-like baseball. Through these interests, more doors of the heart to heart communication begin to form the students take the step in viewing their teacher as more than foreigner-often times viewing them as a mentor.
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In countries like Thailand and Vietnam English has been almost non-existent, and citizens wishing to take the steps to become fluent in English requires a great deal of courage. Studentâs progress through a phase of intimidation to comprehension more fluently with a teacher has built a relationship with their students. When a teacher identifies the need to establish a rapport with the studentâs magic can then begin to happen. Students can then see the efforts of the teacher and provide maximum effort in classroom activities and assignments. For the teacher, taking in a new culture can be an everlasting experience-being fostered in a new culture and forming friendships. But the overlying theme is that both student and teacher benefit from a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.
As identified, the need for rapport is paramount. Teachers need to have realistic expectations going overseas, that they are no longer in their comfort zone. The best way to combat a new environment is taking in the surroundings while respecting the host nations efforts.
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