Why Cultural Awareness is Important for Teachers
Even in picking on what books and materials to aid the lesson, from authentic to created, cultural awareness should always be part of the consideration. The cultural background of the students should be first studied and researched, as this will play a significant role in the learning process. Even though many students may have been exposed to cultural exchange programs, personal interactions, and awareness through social media, we still differ in cultural needs.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Julia B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The Power of First Impression
The first impression for the educator is that it may see as a hurdle, but to look on the bright side, this will be additional knowledge and awareness to the vast cultures of the world. To be considered culturally sensitive or aware as an educator, it is not just the activities or the type of examples to be used that should be modified, but so does attitude and values in the classroom.
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Attitude Towards Various Contexts
In this way, an educator should always be mindful of his or her reaction to every given situation in the classroom. An example scenario, a Filipino teacher is sharing about the geography of Asia to Chinese students. She uses the West Philippine Sea instead of the commonly known South China Sea by Chinese students. In this case, the teacher may receive a negative reaction from her students and therefore should make immediate damage control to the situation. This can be avoided by also using culture neutral base activities or let the students provide the example. This will help you set an idea and at the same time, more student talk time. For the monolingual group, cultural sensitivity is a lot easier to consistently maintain as you will only need to be aware of one certain type of group.
Also Read: What is the Cultural Ambassadors Program for teaching English in Spain?
How to Learn about a New Culture Faster
The more time you spend in your monolingual class, the more the culture will easily and naturally flow during your lessons and activities as you get to be more familiar with it. The teachers may have a great impact or influence on their students, but students too will also have an impact on their teachers. To some extent, the teacher may even pick up a few certain attitudes and habits in some cultures. But for multilingual groups, this would be a whole different story. The effort and time in research and the preparations for your class will approximately be double as you have several cultures to consider. This will serve as a challenge for the teachers at first but after gaining the experience, you will acquire a certain skill that will forever belong to you. Multilingual groups are not just for the teacher to adjust, but so does the students as they will need to work and learn together. In this situation, it is important to propagate a culture-sensitive attitude towards each other and have a friendly learning environment. This will also be fun, as teachers and students will both learn from each other.
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For group and pair activities it is recommended to pair and mix the students with different cultures, to avoid the student from the same place to use their native tongue and to motivate them to practice the language being studied. To have a lively class, it is also recommended for the teacher to identify topics that would be interesting for them. It may not be as interesting for one student to another, but a variety of topics for every class will surely help. Whether in a monolingual or a multilingual group, a teacher must be well balanced and flexible. Extra mile in preparations always goes a long way, as this will give you confidence and have no fear of taking over the class despite challenges. A happy and open-minded teacher will not just set the mood for the whole class but so does the student’s attitude towards studying the language.
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