Why Cultural Sensitivity In The Classroom Is Valuable
The English language has become a bridge between nations and peoples all around the globe. Many aspiring students and individuals are choosing to pursue English as a foreign language to be able to boost their opportunities in our increasingly global world. Teachers of English are thus in demand all over the world, and those that take overseas positions naturally leave their homeland to live full time in a new country. It is valuable for these teachers to practice cultural sensitivity because the culture is a foundational part of society. Cultural sensitivity in the classroom can also promote a better classroom environment. Moreover, the teacher who practices this can increase their opportunities in the workplace.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Eric K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
To begin, we must certainly acknowledge that culture is a foundational part of society.
Culture is built on shared values, beliefs, and language of a people group. Culture can also be described as a part of the DNA of a people group, which suggests its significance in how an individual grows and functions in harmony with society. For example, in culture A it is held as bold and noble to speak out and stand up for yourself, and those who don’t can be seen as weak and shy. On the other hand, in culture B, it is honorable to be silent and wait to be called upon before speaking, and those that neglect to do so can be seen as dishonorable and rude. When people from culture A and B are together and act on their instincts, they will both find it difficult to grow and function well, let alone maintain positive relationships within the group. Essentially, this example represents the contrast between a teacher and the students who come from two different cultures. A teacher who is sensitive to the culture of their students can promote a positive classroom environment.
When the classroom environment is positive, the student should feel valued, comfortable, and safe.
In contrast, a negative classroom environment could cause the student to feel neglected, awkward, and unsafe. When a student feels this way, they are less likely to participate and grasp the material being taught. Having a positive classroom environment is critical because it creates a space for the students to learn effectively. For example, if the students of culture B value communal activities, it can be unwise for the teacher to require the students to do individual presentations which could stir up anxiety, fear, and shame in the students. On the other hand, if the students of culture value individuality, it can be ineffective to require the students to always do group presentations. The teacher has the power and the responsibility to manage classroom activities in ways that help the student to flourish, rather than dampen their learning experience. Most importantly, students can better relate to a culturally sensitive teacher.
A teacher who relates well with their students of a different culture can probably relate just as well with others in their workplace and community.
This means they can function in harmony with society, gaining the respect of many. A teacher that is not only a native English speaker but a successful educator within a certain culture is highly valuable. This teacher will likely have proven results among students that show clearly with test scores and the students' ability to use English. Job opportunities for this teacher will naturally expand as they become a high demand among a sea of mediocre English teachers with average success among students. As a teacher with a high success rate, promotions, higher salaries, and even new positions at more elite schools could quickly become available.
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To conclude, cultural sensitivity in the classroom is valuable for three main reasons. Culture in and of itself is a foundational building block of society, setting the standard for how to function in harmony amongst their people. This has a direct effect on the classroom as the students will learn more or less effectively depending on which culture is prominent in their learning environment. When the teacher creates a positive environment by being culturally sensitive, the students will naturally grasp the material and grow in their ability to use the English language. A positive classroom environment reflects the teacher's ability to relate well within the culture they live, which means they likely maintain many positive relationships in their workplace and community. With these positive relationships and success in the classroom, bigger and better opportunities will become available to them.
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