Cultural Sensitivity in the ClassroomA class with students
is like a mirror of the country, the culture or your target group. You will see the core of a culture: the spirits and demons, the taboos and allowances. Teaching in a foreign country places you right in the kitchen and the heat is on! Here is where you get to know the country and its inhabitants.
As a foreigner it is usually guessing to the real impact of your teaching behavior; this makes you walk on egg shells sometimes, but also really get you an idea of the country?s appropriate tone of speech.
No matter how much you prepare by reading or otherwise inform yourself on cultural sensitivity in a certain area, in reality it is feeling, it is intuition, it is experimenting the vibe of a class.
If you are kind, patient and interested, skills a teacher must have anyways, it will be much easier to be flexible in your visions and behavior and switch to the appropriate cultural standards. If you notice your appearance, your way of acting or your choice of subjects causes inconvenience: just change them! You are here to teach English instead of bringing up a too delicate subject.
Teacher centered vs. student
Your presence in the classroom is a fact. But what are you going to be? The entertaining teacher, who makes jokes and fools? The leading teacher, who dominates and takes students
by the hand? Or are the students
the center of the attention?
The way that you present yourself is also a point of sensitivity; in china
it is highly unusual to let the students
lead. If you do, they will be confused and maybe even feel attacked. In South America or Europe it is more common students
do participate a lot in the class, so here you can sit back and watch your students
teach each other? It sounds like dream job to me!
Male vs. Female
In a lot of countries male still paramounts female. To avoid discomfort I have to realize myself I am a female and therefore I have to behave like one to get the respect. It is not Amsterdam over there, but I am the teacher and in that matter I am the tutor, manager and leader of the group. So to be in that position I do need respect from my male students
In my work as a photographer I do sense some suspicious behavior of the men I work with, especially in Middle Eastern countries or very religious parts in Asia. They look at me like I am an alien. I always wear a wedding ring, although I am not married and I try to present myself as ?The Western Female Photographer?. It does the job: men do get respect for you, although sometimes it stays tuff. You are a bit strange. I think with teaching it is the same.
Your position as a woman can also help you, especially when you teach other women. Ticklish subjects, as periods, health or even sex, can be easier to discuss. I wrote a lesson plan for a visit to a doctor during this course; my gender makes this topic more comfortable to discuss with other women. I would prefer to teach women things like this in Nepal or India.
Politics and religion
Avoid discussions about politics and religion. In a lot of countries relations between different politics or religions are still tensed. You can ask to tell something about religion, describe an event or tradition, like I can tell them about Christmas. Then you do get the vocabulary, but you avoid stress or cultural sensitivity.
I would not be comfortable discussing sex or sex-related subjects. With me, I think a lot of people including my students
. I would avoid it. Maybe if you are a doctor, then there is a purpose and I would do it. But most people, including me will be to prude to discuss this in class.
Off course sometimes, in some groups it is possible to discuss these delicate and sensitive subjects. But be aware you know whom you are talking to! An adolescence class in Northern Lombok is a different matter, than doctors from South-Mexico. They have different visions, probably a different intelligence and different ability or benefits to judge about certain topics.
But most of all I would recommend everyone to just feel, feel what is possible and appropriate; and maybe I got it all wrong?.