Teach English in JinxiZhen - Anqing Shi

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Cultural sensitivity in the classroomHaving taught both a monolingual classroom abroad, and a multilingual classroom domestically in the united states, I have found that cultural sensitivity is not something to be overlooked. In my past experience, being sensitive to cultural differences is crucial to success and understanding in the classroom. While teaching in turkey, I understood cultural sensitivity first hand. The previous summer, I had traveled to Armenia and studied the Armenian genocide in depth. This particular issue is a strong point of contention between Armenian and Turkish peoples, as the Turkish refuse to recognize this atrocity as a genocide. Also, Turkey is a majority Muslim nation, and I personally was raised a Christian. During college, I spent time studying many issues objectively, and felt as though I was prepared to handle the sensitivity of the Turkish students to issues of historic and religious significance. When issues of history or religion came up in the classroom, I refused to let my opinion influence the students, and instead I allowed them to carry on guided discussion between themselves. If I were to explain my research proving a genocide, it would have offended the students and it would have caused them to be angry with me, potentially losing trust in me as their instructor. Also, when they would speak about Islam, I would only offer the facts of the religion which I knew, and did not include my personal beliefs. Because of this, students were not offended, and could feel free to have an open discussion amongst their peers. In my experience teaching a multilingual class domestically, there are often social, religious and political issues that are very sensitive. The customs of various backgrounds differ greatly, and some things that are appropriate to one group of people, are not appropriate for others. I have had a class where I have had Haitian, chinese, brazilian and vietnamese students. Often times, one student will bring up religion and faith in God. Because not all of the students believe in God, it is a situation in which I try to guide and direct conversation as to not offend any student. Cultural sensitivity is important because if a student is offended, than that student is less likely to participate and be involved in the lesson at hand. Many students come from a cultural background where respect is paramount, and if respect is lost, many other problems ensue. At the same token, it is important that teachers do not assume that students with the same native tongue, but may come from different countries, do not all have the same cultural background. (http://esl.yourdictionary.com/lesson-plans/ESL_Classroom-and-Cultural_Sensitivity.html). The classroom should be unbiased and unprejudiced. By creating a warm and unbiased classroom appearance, students will already be more comfortable. Include flags, maps, and rules/ translations in various languages so all students can feel included in the learning process. Allow open conversation, but do not skew teaching towards one opinion or direction that could potentially appear as a cultural attack or slight. Cultural sensitivity allows for a positive and productive classroom. Students will also understand the value of embracing other cultures, and being tolerant to their peers. Understanding cultural sensitivity will allow a teacher to avoid an overly english structure focused course, while simultaneously creating interest in material and increasing language and understanding skills.