Teach English in Nanqiao Zhen [→ Xidu Jiedao, Fengpǔ Jiedao] - Shanghai Shi

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Cultural Sensitivity in the ClassroomAll over the world english is the most widely spoken language which includes both native and non native speakers. Actually, native english speakers make up a very small portion of the ?2 billion english speakers? (Wiki.anwers.com). Currently there are about 59 english speaking countries in the world (About.com). Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ?culture? as ?the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices? that characterizes a group of people or organization (Merriam-Webster.com). In a TEFL classroom it is very important to be aware and respectful of cultural differences and cultural sensitivities. This includes the teacher to student relationship and student to student relationship, particularly if the class is multilingual. These cultural differences have the potential to create problems for the students in terms of their progress, their ability and willingness to participate, and their interaction with the teacher and other students. A culturally insensitive teacher may loose, offend, or embarrass a student or even the country. Depending on the cultural differences some of these problems may be viewed as disrespectful and may create unpleasant or uncomfortable situations for both the teacher and the students. This article will discuss some of the potential issues that may arise in the classroom and provide suggestions or recommendations to prevent, mitigate or resolve any of these issues. While it is only normal and natural to want to introduce and blend your own culture into the lessons, it becomes very important to ensure that the topics, vocabulary and subjects you introduce are relevant and appropriate. TEFL is about teaching english as a second language and part of that is the culture that supports the language, however, not at the disrespect of the culture for which you are teaching. One particular problem that can be common and most often unintentional is stereotyping the student and or classroom. This issue may lead to the assumption that ?when a student does not understand the english language, they must automatically not understand the classroom material being delivered in that language. This myth can lead to high achieving students being deemed lazy, unmotivated, and unintelligent? (Yourdictionary.com). Additionally if the lessons are too aggressive and not in accordance to the language level, the students may feel that the ?native english speaker is more driven or ambitious? (Yourdictionary.com) and therefore the student cannot relate or may feel intimated. One way to mitigate this issue is to have a balanced lesson plan where the focus from the teacher is only to provide instruction, sufficient examples and clarification of the assigned topic and the teacher to be respectful of social classes, culture and potentially different language levels. The teacher must always recognize that every student is there to accomplish one goal, the same goal, to learn english regardless of status, education or any prior english exposure. Perspective is critical for the teacher. Regardless of status or education people will learn more slowly and at different levels because this is not their native language. It makes no difference how fast or slow someone picks up on a second language because this is no indication of the learning capacity of the student in general. There are other factors such as motivation, peer pressure, parental pressure and job requirements that may also influence someone?s motivation or learning capacity. All of these factors could also have an impact on the students learning ability that have nothing to do with their intelligence. Another issue, particularly in a multicultural class, is the different cultures that both the teacher and students will need to address. There could be conflicts among the students if they do not fully understand their peer?s cultures and what is driving the underlying behavior of the other students. For example, the status of the teacher to student may be different within a multicultural classroom. How students address other students or teachers could be very different and lead to issues during pair or group activities. This could be an excellent opportunity to utilize activities during the engage or study phase that introduces the students to new cultures, new vocabulary and new ideas. This can be to the teacher?s advantage if used constructively. The teacher could engage the students to provide examples of how the activity may or may not need to be modified to accommodate any uncomfortable or inappropriate situations. This can be a learning opportunity for all the students if done properly and engage the students in not only understanding the other cultures but how to work within all the cultural differences to make the learning experience more interesting and productive. They, in essence, are helping each other learn english; learn about other cultures and about the importance of cultural sensitivity. While these two issues are not all encompassing of the potential issues that may arise in a TEFL classroom, if addressed early and appropriately they may reduce any further stress, embarrassment or uncomfortable situations. If addressed appropriately the cultural diversity can be an asset in the classroom if the teacher and students are sensitive to the need for cultural respect and diversity.