Cultural SensitivityWhen going to a new country it is apparent that we will have to face a different culture from our own which is where the term culture shock comes into play. However, we as teachers in a foreign land need to be culturally sensitive in our daily lives but especially in the classroom when dealing with monolingual students. How can we as teachers bring cultural sensitivity to the classroom?
“There are many ESL classroom and cultural sensitivity issues that teachers must address to ensure they are delivering language instruction without prejudice, discrimination, or bias. By understanding the potential problems with cultural sensitivity, teachers can avoid creating an english
-centric classroom while increasing their students’ language skills.” (ESL Classroom and Cultural Sensitivity. (n.d.).
When entering an ESL classroom for the first time teachers must put aside their bias and/or assumptions of the students. Often times when teachers teach ESL students they assume they should understand everything that is being said to them and when they don’t then the student gets the label of lazy or unintelligent. “An ESL student may be less willing to approach a teacher for extra help or tutoring. This can lead to a cultural bias and assumptions that non-english
speaking students are less intelligent than their native english
speaking peers.” (ESL classroom and cultural sensitivity. (n.d.). When we are culturally sensitive then we are a little more aware of the student’s culture and how they were taught to act in class. For example, in Korea many students are taught to be passive and not ask for help just listen to the teacher and remember what they were taught. Whereas in America students are taught to be active and ask questions of the teacher. As an ESL teacher we need to be aware of these cultural differences so that we don’t ignorantly mislabel a student.
Additionally, there are two sides to cultural sensitivity. The student’s themselves may not be aware of the teachers culture and think that the teacher is being too aggressive towards them which in turns causes the student to become afraid or angry with the teacher and not want to associate with them at all. So, given this it is the teacher’s job to make the classroom balanced that will benefit both teachers and students. “As a teacher in a culturally diverse classroom I would enhance my cultural sensitivity, shape the curriculum so that it is culturally responsive to my students, and use cooperative, learner centered instruction. These practices, along with many others, are important for "making explicit connections between multicultural education and subject-and skill-based curriculum." (Gay, p. 31 as cited on Merlino, Rob (2007).
Furthermore, teachers should have knowledge of the culture that they are submersing themselves in so that they know how to approach the classroom. Being culturally prepared can be a real benefit to teachers. When teachers aren’t aware of the culture they can unknowingly offend their students and that can cause major damage to their relationship. When teachers have the necessary tools then they can have a well-balanced classroom.
To sum up, we must all be aware of how our ignorance can affect the grand scheme of things. However, this is more pertinent for teachers but especially for ESL teachers. We as effective educators must come fully prepared to give our students the best possible learning experience. We can do this by being socially aware of the culture we are in and equip ourselves with the necessary tools to run a cultural sensitive well-balanced classroom.
ESL Classroom and Cultural Sensitivity. (n.d.). Retrieved September 23rd, 2011, from http://www.yourdictionary.com/esl/ESL_Classroom-and-Cultural_Sensitivity.html)