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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:
Cultural Sensivity in the ClassroomOne of the hardest aspects of teaching in a foreign country is the cultural differences present in the everyday life. It doesn’t take someone who has studied culture to realize there are many differences between the Western culture and the Eastern culture. That being said, there are many differences in the South Korean classroom than I would expect to find than in different cultures.
Understanding the cultural differences in South Korea is difficult (as well as many other Eastern cultures). One aspect I have noticed since being here in Korea is that a student cannot be disciplined in the classroom (at least at my school). The students are very sensitive and do not like to ‘lose-face’ in front of the other students. They become embarrassed. It is best to either take the student out of the classroom and have a talk or make the student stay after the class.
Another aspect of culture I have noticed and should be applied
to in the classroom is finger pointing. In South Korea, it is common for a dog owner to call their dog by point the finger at the dog and beckoning it over with the finger. In Western culture (at least U.S. culture) it is not seen as rude to do this to a person that you want to talk to. However, I cannot do this to a student; it would be disgraceful to them. If I need to call over a student, I must call their name and tell them to come to my desk. I could also say their name and beckon them by using my full hand face down and wave it up and down. This is the appropriate way to call someone over.
Additionally, it is very important to practice the two hand giving and receiving gesture. In South Korea, it is a sign of respect and courtesy to use both hands when giving and receiving items. This can be seen in the classroom with pencils, notebooks, homework and tests. When I first arrived in Korea I didn’t really understand why they were handing me everything with both hands, but now it has become a habit to give and receive in this manner. This method is also applied anywhere outside of the classroom. With parents and even while out for dinner; it is important as a teacher in a foreign country such as South Korea to learn these differences.
Overall, cultural sensitivity needs to be expressed in the classroom. A foreign teacher needs to do research on the country they will be teaching in. It is essential that a foreign teacher understands the type of culture that is present in their country. Such as in South Korea, respect is very important. As a teacher here, it is important for me to know to respect my elder. This is generally easy because my elders at the school are the director and several teachers. However, as a foreign teacher, I found that my experience has been so much more fulfilling by knowing and understanding the cultural differences. It has made me a better teacher and in a way, a better person. I have come to respect and understand this culture and in doing so I have made some amazing friends. I have even made friends with the students because they want to help me learn more about Korean culture.