Teach English in Youganning Zhen - Huangnan Zangzu Zizhizhou

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Cultural sensitivity in the classroom can be a difficult topic for a teacher, especially a foreign language teacher who is traveling abroad to another country. Being sensitive and observant of another country’s beliefs, traditions and culture are vital when settling into a job opportunity. Some cultures, for instance, are offended by eye contact or speaking to the opposite gender out of turn. While in Western culture we find these regular practices and employ them in the classroom, it can often be seen as offensive and insensitive when teaching in another country. Another thing that may differ is gender interaction and touching. In some cultures, it is frowned upon for females to interact with married men or make physical contact with them, even a handshake. While we often don’t think of a student-teacher relationship being inappropriate with a handshake, this can be interpreted differently in some countries and become a problem. As covered in the course, it is very important to do your research before choosing a country to live in and work in. While some cultural differences may be exciting and easy for you to embrace, others may be a deal breaker for your overall happiness. Traditions and cultures should also be taken into consideration in the classroom. If students are more comfortable learning on mats on the ground then desks, this needs to be addressed so students can reach their highest potential. When initially approaching a foreign teaching opportunity it is important to act conservatively until you are more comfortable in your surroundings and the expectations that are in place. It is essential to never raise political or racial issues in a classroom setting as to upset the students or cause controversy between the students and have your words and ideas misinterpreted. One of the most interesting things that I learned from this course was the importance of not using sarcasm in teaching. While we often do this on a daily basis without thinking to friends, family, and coworkers, it is important to remember that these students are still learning the basic functions of the English language and most students will not be able to interpret jokes or sarcasm and may instead become offended or upset by these actions. Personally, I am currently living in Harare, Zimbabwe. While most people speak English, they also have a native language called Shona. This has proven to be a bit of a difficulty for me not only adjusting to the language but cultural norms and expectations of women. Women are supposed to cook, clean and respect the men in their presence. It is difficult to not feel offended or degraded by these actions, but important to remember that this is a part of their culture and something that they take a lot of pride and respect in. Carrying over what I have learned in my TEFL class, I hope to be able to enter a new classroom with cultural appreciation and to be open-minded to what other countries practice and feel comfortable doing. I will be conservative in behavior until I know what is acceptable and will learn from those around me. I hope that one day my students will be able to feel safe and comfortable while learning English.