Teacher Zeeryl Vivi shares her insights on the importance of being culturally aware and how to become more culturally sensitive when talking to students.
Culture refers to a society’s way of living, which includes how they eat, how they talk, and how they behave. Knowing your students’ culture will not only help you understand their beliefs and behavior but also communicate with them accordingly. Moreover, understanding different cultures allows you to gain more knowledge and appreciate people’s differences. To help you communicate better with your students, teacher Zeeryl Vivi, a three-year 51Talk teacher from Bacolod City, shares her insights on understanding and adapting to your students’ culture.
Make an effort to learn about each of your student’s cultures and backgrounds. This includes their hobbies, learning styles, and personalities. You can ask questions at the start of the lesson or during the parts of the lesson. Asking students more about themselves, as long as it is appropriate and related to the lesson, will help you not only learn more about their culture but also establish a better relationship with them. Moreover, if your students feel comfortable talking with you, they will also be comfortable with and confident about speaking English to other people.
You and your students come from different backgrounds, so you will encounter differences in the way you communicate and even the food you eat. For example, teacher Zeeryl says that most of the student’s that she encountered did not like sweets or fast food favorites like burgers and pizza since most Chinese people are conscious of their health. So, she needed to think on her feet and change her rewards to healthy foods like fruits to encourage her students.
These small differences in culture can change the way you teach during lessons, so it’s important to be aware of them and to respect them. In turn, students will know and respect their own diverse backgrounds as well as others.
Teachers often feel that they need to be strict or authoritative to manage their lessons. However, the most valuable lessons are often learned from your student’s own experiences. Encourage conversations that are relevant to the lesson so that your students can have a better connection to the topic. Using a learner-centered approach will allow students to present their own ideas and approach the topic from their own perspective.
Having open communication with your students is important, but make sure to be sensitive to everyone's culture, beliefs, and language concerns. For example, teacher Zeeryl shares that sometimes students rant to their teachers after being scolded by their parents. However, you must continue with the lesson, so you need to reassure your student that they are going to be fine and that you will also be there to cheer them up. Then, give them space to compose themselves and get back to the lesson. These considerations ensure that students feel included and that they are given the space to learn with gentle guidance and constant support.
Teachers are often afraid of dealing with conversations that refer to controversial topics. After all, it can be difficult to reconcile the tension between challenging offensive speech and not suppressing free speech. For example, a student says a political statement. Instead of reacting to it, you can politely say that you have not seen the news lately. When you encounter culturally sensitive situations during lessons, thank the student for sharing his/her view and then gently say that it’s time to continue the lesson. Your goal should always be to bring the discussion back to the lesson.
To create a nurturing environment for students, it’s important to reduce the power differential between the teacher and students. To do this, teachers must act more of a facilitator than an instructor. A facilitator provides information that allows students to interact more during the lesson. Remember to allow your students to talk more about the lesson topic to develop a better understanding of the content.
Keep these tips in mind from teacher Zeeryl Vivi to have a more open and harmonious discussion with your students. This will not only give you an insight into their culture but also help you establish a better relationship with your students.
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