Teach English in Huangshizhai Linchang - Huanggang Shi

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Teaching English in another country is a privilege because you are exposed to a whole new culture. That new place, wherever it may be, offers so many new experiences and knowledge that you do not necessarily learn and see in America. It is important to have cultural sensitivity because any comment made about a specific culture could be offensive, be misinterpreted, require planning in the classroom, or affect a personal relationship. In a classroom you want every student to feel comfortable and the freedom to express who they are without discrimination. I have experienced microaggressions ranging from “Do you live in a teepee?” to “How much percentage Native American are you?” Both of which demonstrate a lack of cultural understanding, could be considered offensive, and affect my relationship with those people. These experiences happened while I was a student, an athlete, and a coach. Though the comments have varied I have learned to educate people about my background, with gentle corrections to help people learn, however, students tend to blurt and would need training in understanding stereotypes and how they can become words that are hurtful. My own experiences have made me more able to notice cultural discrimination and racism. It has strengthened my empathy for others and raised my cultural sensitivity in the classroom. Being indigenous, has had its own ethnic and cultural experiences, like different observances (holidays), while being multi-racial has had racial overtones, like being asked, “Where did you come from?” Many people might not know, at first, that I am Native American, and assume that we have the same cultural background. That is because I have white skin privilege. While I can “pass,” I still have a culture. Culture is language, food, traditions, beliefs, worldviews, and so much more. Ethnicity is related to where our ancestors are from, connected to a geographic region, and related to physical adaptations to those regions. Stories, songs, and behaviors passed on through generations are related to the environment of that region. Understanding the differences between culture and ethnicity are important for you and your students. I can use those in the classroom for sensitivity, as well as compare/contrast content in curriculum. There are many ways to avoid being culturally insensitive in the classroom. One is to avoid calling on only students who names you can pronounce. At the beginning of the year you can do that by practicing individuals’ names on your own time and using popsicle sticks to randomly call on students during lessons. Another is to be aware of biased comments towards a specific cultural background, and, if you do, to be ready to learn and apologize. It’s important to not guess what someone’s cultural background is based on their appearance and do “get to know you” activities so that relationships are built before asking about cultural practices. Acknowledging different observances means being respectful of students taking different days off from school. Ultimately, building relationships, doing your own background research/reading, and being ready to learn are important traits of cultural sensitivity.