Teach English in Jinniu Zhen - Huangshi Shi

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Cultural sensitivity in all English language learning classrooms in vital! Adult students in particular, who are learning English, are generally coming from a variety of cultural backgrounds and may be very different from the person they are sitting next to in class. From the moment the teacher comes into the classroom on the first day, she is setting the tone for the general learning environment and for the respect that she expects all students to have for each other, regardless of who they are and their nationality. Teachers who display respect for their students and who are culturally sensitive in all aspects of their teaching, will generally see the same behavior in their students. From all my years of teaching, directing a federally funded family literacy program, and being the Title I Parent Coordinator in a school system that had 65 languages represented in the high school, I have had a lot of experience in working with students and parents from all over the world. I have found that if a teacher is friendly and approachable, students will feel comfortable and will depend on the teacher to be able to handle any culturally related problem in the classroom. If a student is comfortable and happy in their English class and is not concerned with someone treating them badly because of their race, they will be likely to put more effort into their work, feel more confident about learning English, and they will learn! How does a teacher manage a culturally sensitive classroom? A good teacher will look at each student as an individual bringing their life experiences to the classroom. She will get to know them and let them know that she values them, and wants to help them achieve their goals for learning. Using surveys and questionnaires is very helpful in collecting information about students, and helps teachers to plan lessons and projects based on the students’ interest. Information from the students can also assist the teacher in understanding her students' needs and aspirations in learning the English language. The following are a few ideas for the classroom that generally work well to bring folks together in cohesive working groups: 1- Playing various “get-to-know you” games during the first week of school will help to establish rapport between the students and between the students and the teacher. 2- An activity that works well is having students bring in photos of their families and pictures that represent their country of origin to display on posters throughout the room. Have each student talk to the class about the photos and why they chose them. 3–Everyone enjoys sampling food and another generally successful activity is to have students bring in prepared food that represents their country for everyone to taste and have them talk about how to prepare the dish. They may have a story about why they chose the particular dish. 4- An international dinner and family night with students bringing in ethnic dishes is always popular and a great time to invite school and community leaders to meet the students. 5- Pairing or grouping students of different backgrounds to work together on projects promotes lots of student talk time and promotes cooperative learning. 6-Discussing cultural sensitivity in the classroom gives students the opportunity to voice their ideas and concerns on this subject. Having them extend the discussion to include the town or city they live in and any problems they encounter can be helpful to students as they have someone that will listen to their thoughts and sometimes their fears. If possible, bring in school administrators and town officials to speak to the students about how they work to create a culturally sensitive environment. If a teacher sees a problem among students in the classroom that appears to be based on cultural differences or other areas, she should react right away to have the students talk and try to resolve the issue, unless it is an issue that may resolve itself without teacher input. If a counselor is needed to talk with students, teachers should not hesitate to seek help. All teachers should also be very aware of any cultural biases they may have and try to resolve the issues. A diverse group of students in a classroom of English language learners presents many opportunities for interesting curriculum units, discussions, projects, and lots of “talk time” for students as they interact. Celebrating diversity in itself promotes cultural sensitivity in the classroom and can extend to the home and community. Teachers have a very important role to play in their ability not only to teach to their best ability, but to be role models for the students and to promote respect of all individuals, regardless of who they are or their ethnic background. Teachers have many opportunities every day to demonstrate being culturally sensitive with their students, and they will be watched closely!