Teach English in Liaohe Zhen - Tongliao Shi

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The following essay will cover the subject of cultural sensitivity in the classroom. This is a very important issue, as making cultural faux pas in the classroom can affect student morale, motivation as well as cause possible legal troubles for the insensitive teacher. In China, for example, talking about local politics can get a teacher confined to a jail cell as well as deported. There have been several recent examples of this in the past few years. On the other hand, students in China do not want to learn from a teacher who does not respect their culture. In fact, this is becoming much more of an issue as China grows in power and influence. In recent years, a trend towards nationalism means that it is absolutely essential for a teacher coming to China to do their due diligence on what to say and what not to say. The problem of cultural sensitivity does not only exist in China. In Thailand, for example, it is considered a crime to deface a portrait of the king. The king’s person is taken to be so worthy of worship that to criticize him is a major offense. Another issue is the taboo against tapping or patting a Thai person’s head. That is considered to be the seat of the many souls of a Thai person. To touch their head is a sign of great disrespect. A further example is the pointing of feet. In Thailand as well as many other southeast Asian countries, pointing the feet at other people is considered a sign of disrespect. One must be particularly careful not to point one’s feet at an elder or other highly respected person. In Vietnam, it is considered disrespectful for a younger person to lift the finger when talking to an older person. These are all examples of cultural faux pas which must be learned and avoided. An example of a positive cultural trait necessary in China and many other East Asian countries is the necessity of the teacher to have proper credentials. Chinese culture, in particular, places great emphasis on degrees and certificates. Those who do not possess them may eventually find their selves out of work. This has become more and more important as China has grown out of it’s “Wild West” period into a time of greater educational and cultural development. In conclusion we must say that these and other faux pas must be thoroughly researched before one lands in a foreign country. The potential for misunderstanding and in extreme cases legal danger is very real. The attitude and comportment of the teacher in the classroom is of utmost important in removing the affective barrier of the students. Failure to act in a culturally appropriate manner can profoundly affect the students level of motivation, and in fact one may find students gradually dropping out. Also, parents may demand their money back if the teacher does not act with what is considered professionalism in the local culture. So if anyone is considering teaching in a foreign country, the forst step is to do proper research. The second step is to monitor oneself to verify compliance with cultural norms and customs in the area.