Here are some tips to help you on your teaching experience
Dress right. Jeans, sneakers, and
just-out-of-bed hair may be okay for teachers in the U.S., but in many
parts of the world, a neat appearance counts far more than credentials.
In Korea dark clothes lend an air of authority. Red is to be avoided at
all costs. In Morocco female teachers don’t wear pants, sleeveless
blouses, or short skirts.
Behave appropriately. When it asked
250 students at the Sichuan Institute of Foreign Languages in China
what they liked and disliked about native speaker English teachers, the
students’ main gripe was the informality of foreign teachers, who often
seem to undermine their own authority by acting in undignified ways. In
the U.S. teachers go on a first-name basis with students, sit on their
desks, sip coffee, and even bounce off the walls without causing student
discomfort or losing prestige. But these behaviors don’t export well.
Don’t worry if students seem unresponsive at first.
Americans are used to participatory classrooms with plenty of
teacher-student dialogue. Elsewhere, students are often trained to be
silent, good listeners, and memorizers. It’s disconcerting to stand in
front of a sea of blank faces, but expecting it reduces the shock.
Introduce new concepts, such as discussion and role-play gradually.
You’ll be surprised at how students will come to embrace the change.
Choose topics carefully. There are
still many countries in the world where people are hesitant to voice
opinions because of a fear of reprisal. If you’re conducting a classroom
debate, remember that there’s a distaste for Western-style
argumentation in Middle-Eastern societies, and in Japan it’s offensive
for an individual to urge others to accept his opinion.
topics may be taboo for cultural reasons: Most Americans don’t want to
discuss their salaries or religious beliefs; Japanese may be disinclined
to talk about their inner feelings; the French think questions about
their family life are rude.
Don’t ask, “Do you understand?” In
China and Japan, students will nod yes, even if they’re totally lost, in
an attempt to save face for the teacher. Even in a country as far west
as Turkey, yes often means no.
Avoid singling students out. Our
society fosters a competitive individualism which is clearly manifested
in our classrooms. American students are not shy about displaying their
knowledge. In classrooms outside the U.S., however, showing solidarity
with classmates and conforming to the status quo is often more important
than looking good for the teacher. In Turkey and Montenegro students
told me they disliked volunteering answers too often because it made
them look like show-offs and attracted the evil eye of envy. If you want
to play a game, make the competition among groups rather than among
individuals. If you need to discipline a student, do so in private.
Be aware of cross-cultural communication styles.
French students appreciate wit. Venezuelan students like boisterous
rapid-fire exchanges. In Japan, where debate is not as valued as in the
U.S., students appreciate long pauses in discussions and silent “think
time” after you ask a question. “Hollow drums make the most noise” goes a
Japanese proverb, and Japanese students are uncomfortable blurting out
the first thing that comes to mind. American teachers, who are
uncomfortable with silence, tend to anticipate the student’s words or
repeat their original question—both irritating interruptions for the
Present a rationale for what you do in class.
Your pedagogy is going to be very different from what students are used
to. They’ll conform much more eagerly to new classroom content and
procedures if they understand the benefits.
Expect the best of your students. They’ll be serious about learning English because their economic advancement often depends upon mastering it.
Relax and enjoy yourself. Happiness in the classroom is contagious