Published 22nd April 2019
When teaching English as a foreign language, it’s a given that you’re going to land up teaching abroad so maintaining basic cultural awareness is important. TEFL Teachers teaching English to foreign students in their own country can easily forget to be culturally considerate. While your students will need to be aware of their surroundings if they live in your country, it’s still wise to be aware of your interactions with them in order to avoid any faux pas.
3 Cultural Considerations for TEFL teachers to remember
You may find that some of your students are not familiar with being taught in the same class as the opposite gender or even being taught by a member of the opposite sex. It’s best to be as sensitive as possible to ensure your students are as comfortable as they can be with the gender dynamics within your classroom.
Most nations are made up of many different religions, and teachers who find themselves teaching students who subscribe to strict religious practices will need to ensure they are accommodating of their students. An example of this is Ramadan. Teachers with Muslim students will need to know whether or not they are fasting during the month of Ramadan as it would be considerate to plan lessons around subjects that don’t involve food or talking about it. While the students probably wouldn’t object, it might be uncomfortable for them knowing they are only able to eat again that night.
3. Body language
Everything from handshakes and hand gestures to bowing and head movements can mean different things to different nationalities and cultures. While there are a few hand gestures which are universal and are offensive to most people, there are others which may be construed as rude to certain cultures or nationalities that you may consider to be completely harmless. Hopefully this will only cause nothing more than a few laughs, but it’s worth being aware that certain mannerisms may cause adverse reactions in your students. If you ever find yourself in this situation, be sure to find out exactly what has caused the commotion so that you can learn from your mistakes.
With so many nationalities, you may find yourself in a very culturally diverse classroom made up of students of different genders from a variety of backgrounds. While you can’t be aware of every possible situation that could cause offense, it’s worth finding out a little more about the backgrounds of your students to create an atmosphere that is inclusive and comfortable for everyone.
If you are living and teaching in a foreign country, then educate yourself about the social dos and don’ts and you will be well on your way to ensuring you’re a considerate and valued member of the community.