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Difference in Teaching Culture
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Janette Donovan



Joined: 01 Jun 2004
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 5:32 am    Post subject: Difference in Teaching Culture Reply with quote

I am an Australian vocational educational business teacher of many years experience and interested in gaining employment in the UAE. Thank you to everyone who promptly answered my question regarding qualifications.

I am now interested to know what to expect as far as cultural differences in the classroom. How would you describe your experiences in teaching Middle Eastern students as compared to western students? what would be some tips you could provide to myself and husband in preparation for this move?
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dmb



Joined: 12 Feb 2003
Posts: 8397

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

when I first went to the Gulf I went through culture shock. The teaching was totally different from anything I had experienced before. I did think about leaving as soon as I got there. To get on in the Gulf I suggest when you first get there to keep your head down and your mouth shut until you have worked out the lay of land. Depending on where you go you will find varying degrees of bs. in my job the MOST important thing was to fill out the register correctly!
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High Plains Drifter



Joined: 27 Jul 2004
Posts: 127
Location: Way Out There

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 12:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Expect the students to be warm, friendly, and generous--among the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

Expect them to never, ever shut up in class.

Expect them to talk endlessly while you are teaching, to sleep in class, and to generally show no more maturity than the average twelve-year-old.

Expect them to not give a damn about learning anything, to never come to class on time, to never do homework, and to never ask questions about anything.

Expect male students to have no intellectual curiosity about anything except mobile telephones, cars, whiskey, champagne and pornography.

Expect female students to have no intellectual curiosity about anything except mobile telephones, perfume, and fashion.

Expect to forget everything you ever learned in grad school.

Expect to derive no professional satisfaction whatsoever from your job.

Expect to cry all the way to the bank about it.
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Truth Hurts



Joined: 05 Jul 2003
Posts: 115
Location: Truthville

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

High Plains Drifter wrote:
Expect them to never, ever shut up in class.
Expect them to talk endlessly while you are teaching, to sleep in class, and to generally show no more maturity than the average twelve-year-old.
Expect them to not give a damn about learning anything, to never come to class on time, to never do homework, and to never ask questions about anything.
Expect male students to have no intellectual curiosity about anything except mobile telephones, cars, whiskey, champagne and pornography.
Expect female students to have no intellectual curiosity about anything except mobile telephones, perfume, and fashion.
Expect to forget everything you ever learned in grad school.
Expect to derive no professional satisfaction whatsoever from your job.
Expect to cry all the way to the bank about it.

I'm sorry to say this, but all this simply indicates how such a thoroughly ineffective, not to say, completely useless TEACHER you are!
TH
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 13, 2004 3:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello again Janette,

There is certainly a lot of truth in the two postings here - and I must admit that names and faces immediately came to mind. A great deal depends on where you are teaching. As I recall, you are thinking in terms of teaching university level - like HCT or ZU.

The students do seem much younger than 17-22 year olds at home - often immature - usually naive - and unfortunately often not intellectually curious. (though I haven't really taught enough in the US to know how fair that is) Many times you feel that you are teaching Middle School or Secondary School rather than university. But, in some ways that made it more fun.

If you have only taught those from the 'far' eastern parts of Asia, you are in for a big change. Arabs are definitely lively and talkative - and classroom management is very difficult for some. I found that - ahem - 'older' women often had an easier time handling them - perhaps we better play the 'mommy' card. I really had very few discipline problems and the ones I had were quite easily taken care of with a private serious discussion of respect. Even though the male students tended to be the most disruptive, they were also easier to clamp down on. This is a culture that has structure of 'proper' behavior that can often be used - once you figure out how to use it to your advantage.

If you are teaching entry level at a college or university, the first job is to teach them responsibility. Almost as much as teaching the language, you are forcing them to follow a different educational etiquette. They don't seem to have the concept of arriving on time, entering a classroom without disrupting everything, bringing their materials, and not 'sharing' information. One does tend to wonder what was going on in their secondary schools. Smile That said, I was fortunate to work at places that wanted us to teach and enforce the 'rules' and backed the teachers up.

Professional satisfaction? Just like kids everywhere, their interests do seem rather limited. And getting them to jump through the various hoops we put in their way seems like hard work. But also just like everywhere, there are a few students who want to learn and make it all worthwhile. And again just like everywhere, your attutudes and ability to go with the flow (keeping in mind that we are not teaching brain surgery and that many of our students, especially the women will never work anyway) helps with the frustrations you encounter.

Personally I loved teaching over there and enjoyed darn near every moment in the classroom. I found that most of frustrations came in dealing with particular managers or managements. But, I had that same obstacle working in other fields in my home country. I think that is the norm if one is working for a living. Rolling Eyes

VS
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Tuttifruitti



Joined: 07 Oct 2004
Posts: 75

PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I completely agree with VS!
The students can be quite immature, but considering the country is so young, and the exposure to 'western' culture and education systems even younger, I'm not really surprised.

I think it very much depends on how you relate to them. Sometimes it is easier to treat them like high school students or immature teenagers who need to be told what to do. In many cases this won't get you anywhere. As VS says, the important thing is to teach them responsibility, and not to have the "they don't care so why should I" attitude. Many of them work very hard and are genuinely grateful for any effort made on the part of the teacher.

Students here are lively and chatty, but that is their culture. They are more talkers than readers/writers, but there are many ways you can use this to your advantage in the class situation.

I work with UAE nationals, and I find them very honest and open, and appreciate similar treatment from teachers. Trust is a big thing with them. Sometimes I have found the students to be more forgiving of 'cultural errors' than management. If you have a good rapport with them, they will know that you don't mean any harm if you make the odd slip! It can even lead to a productive discussion!

As VS says, they are not like the students from the 'far' east. Japanese and Korean students have a certain work ethic, they think before they speak, they have a different attitude to education. UAE Government high schools are generally institutes where students learn by rote, and are not encouraged to learn independently. Most of the colleges/universities have taken on the 'western' style approach to teaching and this is difficult for them at first.

I have been here for many years and I have never considered leaving due to professional dissatisfaction. Yes there are certain problems which are the 'norm' among these students, but the way in which you deal with them is at least as important as the information you teach them.

Good luck!
Tutti8)
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Truth Hurts



Joined: 05 Jul 2003
Posts: 115
Location: Truthville

PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuttifruitti wrote:
The students can be quite immature, but considering the country is so young, and the exposure to 'western' culture and education systems even younger, I'm not really surprised.
Tutti8)


What are you implying here? That because they have not been exposed to 'western culture' (whatever that's supposed to mean) Emirati students are immutably immature.

You are absolutely right that there is a serious question of immaturity here and I'm afraid it's mostly the immaturity of your mind, my friend!

Have we really forgotten what's it's like in inner city schools in New York, LA, London, Birmingham, Sydney etc. Are we honestly suggesting that kids or even undergrads there are somehow more mature, less materialistic, more inclined to study, less intellectually curious...

It's pure clarified BS!

TH
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Oct 14, 2004 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Truth hurts,

It is apparent that you have major problems with your self esteem. You almost never add any helpful information. Even when someone comes on and makes a positive useful response, you come around to pick a word or phrase out of context to insult and attack - often based on your mis-reading of the original post. You seem to have a rather hateful attifude - full of racism and prejudice against Westerners. It is just as disgraceful as the Western teachers that I encountered through the years who obviously did not respect their Arab students. Why should you want to lower yourself to their level - publicly on this board?

This is the last time I will respond to your constant negative posts. It is a shame that you do not use your experience to help and inform rather than insult.

VS
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Truth Hurts



Joined: 05 Jul 2003
Posts: 115
Location: Truthville

PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

veiledsentiments wrote:
This is the last time I will respond to your constant negative posts.

Embarassed Embarassed Embarassed

Anyone got a hankie?

TH
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Bindair Dundat



Joined: 04 Feb 2003
Posts: 1123

PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

High Plains Drifter wrote:

Expect to forget everything you ever learned in grad school.


This puts me in mind of how far removed my grad-school experience was from the real world of EFL teaching. My profs were people who had ventured outside of their native country for one or two years max, maybe a few weeks at a time, before running back to the haven of the domestic (and domesticated) university to lord it over their polite, obedient, well-washed grad students.

LOL at how I believed that THEY were the ones with worldly experience.

BD
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Bindair Dundat



Joined: 04 Feb 2003
Posts: 1123

PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuttifruitti wrote:
I completely agree with VS!
The students can be quite immature, but considering the country is so young, and the exposure to 'western' culture and education systems even younger, I'm not really surprised.


I think you're missing something. Western cultures and educational systems do not provide students with a superior degree of maturity; what they do, at least hypothetically, is prepare students to survive in a particular culture. It seems to me that, rather than maturity per se, what I hear western teachers griping about is the students' lack of a sense of personal responsibility for their education. This is obviously a culture-bound concept; in any culture, education reflects tradition and the demands of the society.

Look at the differences in educational tradition and economy between your country and the country you work in if you want to understand your students. The age of the country has, in this and in most cases, nothing to do with how old the traditions are. And that economic thing - wow! I remember when I was in grade school, and my teachers told me that I had to get to school on time because that was part of my training for my future life's work in one of the local factories. And they meant it! Punctuality, obedience, task persistence... they tried to impart qualities that made for a good assembly-line worker.

Tuttifruitti wrote:
As VS says, they are not like the students from the 'far' east. Japanese and Korean students have a certain work ethic,
they think before they speak, they have a different attitude to education.


Of course. Survival in that part of the world has traditionally required different skills and attitudes than it has on the shores of the Gulf, and the differences are even greater now than they were fifty or sixty years ago.

I note that, for all of their "immaturity", Gulf students manage to behave very differently when in other social settings, or in the company of people who they perceive as their peers or their social superiors. Don't forget that you and I are just part of the herd of hired help.

BD
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dmb



Joined: 12 Feb 2003
Posts: 8397

PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bindair Dundat wrote:

Don't forget that you and I are just part of the herd of hired help.


Very, very true BD. Working in the Gulf is a humbling experience. No matter how many bits of paper you have you soon realise that you are not indispensable- unless, of course, you have wasta
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16187
Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2004 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In reference to forgetting everything you learned in grad school, EFL is really not that different from other fields. I worked in accounting for many years and I can recall that the first thing that a new departmental employee fresh out of university was told was: forget what you learned in 90% of your accounting classes because it isn't how it happens in the real world. There was nothing more useless in an accounting department that the ones that just passed the hallowed CPA exam. I suspect that most of education is really just a ploy to keep us busy, off the streets, and out of the job market as long as possible.

As to just being part of the herd of hired help, that is also true of almost all jobs everywhere too. Same with wasta... look at Dubya. It isn't as though he got his job through his intelligence and ability. Smile Since most of us just get to be a cog in the wheel, my attitude is that it helps if one is doing a job one enjoys - like teaching - and try to avoid management and their foibles as much as possible.

And - the 'immaturity' shown by students. I found that Gulf students in particular reminded me of the class of 7th graders that I student taught back in the 1960's. Personally I considered that a 'good' thing. Smile Given the choice I would definitely take a group of Emirati or Omani first year university students over those here in the US every time.

VS
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Janette Donovan



Joined: 01 Jun 2004
Posts: 12

PostPosted: Mon Oct 18, 2004 1:50 am    Post subject: Return Thanks Reply with quote

Once again I would like to thank those of you that provided a very thought provoking and "lively" discussion about cultural changes in the Middle East.

I have enjoyed these sessions and appreciate your varied responses.
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Klem



Joined: 11 Oct 2004
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my experience I have found that Arab male students to be polite, deferrent and utterly incincere. That's not to say that they afford their incincerity personally, not at all, it's just opportunistic and a part of their culture. Arab culture seems to accommodate, and in part even encourage what we would likely view as unfair, morally incorrect and sometimes plainly illegal (probably based in different mores).

For the most part they will be polite and friendly, even inviting you to their homes for funerals or to to share their bonhommie. However beware, because as soon as it suits them they will lie and cheat and cast you to the wolves. This can happen for the most childish and trivial matters. Perhaps due to their perception of harsh treatment, marking, or inequity among their peers. They are well aware of their inflated (vis a vis Western institutions) position of influence with senior management and will use it against you in a heartbeat.

You in turn are expendable, and one in a long line of missfits and mercenaries in a regime of no redress and entrenched institutional delinquency and corruption

Everyone's time in the ME ends, it's just a question of how long you last.

Don't expect any Einsteins to emerge from the UAE this century, and please don't invest fragile emotional energy in internalising the corporate culture. Keep your head down, and just be Mr and Mrs ordinary. Just be circumspect, polite, patient and friendly to the monkeys as you teach them how to eat bananas (which of course they invariably get wrong!)

Klem
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