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Diversity in an International Classroom
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santi84



Joined: 14 Mar 2008
Posts: 854
Location: under da sea

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also think that this question came up in one of my university TESL courses and it is a good discussion, especially for new student teachers. Some new student teachers seem to confuse their role as an English teacher. I remember that quite a few seemed to think that creating debate/controversy in the classroom led to "good classroom management" when in reality, it could easily make students (and administration) very upset, especially when imposing on their cultural ideals.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9551
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fayefidalgo wrote:
Thank you all for your thoughtful responses.

For example, you have a gay student in a class full of students with extremely conservative cultural and religious backgrounds and for this reason the child is experiencing serious troubles or at risk for physical harm. At the same time, you are teaching in a country where homosexuality is illegal and not spoken of. What to do?


What to do? Inform the administrators/DOS of your concerns and let them handle it. This is not our role or responsibility. The potential for aggravating the situation is huge. It is also possible that we as teachers misunderstand what we see in the classroom, due to cultural differences etc. I wouldn't meddle in my home country: I certainly wouldn't do so abroad.
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9488
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For example, you have a gay student in a class full of students with extremely conservative cultural and religious backgrounds and for this reason the child is experiencing serious troubles or at risk for physical harm. At the same time, you are teaching in a country where homosexuality is illegal and not spoken of. What to do?


I agree with earlier posters. The most I would do is to possibly refer such a problem to someone in management or a student counselor or something. It's simply off-limits for a teacher to get involved.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9551
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, just one small question. Reading the thread title 'Diversity in the international classroom', are you referring to situations in a school in an Anglophone country, where there will be cultural diversity? Or are you referring to classrooms in students' own countries (and not really international), where there may be some danger posed by the topics raised, and possibly also the uniform conservatism you outlined? I'm not sure, as the subject line seems a little at odds with the situations described. Where have I misunderstood?
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1837

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For what it's worth, I did a spoken English session on diversity last week: it treated of homosexuality (particularly with reference to Wilde and Quentin Crisp), race (particularly ethnic minorities in the UK and eastern Europe) and religion (UK, eastern Europe). Only one student became noticably uptight, but I gather that Belarus tends to be a particularly tolerant country.

As for the rationale for doing this:
1) The spoken English sessions are run independently of standard classroom lessons and are expected to include cultural issues - particularly about English-speaking countries - as well as an opportunity to converse in English.
2) My colleague does the populist routine, stuff which the students all know and love (calendar events, etc). It has been agreed that I do more 'philosophical' stuff as these are professionals and university students.
3) I think that dealing with non-standard subjects means broadening vocabulary usage. New vocabulary is introduced during each session.

Having said that, I think that I would be much less likely to deal with homosexuality in such an in-depth way if I was in a country with strict taboos. On the other hand, I did discuss the incidence of homosexuality in two schools in Siberia - where people tend to assume that it is a cultural phenomenon to be found in St Petersburg and Moscow - but people didn't seem overly perturbed by the fact that it was discussed. It should be noted, however, that this was a ten minute discussion, so I could hardly be accused of detracting from serious education (well, no more than usual).

I agree with the general point that any discussion of issues should be considered in the light of their impact on the education being provided. If it is simply a matter of putting forward your ideological, religious or personal viewpoint, then consider canning it. N.B. Potential teachers in Russia should note that people are very sensitive about religion, as a lot of evangelists have been displaying their wares under the guise of teaching as well as social projects and charities.
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fayefidalgo



Joined: 21 Dec 2009
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
Sorry, just one small question. Reading the thread title 'Diversity in the international classroom', are you referring to situations in a school in an Anglophone country, where there will be cultural diversity? Or are you referring to classrooms in students' own countries (and not really international), where there may be some danger posed by the topics raised, and possibly also the uniform conservatism you outlined? I'm not sure, as the subject line seems a little at odds with the situations described. Where have I misunderstood?


What I had in mind when posting this question was a classroom in an International school in a non-anglophone country. For example, in the UAE where you may have students from any number of countries: Europe, America, Middle Eastern countries, Asian countries. A blend of cultures comprising a classroom in a country where oftentimes such social issues are not spoken of openly. I realize it is not necessarily a teachers job to address social issues (although that's debatable, based on personal values) my question pertains to cultural differences and misunderstandings within a classroom, that may affect a student's well being.
I hope that clarifies, and I am thankful and impressed with the number and depth of responses to my question!
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Chancellor



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1335
Location: Zibo, China - if you're willing to send me cigars, I accept donations :)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:56 pm    Post subject: Re: Diversity in an International Classroom Reply with quote

fayefidalgo wrote:
Doing a project for TESL classes and would love opinions/answers to this question:

How would you address issues (such as homosexuality, women's social roles, ingrained or historical racism) in a classroom environment in a country where such issues are not spoken of, either for legal or cultural reasons?

Thanks
Why do you feel the need to address such issues? They have nothing whatsoever to do with teaching your students how to speak, hear, read, and write the English language.
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Chancellor



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1335
Location: Zibo, China - if you're willing to send me cigars, I accept donations :)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 8:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
Sorry, just one small question. Reading the thread title 'Diversity in the international classroom', are you referring to situations in a school in an Anglophone country, where there will be cultural diversity? Or are you referring to classrooms in students' own countries (and not really international), where there may be some danger posed by the topics raised, and possibly also the uniform conservatism you outlined? I'm not sure, as the subject line seems a little at odds with the situations described. Where have I misunderstood?
I took it to mean diversity in an overseas classroom.
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1837

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Diversity in an International Classroom Reply with quote

Chancellor wrote:
fayefidalgo wrote:
Doing a project for TESL classes and would love opinions/answers to this question:

How would you address issues (such as homosexuality, women's social roles, ingrained or historical racism) in a classroom environment in a country where such issues are not spoken of, either for legal or cultural reasons?

Thanks
Why do you feel the need to address such issues? They have nothing whatsoever to do with teaching your students how to speak, hear, read, and write the English language.

Hi Chancellor. We haven't had an argument in ages! As I said in another thread, the raising of diverse issues (not just diversity ones) gives rise to far more natural usage of vocabulary and grammar than sticking to tried and trusted stuff about sport, dating and music. Most issues worth a tinker's cuss are to some extent edgy, otherwise the word 'debatable' wouldn't apply.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12715
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear coledavis,

Fine - but if you're in the Middle East (and I think the OP is n the UAE,) bringing up such issues in class will almost certainly result in your dismissal and deportation.

Regards,
John
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1837

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnslat wrote:
Dear coledavis,

Fine - but if you're in the Middle East (and I think the OP is n the UAE,) bringing up such issues in class will almost certainly result in your dismissal and deportation.

Regards,
John


Fine. My point was a point of principle. Clearly, however, one must use common sense. For example, I work in a country where my political opinions are, erm, of little interest, so I don't discuss them. It doesn't stop me raising such issues as will not lead to dismissal, deportation or decapitation.
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Chancellor



Joined: 31 Oct 2005
Posts: 1335
Location: Zibo, China - if you're willing to send me cigars, I accept donations :)

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Diversity in an International Classroom Reply with quote

coledavis wrote:
Chancellor wrote:
fayefidalgo wrote:
Doing a project for TESL classes and would love opinions/answers to this question:

How would you address issues (such as homosexuality, women's social roles, ingrained or historical racism) in a classroom environment in a country where such issues are not spoken of, either for legal or cultural reasons?

Thanks
Why do you feel the need to address such issues? They have nothing whatsoever to do with teaching your students how to speak, hear, read, and write the English language.

Hi Chancellor. We haven't had an argument in ages! As I said in another thread, the raising of diverse issues (not just diversity ones) gives rise to far more natural usage of vocabulary and grammar than sticking to tried and trusted stuff about sport, dating and music. Most issues worth a tinker's cuss are to some extent edgy, otherwise the word 'debatable' wouldn't apply.
Well, yes, having real conversations about real topics does do a much better job of improving a student's natural use of vocabulary. However, why can't you do that within the boundaries of what is acceptable within the culture of your students?

I know that some may disagree with me on this point (and that's okay) but I think that a teacher's personal opinions have no place in the classroom (unless it's opinions about the specific topic you're teaching, e.g. nouns, verbs, syntax, etc.) and, even then, that doesn't necessarily mean those opinions should be expressed.
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johnslat



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Posts: 12715
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear coledavis,

Sorry, I hadn't realized the thread had moved on to a generalized discussion. I was speaking to the OP's situation.

Regards,
John
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
Posts: 9551
Location: Moskva, The Workers' Paradise

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually Chancellor, I entirely agree with you. Learners have enough problems contending with language without having to deal with 'real' conversations that can quickly become real arguments. I'm sure my students would learn lots of great vocab from a conversation/debate/row on terrorism or paedophilia, but this is no longer just 'edgy' material... it's parsnips!
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coledavis



Joined: 21 Jun 2003
Posts: 1837

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnslat wrote:
Dear coledavis,

Sorry, I hadn't realized the thread had moved on to a generalized discussion. I was speaking to the OP's situation.

Regards,
John

Not to worry. These threads often interweave the specific with the general, sometimes to good effect, at other times not.
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