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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:
Cultural Sensitivity in the classroomTeaching is widely believed to one of the most fundamental and essential elements in human life. Therefore cultural awareness in the education environment is of paramount importance. We all have been brought up with some basic cultural values which are very apparent in our entire behaviourial pattern. It is very important for every one to respect each other's cultural patterns. Classrooms in this century are melting pots of different cultures and racial backgrounds. In order for all students to achieve their full potential, teachers must create a welcoming and supportive classroom environment where cultural differences are respected and celebrated. Teaching students to be respectful and sensitive toward other cultures is an important part of this process as it creates a positive and inclusive learning environment. One of the biggest problems ESL teachers face is that one ESL classroom may be filled with students from many nations. The cultures of different nations are vastly different, and teachers should not assume that students who are there to learn a common language (english) will share similar cultural backgrounds. Even students from different regions of the same country will have different cultural beliefs and traditions that should be honored and preserved. To effectively communicate in any classroom, the students must feel both at ease with, and a sense of respect for, their teacher. To achieve this, the teacher must be aware of the norms, customs and beliefs which have nurtured the minds and personalities of those he or she intends to educate. Any offence or disrespect caused would be of detriment to the crucial rapport building and mutual respect. As a nurtured and educated EFL teacher, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the differences in culture between the place you learned about teaching and the place in which you are teaching now. Teaching english as a foreign language can be a very new experience for both teacher and student. In almost all cases the students and teacher have different cultural backgrounds which can either lead to tension or an excitingly diverse classroom environment. It is essential to be aware of the necessity of cultural sensitivity in the classroom to lead to the most productive learning experience. One would have to imagine the realities of the difficulty of learning and new language; especially one as complex as difficult as english. The task at hand is complicated enough and making a student feel comfortable in their classroom environment will undoubtedly help the learning process. A student who is uncomfortable may not be as wanting or willing to participate in the activities at hand and his/her learning may therefore be slowed. It is necessary therefore to be understanding of a students’ cultural expectations and needs in order make the learning environment as productive as possible. Becoming empathetic to cultural realities can be more easily achieved by creating an immersion experience.Understanding lifestyle and customs is necessary for a teacher to understand how students will behave in a classroom. Students from different cultures do not share the same expectations for the classroom environment which is why it is so necessary to become accustomed to the new culture in which one is teaching. In the case of a multicultural classroom, background research would be prudent in understanding the different cultures that as a teacher one would be exposed to. Understanding thoroughly, the culture in which one teaches a better learning environment can be created for students. As all cultures have different expectations for teacher-student relationships this perception is the key to a well functioning classroom. It is also a good establishment of rapport with the students if they find the teacher to be aware of their needs and understanding of their different and yet interesting cultural background. With active attention paid to cultural sensitivity the classroom can become an even greater learning environment. To conclude, cultural sensitivity is very important to effectively, and respectfully teach in a non-native classroom. An EFL teacher should research the culture of the country in which they wish to teach, and appropriately tune their approach in the classroom. He or she must look and act dutifully respected, respectful and dignified.