Cultural Sensitivity

Students love to talk about their own lives and experiences. It is also great for them to make their own personal examples to remember vocabulary and grammar.

As a teacher, however, you must be culturally sensitive and respect your students' privacy. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind.

You may find yourself teaching adults or young people in a part of the world that is very different from your own. While adults have many interesting experiences to share, they may also find certain topics uncomfortable or too personal.

This depends from culture to culture, situation to situation, and even from person to person!
  • During your first few classes, keep the content general. Work with fun stories created especially for English learners that do not contain any references to alcohol, violence, politics, religion, or similar topics that can create tension in class.
  • You will start to get a feel for your students' comfort level. As you get to know them better, try out some icebreaker games that will let you learn a little more about their lives and opinions. They will also get to know each other better and feel more comfortable.
  • Try to learn about your students' culture or cultures. Read information online, ask people, and observe. What topics to students talk about comfortably? How do they greet each other? How formal are they?
  • Keep the situation in mind. If you are working with students from a country with political or religious violence, for example, these are topics you should probably avoid in class. Even family vocabulary can make some students sensitive if they have recently lost loved ones.
Do your best to be respectful and pay attention to how your students react to different activities and topics. You will find that each group is a little different and change your classes as needed. 

Remember that you will introduce your own culture and personality, so do not be afraid to do so. Your students will also want to learn about where you are from! This is all part of teaching English!