- On 10 May 2020
- Tags TEFL Florence
As an English teacher, your title implies that you will set your students up with the English knowledge they need and facilitate the practice that will help them achieve whatever their goals may be. And while that is happening, you will find yourself juggling many other hats as students begin to share more with you through engaging in conversation. One hat to never forget about, though, is your role as a cultural ambassador. Not only are you teaching a language, but you are teaching about the culture and values you represent. Whether it is explicit or unintentional, you are giving your students more information about the world that they aren’t familiar with. Once you introduce yourself to that student for the first time, they will identify you with the nation that you represent and the world beyond their own. Your words and actions will help formulate their perspective of the world. You are their gateway into your culture.
But not only do you carry the responsibility of representing a single culture, by teaching a language, you are preparing students to actively participate in our global society. Being a teacher is being a leader, and as the movement of people and ideas becomes easier in a globalized world, we are leading our students forward in how to perceive, how to reflect on themselves and their surroundings, and how to adapt for a future that remains unknown in a world that is constantly changing.
I know this seems like a bit of a stretch from teaching grammar and practicing listening comprehension. But consider that when we are teaching communication, we practice communicating about things we know about, and we all know something about the world around us. We all have ideas and opinions. We all have values and issues that are close to us. We all have dreams, goals, and hopes. We have so much in common, but still so much to learn about each other.
Somedays it feels like information is flying at us from all directions, and we all formulate our understanding of the rest of the world based on this information we consume. When your students come to you eager to talk about the news they heard from the US or maybe a certain international headline that has them concerned, you the teacher may be the first line of response that represents “the rest of the world.” How you react, ask questions, and empathize with their curiosities or concerns can help perpetuate greater sensitivity and understanding.
The Association for International Educators (NAFSA) has identified the following characteristics of a globally competent teacher, and they are core elements of the Via Lingua curriculum.
- Understanding one's own cultural identity and its influence on personal dispositions and classroom practice
- Knowing and integrating global dimensions within the disciplines one teaches
- Engaging students in learning about the world and in exploring their place in it
- Using real-life global examples, materials, and resources when considering local, national, and human issues
- Valuing the input of culturally and linguistically diverse learners, families, and colleagues, and modeling cultural sensitivity
- Creating environments that encourage positive cross-cultural interaction
- Modeling social responsibility in local and global contexts
- Helping learners find appropriate actions to improve local and global conditions
- Assessing learners' global competence and providing growth opportunities based on their levels of development
10. Advocating for global education and social responsibility
How can you embrace these competencies and promote greater global understanding in your English lessons or classroom?
- Make sure to listen to students' questions and answer them in an appropriate way.
- Read, watch videos, and write about current events and issues. Open up discussion to students, but be sure to moderate in a way that prevents stigma.
- Use the news or other sources for current events as a discussion point.
- Learn which topics or issues your students are concerned about and dig deeper into those together.
- Spread out and move around the world, too. Find stories and topics from parts of the world we don’t hear about as much to help expand awareness.
- Facilitate a debate. Learn about two sides of an issue and prepare students to argue about their side. With the appropriate language and terminology, of course!
- Get your students involved! Encourage social responsibility by giving students a chance to make campaigns by designing posters, advertisements, presentations, or publications in response to a particular issue you have studied together.
- Include moments to teach media literacy which empower students to be critical thinkers and make them effective communicators and active citizens, which will improve their abilities to detect misinformation.
As you go on your way to teaching with greater global competency, don’t forget:
- Learn about the culture, history, and politics of the students that you are working with. This will help you understand them and their perspectives more, but also will prepare you to recognize any differences you may have with them in your outlooks or perceptions.
- Be sure to take a moment to reflect and consider your own perceptions, biases, fears, or confusions. Take the time to become more informed about these things.
- Don’t pretend you have all of the answers! You are human too. It’s always better to follow up with a student rather than giving them misinformation.