My Experience with Adapting Teaching to Different Cultures

Although I have never had a classroom teaching experience, I was a private tutor for around five years in my undergrad, and a GTA responsible for a circuits/electronics help group during my first year at tech. Even though my teaching style never changed, I quickly realized that I had to tweak how I interact with students to cater for my new and more diverse audience.

As most Lebanese people, i tend to be very sarcastic in my daily life interactions. And during my run as a private tutor, I always used sarcasm to entertain and create a bond with my students. This approach was very successful and students responded well, especially since most, if not all, of them where middle to high school boys who had the tendency to be mischievous. I could always capture their attention for around 2 hours, but at the cost of spending the better part of around 30 min discussing random off-topic  issues. All in all my approach was successful, leading to improvement in my student’s understanding of the material.

Now lets jump to when i started my GTA here at Tech. I was quite confident in my approach, and, as expected, many students were able to relate with my friendly and sarcastic personality. However, others did not. I ended up with a group of students who specifically waited for my help, and others that completely avoided me. At first this phenomenon was pretty strange to me, I
wasn’t sure exactly what was happening. However,  after a while, i started to notice the dumbfound faces of students each time I gave a sarcastic remark. I have to admit, it took me a while to realize that people were misinterpreting me, especially because i come form a country where sarcasm is so deeply rooted in society, it has become second nature. After this realization, I had to change my interaction approach. Primarily, I tried to tone down my sarcasm until i figured out how much the student I am currently helping would appreciate. After all my purpose is to help all student, not just the ones that can relate to my character.

As a closing remark, I am always true to my self, I never completely changed my interaction approach, rather I adapted my interactions to my audience. I tried to find a balance between the way I want to interact with people and the way people want to be interacted with.

6 Replies to “My Experience with Adapting Teaching to Different Cultures”

  1. You make a good point about the notion of flexibility in teaching approaches. I love, in particular, your line of “After all my purpose is to help all student, not just the ones that can relate to my character.”

    When I first began teaching, I wondered about the balance of being authentic and individualizing my care for each student, and being some cold authoritative non-me of a human. While I realized of course that the latter doesn’t necessarily work for anyone (unless, I don’t know, if cold and authoritative really is who a person is), I too found that genuineness and earnestness don’t need to translate as unprofessional or off-putting. So, what I guess I’m trying to get at here is that, I agree, you should stay true to yourself and not completely change your approach to your interactions; we just all need to practice gauging the levels of chill/humor/sarcastic humor/whatever that a student can handle—especially students from cultures who could misinterpret our intentions.

  2. Remy,
    Interesting post about striking the balance between being authentic in our teaching style and working to meet the needs of our students. I agree that ultimately, we have to find a balance between being ourselves while still being cognizant of our audience.
    -Heath

  3. This post is interesting as you focus on one specific area of your teaching technique. May be the students did not get the sarcasm? Because humor might differ as you move on to a different culture? So may be the students didn’t get the joke, not that they disliked your attempt on sarcasm? I do think a balanced goofiness can be a great ice breaker and may increase the students’ comfort level in interacting with you. Coming from Nepal, Sometimes I just do not get the jokes here, and it is not that I do not that I get offended or don’t appreciate, I probably don’t get it because it might not be something I can relate to in the way people who grew up here do.

  4. Hi Remy,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I appreciate you explaining the self-reflection and process of considering your students’ mindset and thinking about how they might feel and how to help them. I think that is something I can learn from. I also appreciate that you want to respect and remain your true self at the same time.

  5. Hey Remy,
    Great post. I like that you point out how rapport with your students is essential to the learning process, and that sometimes that means changing how you interact with certain students to establish a better rapport. I also agree that no matter what, you still have to be true to yourself.

  6. I think it’s great that you can strike a balance between remaining true to yourself and taking cultural differences into account. It takes a great deal of self-awareness and empathy to even notice things like that in your teaching practice, and a lot of humility to admit that your approach might need adjustment for those who do not have a rapport with you. Both traits are invaluable to have as a teacher, so you’re well on your way!

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