Today I would like to talk about something that I believe needs to be addressed more professionally than it has been in the past. Thankfully, it is not a problem that is a problem for the majority of teachers, but it is one that has come to my attention on multiple times. That is the notion of teaching down to students based on their English ability or on cultural differences.
Of course, a class of beginners will need to be taught differently than a class of advanced students, but their English ability needs to be strongly considered and addressed as well. University students and adults can tell, regardless of their language ability, when you are using materials that are designed for kindergarteners or other small children.
In my teaching experiences, I have come across students who have thanked me for giving them assignments and subjects to discuss that reflect their age, and are genuinely useful to them. I strive for all of my courses to include aspects that will provide a reference for future success for my students and knowledge that is directly applicable to them in the real world. For example, teaching university level students the basics of Western business culture in a unit on public speaking. If a class typically includes dialogues, then that unit’s dialogues are converted to mock interviews. If the class typically includes some type of movie clip or other multimedia, then that unit’s multimedia can be example demonstrations taken from YouTube. There are hundreds of ways to do this, and the students will be thankful for it.
Also, cultural differences can give students the appearance through the teacher’s lenses of having a lack of maturity because their life experiences have been different than the teacher’s were up until that age. However, this is the wrong way to look at it. Yes, the experiences have been drastically different, but looking downward at the students because of this is not something a teacher should do. Within national and cultural bounds, teachers should strive to expand their students’ worldviews and experiences, regardless of where those worldviews and experiences being from as a starting point. Again, to teach downwardly to one’s students does both your students and yourself a great disservice.