As the old saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall”. This applies to many situations in life, including education. An English language classroom is an exciting mix of different cultures, personalities, life skills and professions. Often the only commonality seems to be the motivation to learn English in Australia. So, what of the differences?
When teachers and students focus on what feels strange or unfamiliar in each other, it becomes a hindrance to the learning process. Lessons become so uncomfortable and banal, that before you know it, students are paying more attention to the clock than the textbook, and teachers feel like they have to beat their chests like King Kong to get the attention of their class
Fortunately, the stampede to the door can be thwarted without the threat of a brutish Mr T type character or immigration. In fact, if conditions are right students do not want to leave the classroom. When they are finally forced out at the end of the day, they socialise with each other after school and email the teacher – all in English! Why do they stay so enthusiastic? The reason is that they feel comfortable with each other in a positive learning environment.
A professional teacher knows how to inspire this kind of collaboration and learning. What creates a really effective, stimulating and fun classroom is when personal differences are amalgamated and viewed as live teaching resources to be used in conjunction with standard texts. Embracing each individual’s uniqueness as a catalyst to learning creates solidarity in the classroom, and this is a powerful thing.
Intercultural English is a valuable component of any course, including IELTS Exam Preparation courses, as it achieves wonderful outcomes. It is as simple as introducing students in English, welcoming dialogue about their countries, cultures and values, and tailoring lessons to capitalise on what the class has to offer collectively. This sharing enriches the classroom, and makes the learning process interesting. Students let their guard down, become transparent, and reveal their personalities, knowledge, experiences and weaknesses.
If the teacher manages learning with humanism, what results is a feeling of equality, tolerance, respect, humour and confidence. Not surprisingly, this builds good rapport, and students share all manner of things to improve their learning; even sneezing on one another is tolerated if it means learning the word ‘influenza’. But most importantly, students realise that the multicultural class with its many idiosyncrasies is a microcosm of our multicultural world. So, try and remember this if you want to teach or study English in Australia.
By Tunde Kantor
Biography – Tunde is a teacher at BROWNS English Language School Australia. She has taught Intensive General English, IELTS Preparation Training, EAP Courses and many other English language courses in Australia. Over the years she has helped many students Study English in Brisbane and achieve their goals with IELTS in Australia.