A young woman teacher

⌚︎ 3 min.


Case study

A young woman teacher

Kind of education

Adult vocational education at secondary level.

Definition of the learner

A class of teenagers, 18-19, most of whom are Muslim. No knowledge of the language and local culture.

Description of the group

A class (30) of young male students aged 18-19 from different cultural backgrounds. They didn’t listen to the young teacher nor did they participate in her classes and often made rude comments about her.

1 teacher per class.

3 student volunteers (doing their teaching practice or helping the teacher to monitor students’ groups).

Definition of starting situation

A young woman teacher teaching English as a second language to a class (30) of young male students aged 18-19, from different cultural backgrounds and with no knowledge of the language and local culture, with a low level of English as a common language.

Teacher’s predicament as she presented it: “I was a teacher without much experience, but with lots of enthusiasm and creativity, as well as a fair share of unverified assumptions about the world. I was caught off guard when I was challenged in class with macho behavior by male students coming from diverse cultural backgrounds and who were not ready to receive education from a young woman almost their age. In short, the students didn’t want to listen to me nor were they willing to participate in my classes. They often made rude comments about me.”

Description of the course

Teaching English as a second language (a two-year course).

Description of teaching team

A woman teacher and three student volunteers (with different cultural background; two women and a man).

Possible actions and impacts

Getting to know each other activities; promoting positive interactions among students.

The activities (e.g.“Meet-and-greet” warm-up activities) enable students and teachers to get to know each other and get familiar with each other’s cultural backgrounds; they also raise their awareness about the diversity of experience in the class. The activities stimulate understanding, communication, active listening skills; promote positive student-teacher interaction; they also create good atmosphere.

Engaging learners in group work having to achieve common accessible tasks (volunteers help the teacher monitor the activities).

Group work (different nationalities, levels of education, personalities) helps build cohesiveness in the group; develop friendships and self-esteem. Group work stimulates love of learning, satisfaction of accomplished task; each participant’s contribution to the task is valued as important.

Using  communicative methods which rely on active participation of learners (volunteers help teacher to monitor the activities).

Increase self-esteem, open mindedness, tolerance, respect for diversity.

Organizing  activities, presentations, cultural evenings and events to develop communication and active listening skills.

Stimulate communication and exchange of ideas among students, increase self-esteem, open mindedness, tolerance, respect for diversity. It gives students a positive message that culture is valued and respected in the class.

Promoting activities that help students discover common interests and share their experiences.

The activities help the teacher know her students and also help students know each other, which  forges good relationships and builds cohesiveness in the group. Such activities recognise the value of students’ work and make their achievements public.

Encouraging and organizing open and inclusive class discussions (where everybody’s opinion counts if it is supported by solid arguments).

Such discussions contribute to creating a friendly atmosphere and a culturally inclusive classroom environment. Brainstorming activities are good practice in this respect: they present participants’ opinions as they come to their mind where people should avoid criticising or rewarding ideas; group discussions can vary from very informal chats about day-to-day things, to more serious topics.

Providing students with some information about the teacher’s teaching style and methods (such as what the objectives of the lesson are; why they have to study that lesson, and what kind of activities they will be engaged in; about feedback; homework, etc.), her cultural background, teaching, learning or research (multicultural) experiences.

This makes students realise that their teacher is open, well-meaning and committed to understanding differences.

Setting explicit ground-rules for appropriate classroom behavior to protect against cultural exclusion.

Commonly agreed upon rules discourage class incivilities and respond promptly and firmly to any behavior that could be considered prejudiced, biased or discriminatory in nature. If ground rules are not established from the very beginning, students will act according to their own rules, which often leads to disruptive behaviour; they will not know what the teacher expects from them and what they should expect from the teacher.

Advice, remarks, conclusions
  • Use interactive methods that enhance self-esteem and respect.
  • Use, promote and develop active listening techniques.
  • Demand on school: student volunteers; they have been useful in monitoring the groups.
  • It takes time to change conduct and mentalities; it seems a lot of effort but it may be a good solution in the long run.
  • Prepare your classes very well and adjust your plan to the real context of the class–taking into account your students’ needs, interests, level, age and learning styles. This will gain your students’ respect; students will realize that you care for them.
  • Avoid stereotypes and assumptions in your teaching practices and course content.
  • Quote published literature and research findings when dealing with cultural information and encourage students to use official evidence when presenting their arguments and opinions.
  • Use reflection after each teaching session (reflected on own attitudes, assumptions and teaching practices) to improve your teaching.
  • Use students’ and student volunteers’ feedback to see the context from different perspectives.
Teaching techniques
Sexual discrimination