ESL Teacher's Role in Intercultural Communication
by Judie Haynes
Do you wish you had attended one of my workshops on the ESL Teacher's Role in Intercultural Communication? Here are the hand-outs from one of my recent presentations on this topic.
Role of today's ESL teachers
ESL teachers have a complicated role in today's schools. They must strive to promote high self-esteem and cultural pride among their English language learners (ELLs). At the same time, ESL professionals should teach the "hidden curriculum" of their school to ELLs and their parents. This has become a crucial part of their job. They must also work with mainstream colleagues to help them better understand the cultures of their students. Misinterpretations are bound to occur on both sides. Whenever a mainstream staff members thinks an ESL youngsters' behavior seems unwarranted, bizarre, rude, or in some way unexpected, it's possible that this is a sign of cultural misunderstanding. And it is the ESL/bilingual professional who is called upon to unlock the cultural puzzle. Can ESL/bilingual or classroom teachers learn all there is to know about the various cultures in your school? No, of course not!
Effective staff development courses are a way ESL/bilingual professionals can help mainstream staff members better interpret the cultures of the diverse student populations in your school. The objectives of a staff development workshop would be to give participants:
- an awareness of how much culture affects language acquisition and behavior
- the discernment not to interpret the behavior of others through the eyes of their own culture
- insight into their own culture
- the tools to "unlock" cultural puzzles
What is this hidden curriculum?
The hidden curriculum encompasses various characteristics of schooling that "everybody knows." It includes social skills such as interactions with peers and teachers and fundamental values and beliefs of a school community. In fact, it is everything about the school that is not part of the academic curriculum.
How does the hidden curriculum effect ELLs?
If ELLs and their parents are unaware of this hidden curriculum, students may not fully participate in the life of the school or they may experience difficulties with their classmates and their teachers. In our role as ESL teachers we need to help our ESL families adapt to the culture of our schools and community without giving up their own cultural background. At the same time, we need to educate the mainstream population of our school communities about the cultures of our ELLs.
© 1998-2005 Judie Haynes, www.everythingESL.net