Training Engages Teachers to Learn How to Learn a New Culture
Listen to the story of Josh Benedict, International Program Director for Broadfording Christian Academy, and see how his CultureBound training helped prepare him to teach international students.
JOSH BENEDICT, INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM DIRECTOR, BROADFORDING CHRISTIAN ACADEMY [BCA]
I work with international students, preparing them for life in the United States and helping to bridge the cultural barriers between students, teachers and the international student community.
We have international students from over 20 countries around the world: China, South Korea, Vietnam. Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, Latin America and South America.
Students are looking for education, sports, or career opportunities in the United States, and see us at BCA as a launching pad to college. A lot of our students are also looking for a US experience and then return to their home country.
As a small Christian school, we are always looking for professional development that’s within our budget. And cross-cultural training nowadays, especially diversity training, can be very expensive. But we discovered CultureBound training was something that BCA could afford and worth our time and effort. So we first set up an online training and then an in-person training that lasted two days for our staff members and faculty. This was a training that CultureBound specifically designed for our school.
CultureBound shared simple things like how a smile communicates a lot. Oftentimes, we as Americans think that a smile will get us by in any situation — but they gently reminded us that’s not actually true. Smiles can actually communicate different things in different cultures. We often think that a smile is reassuring, but it might actually lend itself to be more confusing.
I’ve already had a few interactions with students this year. So if I am in a serious context, I don’t smile and I actually assert more authority in those cases . . . sometimes more than I’m comfortable with. But the point is that I’m trying to very explicitly show, “This is my time — I’m in control. And I want you to truly understand with no barriers that this is an issue and this is serious.”
Something else that was very revealing for us during the training is we assume that everyone knows what we’re about to say when it comes in the context of instructions. I’ll give an example. We have had students in the past that work as a student aid with a teacher and they are asked to help do chores around the classroom. And they truly didn’t know what it meant to sweep the floor. So we would tell a student to sweep the floor and it doesn’t get done, or it doesn’t get done in the way we think that it should be done.
When in retrospect, there’s probably a great chance that we didn’t actually tell them or show them right, actually watch them do it and to give them guidance. That instruction was really beneficial from the CultureBound training.When we are mixing and meshing so many cultures together, it’s going to be really important that we are as explicit as possible with our words and our actions to avoid any miscommunication that might happen with the subtle cultural differences.
Those are some good examples of tools that CultureBound put in our hands and how we are trying to use them.