International faculty members may face challenges in teaching beyond those of other faculty members due to the differences in culture and pedagogical methods. Here are some suggestions for overcoming some of these obstacles:
The US classroom culture can be vastly different from the classroom culture where you are from. Students normally have different expectation than international faculty when it comes to behavior in the classroom, questioning authority, and speaking up for themselves. In order to mediate this, you need to:
1. Know what to expect from the students.
American students expect to be recognized as individuals and know that their professors are approachable. Be polite and patient with your students. Seek informal conversations with them before or after class, and even during office hours. Stanford’s International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) wrote a very interesting article, Teaching in the US Classroom, on teaching experiences from a foreign educator’s viewpoint. Reading this will give you a firmer grasp on how students may act in the classroom and how you should respond to them.
2. Set your expectations.
You may be surprised at how informal students are with professors. They may call you by your first name, or ask a question that may appear to challenge you while you are teaching. In most cases, this is not an indication of lack of respect. If you are uncomfortable with this, it is okay to set expectations. You may tell your class what to call you, or tell them to leave questions till the end of class.
Interactions with your colleague and students
Teaching in a foreign language presents multiple challenges, from communicating complex ideas to having students having a hard time understanding your accent. Take advantage of whatever teaching-related faculty development workshops that Bryn Mawr offers. Bryn Mawr has a Language Learning Center in Canaday Library and an ESL program in the Writing Center that you may seek help from. In addition, you may also want to include periodic classroom assessments to help you to assess whether students understand what you are saying –whether they are struggling with a complex idea or an unfamiliar accent.
You may also find it difficult to interact with colleagues due to your busy schedule. Take opportunities to attend department social events whenever you can. Share your experiences and listen to theirs. From this, you will not only learn more about your fellow colleagues, you will also gain allies that may be of help when it comes to discussion of effective teaching methods.
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