Special to CSMS MagazinIn a highly diverse classroom with students of many different cultures, communication is going to be the primary problem for teachers and their students. When communication differences are left ignored at the beginning of the school year, they will inevitably lead to various types of miscommunication throughout the year. As a result, conflicts will then erode the school environment and cause many students to feel unwelcome. Communication problems and solutions must be identified to provide a comfortable learning environment for each and every student. To identify cross-cultural communication problems, each teacher must first evaluate his or her own cultural background, to recognize how their biases affect interaction with students from different cultures. Knowing something about different cultures will help teachers understand ways students express themselves (Richardson 2). The second step involves pinpointing the problems that exist in cross-cultural communication. These problems include:
- Language –Language differences are made up of our concepts, experiences, and views. Words with two or more meanings produce different results for different people.
- Values – Values are based upon what is acquired from a particular culture. Quakers value silence, while North Americans value openness.
- Gestures – Hand signals and handshakes can have different meanings to each student. Different meanings impact the communication process a classroom.
- Eye- contact- The teacher has to be tuned in to the message being sent by a student who exhibits direct or indirect eye contact. If ignored, mixed messages will be sent through teacher/student communication.
- Stereotyping- Teachers must avoid using qualifiers that reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes. For example, implying that African American students typically have low verbal skills.
- Symbolism- Be aware of possible negative implications of color symbolism and usage that could offend students or reinforce bias. Terms such as “black magic” or “black market” can be seen as offensive (Richardson 20).
The third step is to remove cross-cultural communication barriers with planned solutions.1. Create mixed groups by occasionally rearranging seating in the classroom2. Create activities were kids could express themselves and their cultures to the rest of the class.3. Group work – include group work which will afford students the opportunity to learn from each other4. Technology and visual aids – use technology and visual aids to share examples from the real world of different cultures5. Words with clear meaning – use examples that translate American idioms into terms understood by everyone. For example, explain that the American idiom “tie the knot” means, “to get married.”6. Parental involvement – plan special activities that include parents. Explain that parental involvement is a tradition in American education and allow parents to share information about their culture (mace.org).In conclusion, cross culture communication is essential in the millennium classrooms. Teachers must strive to provide an equal productive learning environment for all students. Teachers must recognize the different cultures in their classroom, identify potential communication problems, and plan strategies to eradicate such problems (Richardson 3). However, the most important reason for educators to understand cross culture communication is to improve their relations with a diverse group of students, parents they will encounter, and continue equal pedagogy throughout the school systems.ReferencesRichardson, Evette. Cross-Cultural Communication in the Classroom in the New Millennium. Retrieved 2005, April 19 from Norfolk State University, Web site: http://www.bcte.ecu.edu/ACBMITEC/p1999/Richard.htm Using Cross Cultural Communication to Improve Relationships. Retrieved 2005, April, 19 from Web site: http://www.maec.org/cross/5.html