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Friday, June 14, 2024

Understanding multicultural gestures can help teachers in our ethnically diverse classrooms

By Tamara GilbertSpecial to CSMS MagazineThere are numerous channels of nonverbal communication: our facial expressions, hand gestures, tone of voice, the human body, and personal space, are just a few. Most important to communication is the facial expression. It is very important for teachers to familiarize themselves with the different non-verbal cues, to be more proficient in classroom settings.The human face is one of which many expressions can be made, then erased, then to be redrawn within an instant with a new expression. It is very easy to misinterpret a facial expression. EXAMPLE: If you are a flight attendant, then you know you are under strong pressure from the airlines to show only positive emotions. This is sometimes a challenge, because not all passengers are cooperative and pleasant. For an Asian traveler, this smiling could be offensive, as they are taught to show no emotion.There are certain American hand gestures, that people from different cultures would define offensive. Most of America is familiar with the thumbs up gesture. (This is where you hold your thumb up and all of your other fingers are closed tight.) Here in America, we consider this as a congratulations, or good job gesture. However, Asian people also use the same thumbs up gesture. The difference is the meaning: screw you. This makes it clear that humans share their lives inter-subjectively through non-verbal communication. The less we know about a culture, the bigger the battle.As a teacher, it is important to understand the way a person behaves as it relates to their culture. Learning about a different culture’s non-verbal cues, helps you gain a better insight on how to reach that student. Specifically, the more time you spend being aggravated by a person’s non-verbal cues, the less you understand them. All teachers should be willing to think outside of the box, as it relates to other cultures and they way they communicate.Common American gestures are:a. Thumbs upb. Nodding the headc. Whistlingd. Wavinge. Eye contactf. Twirling the forefinger near the temple of ear is considered “ Crazy person”g. Little girls playing with baby dollsOther culture responsesh. Thumbs up is considered offensive to Asiansi. Whistling in Europe is unacceptable behaviorj. Eye contact for Native Americans is a form of sexual harassment.k. The crazy person symbol we use is thought of as “ you have a phone call” in Argentina.l. In Haiti, little girls aren’t allowed to play with dolls in fear of them wanting a child for themselves.There are several fascinating meanings behind the gestures we share. Some reflect language, values, and rituals. A competent teacher will become as sensitive as possible to cultural groups other than his or her own.Note: Tamara Gilbert is an education major at Nova Southeastern University.Comment this article or send it to a friend.

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