culture while teaching

Stepping beyond the comfortable boundaries of your cultural routine to can be daunting. Every moment spent outside the door will involve steering through countless daily practices, little traditions, ticks and mannerisms you’ve never encountered. Your norms will be disrupted, your blueprint of everyday expectations altogether redrawn. This process can be confusing; it can be chaotic, but as a teacher you know better than any that exposure to new information is exactly how we grow the most.

Teaching abroad takes your skill at spreading valuable knowledge and applies it in a brand new setting. Find comfort in the fact that fundamentally, you’re still doing what you’re made for; what you love. You’re teaching and inspiring kids. Your personal passion for the job, and the joy you receive from successfully reaching students; these are constant factors no matter where in the world you go. But if you’re hoping to really break through, you’ll have to adjust your strategic approach to demonstrate due respect for your students’ unique way of life. You’ll have to adjust to a different culture.

As someone who has lived, traveled and studied everywhere from England to Nicaragua, I know what it takes to successfully navigate foreign cultures. In the list below you’ll find my lifelong list of tips, tricks and strategies anyone teaching abroad can use to boost student success.

  1. Do a bit of background research – Teachers plan lessons and activites months in advance, so the value of learning a bit about cultural expectations, traditions, and manners before immersing yourself shouldn’t be lost on you.
  2. Get out there, explore! – You’ve got an opportunity to do some serious learning here. Take full advantage, and you will grow exponentially in wisdom and open-mindedness. You’ll see sights, feel reactions and think ideas of which your prior perspective couldn’t imagine, which will make you better at relating your own knowledge.
  3. Take care of yourself – Leaving your homeland doesn’t mean a good sleep schedule and balanced diet become any less essential for your mental and physical health. Keep yourself fueled and rested to keep unnecessary fatigue or health issues from hindering you in and out of the classroom.
  4. Don’t lose touch with home – During your days abroad, it’s likely you’ll feel a bit hollowed without old friends and family close by. They’ll be missing you too, so be sure to keep in touch however you can.
  5. Keep things in cultural perspective – Culture shock can get to us sometimes. Students or others act in a way which might seem odd, detached or downright disrespectful to you, but abroad, it’s always important to consider others’ actions (and any meanings we assign to them) through a cultural lens. What you first took as disrespect or intent to insult could (and often does) originate from a completely different sentiment.

Best of luck in all your teaching endeavors, and if you ever need a refresher on how to fit in far from home, be sure to check out this list!