Every classroom speaks a question. For me, my classroom is asking about cultural. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that different cultures have different “value” around the world. As a teacher at an international school in a Middle Eastern country, I daily encounter people with differing values working in the same place. The majority of students are local, while most of my colleagues are North American. Despite being taught by North American individuals, the majority of students are not native English speakers and are alien to most North American cultural norms.
Because of my daily encounters, I started to reflect on how a local culture can be treated in an international school. In our K-12 school, American and Canadian teachers deliver a North American curriculum to students. With such an emphasis on North America culture, how can we expect the school to help local students develop a native cultural identity or viewpoint? Although we are encouraged to integrate local content into our lessons, the task is far easier for some than other. How can we expect teachers to integrate local culture when they just moved here from North America, with little background or experience?
I have gone to school and lived in this region for 20 years. My experience has given me the following insight: I worry that a cumulative cultural dissonance over the years could lead to identity crises and low levels of self-esteem for these students. Thankfully, my and many other schools have begun to take steps to remedy this issue by seriously teaching local history and Arabic on a daily basis - but there is still a long way to go.
As someone with ties to both American and local culture, I feel a stronger burden to integrate the two. Can I guide my students to successfully navigate between both identities? Can I base lessons on a foreign curriculum and still help them maintain their native cultural identities with confidence and ease? As a teacher-researcher, this is the question I wrestle with this year. What question speaks out of your classroom?
Imaan Murteza is a 3rd grade teacher in Saudi Arabia. She chose to teach internationally because she believes that helping students, especially expatriates, understand the complexity of who they are goes a long way in helping them understand others' points of view and fostering an international mindset. Her happiest teaching moments are when her VERY international class is able to respectfully discuss international events from multiple perspectives.