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How to deal with culture clashes in the international classroom

When hiring teachers to teach in an international school, they are coming in to a classroom where many cultures might be coming together. For many of your teachers, this may be their first experience in such a culturally diverse classroom. And an international classroom can pose a unique set of challenges, including culture gaps or clashes. Sometimes, these differences can even make more culturally charged classroom conversations difficult, including racism, gender inequality, and other sensitive topics.

Although some differences may arise from time to time, a diverse student population is something to celebrate. So what can a school’s administration do to bridge these gaps, should they occur?

Read below for some tips on how to support your teachers in dealing with these difficult conversations and culture gaps.

Empower your teachers through great training

There are so many tools that teachers can be offered in order to handle these difficult situations when they arise, and many of these can cost very little. In fact, sometimes, it’s a matter of offering up a mentor to each new teacher to walk them through possible classroom scenarios and give them tips to diffuse any situations that could arise.

Be as specific as possible

A good starting place when you’re offering onboarding training and sensitivity training to your teachers is to be as specific to your community as possible. Don’t offer generalizations — speak specifically to what issues your teachers may deal with. Teachers working in Saudi Arabia will have different conversations with their students than teachers in Korea.

By offering teachers community-specific training, they will likely feel better equipped to engage in their new community using local communication norms.

Encourage teachers to lead by example

This is something important to communicate to your teachers. Students will look to their teacher as a guide for how to conduct themselves in the classroom. If teachers model inclusivity and respect for cultural differences, students may be more inclined to mirror this attitude. Teachers need to be encouraged to take a leadership role.

The classroom should be a safe space for learning

Just as some students shouldn’t feel bullied by others’ opinions, all students should feel free to speak their minds in a culturally sensitive manner.

Teachers can be encouraged to use engaging language cues in their classroom in order to prompt other students to get involved, including, “Interesting opinion. Does anyone else have a thought?” Even encouraging teachers to ask their students to justify their answers by asking ‘why’ can model for students a more inquisitive and curious conversation model.


Give your teachers the practical skills, knowledge and strategies needed to successfully deal with increasing diversity in their classroom with Culturally Responsive Teaching, Teach Away’s online professional development course for educators. Contact us about a special discounted rate for your institution today.

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