Yesterday, I was having a coffee with a colleague, a teacher of French at the same school. We were chatting about many things. But, there was something he said that I thought was really interesting. Making a difference, he said, in this world starts not from a lavish President's or Governor's desk but it starts from the humble desk of a teacher. What this means is that teaching is much deeper than just teaching equations and grammar rules. It is about inspiring, caring, sharing and extending learners' knowledge about life and enlightening their minds.
I know this site is about how to genuinely implement new technologies to help improve the way we teach, assess and involve learners. But, I also know that it is about the quality and essence of teaching in general. So, here is my question/concern: Teaching is not only about the intricacies of a language but it is also about learning to accept others, to try to understand the differences between cultures and see it as an element of enrichment rather than a hindrance. But, what is happening in reality is that we tend to know languages but forget about/ have limited knowledge of those who speak those languages, how they are different and how we should appreciate this difference. I remember that a couple of times in my life I had major "cultural" problems although I am supposed to know some English, because of my lack of "cultural" awareness. Once, I was in England ( It was in the summer of 1996) and this little incident happened to me: I got acquainted with someone who later became a good friend of mine. One day, I met this person's dad and her younger brothers. To show this person I was really glad to meet her family, I stepped forward and kissed the kids. To my big astonishment, the father's and my friend's faces turned red out of embarrassment.Later, I asked my friend about what went wrong and she explained the situation. As strange and inappropriate this may seem to be from a Western perspective, this gesture has nothing wrong about it where I came from. On the contrary, it means you really care about that person. So, I immediately knew that my years of specializing in English at university did nothing to help me in a day to day situation. Things were mended later on as my friend explained it was something "cultural" but it could have been worse. I have been only recently informed that Americans and maybe even Europeans would think you are not trustworthy and unreliable if you would avoid eye contact. Strikingly, in some countries, looking straight into someone's eyes, mainly someone who is older or higher in rank, means that you are impolite and you are being aggressive. The point I am trying to make here is that many teachers have never been to an English speaking country or not long enough and they are teaching English as if it is a language invented by computers: devoid of life and set aside from the native speakers' culture and lives. So, how can I and other teachers help our learners fill this gap? I think it is important as teaching languages can be a great tool to teach people to respect others, to understand them and to accept them (something that politicians have failed to do so far). Are there any suggestions on how I can make my students interact with the "real" people and know about their culture? Are there any places where I can start? maybe things like websites, documentaries, etc... I hope the point I am trying to make is clear. Thanks for taking the time to read this.