Cultural Challenge

Today I learned that Russian students should be afraid of their teachers.

It all started when I was giving a test to a group of teenagers.  I left the room to make some photo copies and one of the administrators told me I should go back in and sit with them, to make sure they don’t cheat and to simply watch them.  Now I’ve previously written about cheating as a cultural difference and I’ve come to accept it.  So needless to say I was surprised to hear this.  I figured I couldn’t keep them from cheating so what difference would it make if I left the room for a few minutes.

But later I was told that students should be afraid of their teachers, that I should be strict with them, even going so far as to take away their books if they are cheating.  Now, I know it must be a cultural difference but it was really difficult for me to wrap my head around this idea.  In my experience, teachers are to be respected, not feared.  They make great mentors, are a wealth of knowledge and relationships with them should be positive.  Since becoming a teacher I’m glad to say that I have developed pretty good relationships with almost all my students and I believe we have a great rapport.

However I do see the value to this, especially with teenagers who have come to expect strict teachers.  So, if I’m not strict, they may not respect me and will see this as an opportunity to take advantage of me and my kindness.  But still, I find it difficult to treat them in a way that I perceive as mean or strict.  But then I suddenly realized that this is a cultural challenge for me.  I can experience firsthand what it’s like to step outside your comfort zone and do something different, to change your culture.  This is one of the few times it’s actually felt uncomfortable to do so, yet I look forward to the challenge.  Unfortunately the school nearly year is over so there isn’t a lot of time to implement changes in my behaviour, but we’ll see what next year holds.

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