Cultural Differences in Emotional Expressiveness: WEEK 6 5/29/2018

Teaching English to students from different countries and cultures has been so fun. I have loved my job and my studies. Each morning as I begin my classes with my Chinese students I ask them a simple question: “How are you?” More often than not, I get the answer “I’m fine.” They give me this answer with a straight face. A few months ago, I noticed this emotional unresponsiveness. I decided to do an experiment at the beginning of each of my classes. I wanted to know if their “fine” answers were a cultural answer, or something that all students said because they didn’t have the vocabulary for different emotions. Each class that I teach is a half hour long and each has a different age group and efficiency level.  The ages range from 3-15 years old.

I began the experiment by showing each class different pictures of people showcasing different emotions. Sure enough, most of the students could identify the different emotions. The next week, I began to ask students “how do you feel” instead of “how are you”. At first, students continued to say fine. So I gave them options. This is where I showed them the pictures from the previous week and asked them if they felt what the picture showed. The students began to identify with the photos and answered accordingly. The following week was the big test. I was going to try to get the students to express and show the emotions spontaneously on their face. Most of the students responded with “happy”. So smiles and laughter were my goal. That week, I had the most successful classes that I’ve ever had in my teaching experience. Each of my classes went from straight-faced “fine” kids to giggling, jumping children.

As I think about those weeks, it reminds me that each human experiences emotions, but each cultural doesn’t express them outwardly. In our own teaching, one way that we can help our students show more emotion (if that is the goal), is by building rapport with them and showing them that the classroom is a safe place to “let loose”.asia-1202527_1920

(Picture from http://www.pixabay.com)

 

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