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Pamela Henderson

Culture Questions

1. You are a 4th grade teacher with a new boy in your class from an Arab nation. He speaks
very little English. He is having a problem getting along with the other students. He has fights
on the playground every day, which he seems to provoke by constantly touching the other
The student may be acting out because he is embarrassed or frustrated that he
doesnt understand the language and cant communicate. He might be touching
the other students as a way to play with them and show affection but I would sit
the student down with their parents (if they speak English better) and try to
explain to him that he needs to not touch students in school . Once the student
starts to feel more comfortable and gets more familiar with the language his
behavior should become better.

2. You have a new Korean girl in your 4th grade class. The other students in your class dont want
to sit next to her because they say she smells funny. You have a bad allergy and cant tell. She
appears to be a clean, well-dressed child and you dont understand your students objections.
This smell may be because of the diet of the student. Because of the use of spices such as
those found in kimchi the student may smell different than American students even though
they are clean. This can all be seen with students from different countries such as India. I
think this is great opportunity to have the Korean student bring in some of their traditional
food and share it with the class and maybe teach a lesson on diversity.

3. You are a 3rd grade teacher who is having a parent conference with parents of an Asian
student in your class. You explain to the parents that the child needs to spend more time
working on his homework. The parents keep nodding and saying yes as you explain your
reasons. You are disappointed when there doesnt seem to be any follow-up on the parents
One of biggest things to know about Asian culture is the expectation of respect. You respect
your elders, and you respect your teachers. These parents might not speak a lot of English but
they still want to respect the teacher and show that they care and are attentive. Education in
Asia is valued above almost everything else so parents are extremely involved and care it just
may not come across to an American who is not familiar with their culture. In situations like
this it is best to learn about the culture and ask questions and not just assume based off your

4. You are a 5th grade teacher who is using a lot of cooperative learning strategies in your
classroom. In the middle of the year you get a new Arab boy in your class. The student
doesnt follow any of the rules you have explained through a bilingual classmate. He is very
disruptive in your class.
In Arab countries schooling is very traditional and often relies solely on the rote-memorizing
style of learning which could be difficult for students to come to American schools where
critical thinking is emphasized more. Also although there have been many advances in
equality and opportunities for women in these countries; they are still very conservative and
male students may not appreciate a female teacher as much as a male and may act out in
class. Many older students do not feel the need to study hard because boys have jobs in the
army or police waiting for them and women are expected to marry making motivation
difficult to obtain sometimes.

5. You are a 6th grade teacher with your first student from China. She came with an excellent
report card from her school in China. She is outstanding in math but cant seem to learn to
The linguistic and cultural differences between Chinese and American people are great and
Chinese students who come to the US face a lot of difficulties. Mandarin is very different from
English so students may struggle with reading and writing at first and may struggle to learn.
Teachers should be aware that Chinese parents and students value education greatly and are
used to a very competitive education environment so adjusting to western learning styles will
take time and patience. The teacher need to be aware of these differences so that they can try
new teaching strategies to help the students learn in the best way possible for them. I would use
books in different languages for her to support their learning and see if I can get her in an ELL

6. You are Ms. Smith, a 3rd grade teacher. You dont think your new student from Egypt is
placed in the correct grade. You set up a meeting with the parents to discuss placing the child
correctly. The students father comes in to see you but doesnt seem to take your concerns
His seemingly lack of concern for what this teacher deems a problem may be in part because in
NA the teacher is regarded as the know all when it comes to education and are held in very
high regard. The father may just think the teacher knows what is best and should make the
decision herself. For this situation I would maybe discuss with the student and the counselor
what grade they think the student should be in and then see if both parents can come in and you
can suggests your solution and come to a conclusion about what you should do moving
7. You are a first-grade teacher. A Korean student comes into your class in April. During a
discussion of age and birthdays, this student says that she is 8 years old. The other students
in your class are turning seven. The office tells you that she has been correctly placed.
In the Korean culture they say that a child is one when they are born meaning the
student is 7 by American but 8 in their Korean age. This is a great time to have the
student talk about their culture and why they do that and share with the class to bring
diversity into the class and expose the other students to a different culture.

8. Guadelupe is a smiling 3rd grader from Argentina. She seems well-mannered and eager
to please. However, when you speak to her she refuses to look at you.
In some countries it is a sign of disrespect to look a teacher or person of higher standing
in the eyes so by this student keeping her gaze down she is showing you respect. If this
really bothers you, you could tell her that it is ok and not disrespectful to look you in the
eyes while youre talking but I think for the most part this is a harmless practice that the
student learned from their culture and means no ill will from it.
9. You are a 4th grade teacher who wants to write a quick note home to an ESL students
family. You pick up the red pen that you use to mark papers and write the note. When you
hand the note to the student, she looks upset.
In a lot of countries red pen has a negative connotation and means the student did something
wrong so writing this note in red could signify that the student is in trouble and that is why
they are upset when they see it. I would be aware of this as a teacher and make a conscious
effort to only use black or blue pens when writing the parent.

10. The Japanese mother of one of your 1st graders picks up her child every day at your door.
You are upset because this mother seems unfriendly. She never smiles at you and you
wonder if you have done something to offend her.
In many cultures such as the Japanese culture teachers are highly respected individuals
and the teacher not smiling may not be a sign of upset but a sign of respect. I would ask
the parent if I did anything to offend them and if they say no I would invite the parent to
come have tea with me some time to discuss their student and get to know the parent.

11. Haitian brothers Jean-Baptiste and Jean-Pierre are often late for school. They are also each
absent about once a week but on different days.
The brothers might be helping their parents with work or some other family related reason. I
would talk to the brothers and ask them what is going on and explain to them that it is
important that the attend school as much as possible and depending on their reason for
missing I would also schedule a meeting with their parents.

12. Your new Kurdish student seems to be sick all the time. He is lethargic and doesnt seem
to even try to learn what you are teaching him.
This student may be having a hard time adjusting to life in America and may be homesick
for his friends and extended family. I would talk to him and ask what is bothering him and
then I could invite his family to class to share some of their culture and hopefully make
the student a little less homesick and feel more comfortable.

13. A Russian student, who has learned English and is able to do much of the work in your 4th
grade classroom, copies work from other students during tests. When you talk to him about
this, he doesnt seem at all contrite. His parents act like youre making a big deal about
In the Russian education system there is a high tolerance for cheating so this student may not
think there is anything wrong with his actions. I would schedule a meeting with the student
and their parents and explain to them that cheating isnt tolerated and the student should
complete their own work. If that does not help I could set up different testing policies such as
using dividers when the students test.

14. You have a Puerto Rican student in the 3rd grade who speaks English fluently. She
participates orally in your classroom and socializes well with her peers. She even translates for
other students. However, she is doing very poorly in her content area schoolwork.
This student may not have a lot of written language skills. She seems to have mastered
language but may need help with writing. I would talk to the student and see why she thinks
she is not doing very well and then come up with a plan to help her improve.
15. Your 4th grade Malaysian student seems to be very good at Math. He gets 100 on his
spelling tests. No one in your class knows the names of the state capitals better than he does.
However, he seems to have a hard time comprehending a simple reading passage.
In the southeastern countries of Asia, memorization is taught as the means of teaching. This
student is probably struggling with critical thinking and analyzing material as opposed to just
memorizing spelling or math. I would talk to the student and see what they think and then
develop a plan to teach critical thinking. This is an aspect that a lot of student struggle with
not just ELL students so instruction would benefit all the students.

16. Some of your most advanced ESL students do not understand many of the geometric
concepts which are taught in American classrooms starting in kindergarten.
These students may not have had any experience with geometry in their previous
education and now they are in a new place trying to learn the language and customs and
are being introduces to a completely foreign concept. I would be more explicit with my
instruction and not just assume everyone has the same background knowledge.
Manipulates and vocabulary banks are good ways to support students.
17. Thi Lien is a new student from Viet Nam. She seems bright and alert but gets no help from
home. The papers you send home are still in her backpack the next day. Important
correspondence is never acknowledged. She doesnt do homework and forgets to bring
back library books. Her home life appears to be very disorganized.
In Vietnam the teachers are considered the heads of the classroom and do not encourage
discussion or speaking out. Because of this parents may think that communication with
the teacher is not expected or allowed which may lead to this miscommunication. Parents
from Vietnam value education like all parents and may respond well to a parent teacher
meeting where the teacher explains that the students have take home work or books and
that they must be brought back. Also explaining that to the student once you are more
comfortable with each other would be helpful as well. According to the text playing
games with your ELL students is a good way to help them learn emotions and having
them act out emotions on a card using made-up words forces them to look at facial
expressions to communicate.

18. Pablo is a well-mannered boy from Colombia. He insists on calling you Teacher
instead of your name which you are sure he knows.
In many south American countries the teacher is highly respected and the teacher is
called maestra or profesora as a sign of respect. The student is showing respect in the
way their culture taught them. The only problem this could cause is if the teacher wasnt
aware of this culture and thought the student was disrespecting them by not using their
name. The teacher could just sit the student down if this bothered them and explain that
he/she would like to be called by their name.

19. Hung is a bright ESL student in your 3rd grade class. He listens to you attentively and
follows directions well. However, he is very rude when a classmate is speaking. He either
talks to his neighbor or daydreams. He never joins in any class discussions.
Many ELL students are not accustom to class discussion and collaborating with other students.
Direct instruction about your expectations for discussion is important for all students not just
ELL students and following through with these expectations is vital.
20. You are a 3rd grade teacher. Your new student speaks Arabic. He seems to hold his pencil in
a very clumsy way and has a great deal of difficulty even copying work in English.
In the Arab culture they write their letters the opposite way than English speakers do which
makes re-learning how to write very difficult. The student is not only learning a new language
but they also are learning how to re-write. I would be patient with this student and offer them
more help from other students and suggest he practices at home. It will take time for him to
learn but it doesnt mean he isnt smart or doesnt understand the material.
21. Maria is a Mexican student whose attendance in your 6th grade class is very poor. It is
affecting her academic performance. After an absence of several days, you ask her why she
was out and she explains that her aunt was sick and her family went to help her. Although you
explain the importance of good attendance in school, the same thing happens a few weeks
later. You wonder if Marias family considers education important.
Like every parent, Mexican American parents value education and want the best for their
children. In Mexico teachers are seen as the experts when it comes to their childrens
education so they often may come off as uninvolved but they really are just showing their
respect for the teachers expertise in their students education. The text book says that
teachers can get Mexican American parents involved more by asking their opinion and
input in their students education or even inviting their parents to come into class and tell
stories about their culture to create a relationship with the class.

22. Mei, a new student from China, is scheduled to begin your 4th grade class in the middle of the
school year. On the day she registers, she is introduced to your class and shown where she
will sit. She is to begin school the next morning. You arrive in your classroom at 7:45 a.m. for
a day that begins at 8:30. Mei is waiting at her desk in the dark. The custodian tells you that she
arrived at 7:00 a.m.
In China as well as lots of other Asian countries school is taken very seriously and determines if
the student will get into a university and be successful. Mei is used to beginning school early
with extra practice or just longer hours so explaining to her and her parents that she doesnt need
to show up early is important.

23. Korean parents bring you a gift because you have helped their child. You open it and thank
them profusely for their generosity. The parents look uncomfortable.
In Korea respect of people of higher rank is extremely important and it is expected to
show respect to these people. They probably feel uncomfortable that you showed such
gratitude for the gift since it is expected of them. I would attempt to develop a positive
relationship with the parents by showing them the respect they deserve as well and
engaging them in parent conferences.
24. You notice that a Muslim child in your classroom refuses to take a sheet of paper from a
classmate. This isnt the first time this has occurred.
The student handing the child a paper may be handing it to them with their left hand and in the
Muslim culture that is extremely disrespectful. I would invite the parents in to share some of their
culture and maybe food with the class and they can explain the customs that go along with
handing someone something.

25. You have applied for a cultural trip for teachers to China. You know that you will be meeting
other teachers along the way. You buy small gifts for them and wrap them in white tissue
paper. At your first stop during the trip the recipients of your gifts upset.
In some Asian cultures white represents death so these people may have been upset by your
use of white tissue paper. I would be aware of different cultures values and beliefs and just
talk to them and apologize for anything that might have upset them.

26. Thu is a 6th grade girl from Thailand. She becomes hysterical when the other girls tease her by
playfully mussing up her hair. Her parents have to come to school and take her home. While
you understand her need to look tidy, you think she has over-reacted.
Well first off I dont think it is anybodys place to decide what gets to upset someone else. To
this student their culture is being tidy and looking put together so the other students teasing her
was a really disrespectful experience for her. I would talk to the student and apologize and
have her maybe share some of her customs and culture with the class so the other students can
be exposed to something different than them and see that something you think is no big deal
could really upset someone else.

27. During a parent conference, you tell the parents of your Colombian ESL student that their
child is having difficulty in learning English. You suggest that they only speak English in their
home. The parents look confused. When you relay this conversation to the ESL teacher in
your school, she is very upset.
While this suggestion may have come from a genuine place the teacher basically told the
parents to assimilate and get rid of their culture. Most everyone, especially people from South
America, are extremely proud of their country and language and culture and while they want
to succeed in America it is important for them to maintain their culture. I would instead
suggest the parents get a tutor for the student to help them learn outside of class or even
suggest they try reading books in English some to practice.

28. You are a 4th grade teacher. You have a friendly boy in your class from the Dominican
Republic. He speaks very little English in the classroom and doesnt seem to be making
much progress. When you give him directions, he seems to be confused. You are sure he is
putting one over on you by pretending not to understand because you have heard him
speak with the other children on the playground.
Just because the student can speak with students on the playground doesnt mean he has the
academic vocabulary needed to understand everything going on in class. I would help this
student with academic language and maybe offer more pictures and other ways of explaining
things so he can improve his vocabulary.

29. You are a fourth-grade math teacher. Ayumi is one of the brightest students in your class.
She has been in the country for 2 years and it is obvious her background in math is superb.
She cannot seem to understand the units on fractions. You dont know what to think.
In Japan and many other countries fractions are read differently than in the US. This may be why
Ayumi is struggling so hard understanding the American form of fractions. I would use lots of
manipulative and different ways of explaining and solving these problems and work with the student
to find the way that helps her best.

30. As a reward for good work in your class you give students a packet of 4 pencils with
decorative erasers. Your Japanese students take two and leave two behind.
The student may feel as though four pencils is excessive and that they dont need that
many and want to share with other students. I dont see any harm in this and would
suggest the student puts the other two pencils in the class supply box if they dont want
31. Jean Pierre is a 5th grade student from Haiti. Your class is studying long division. Jean-
Pierre hands in his completed paper in a short time. You are upset because he has not
completed the work. There is no work showing. You think the problem is written
backwards. Maybe the student has a perceptual problem.
1593 r 035
In many different cultures people write from right to left and solve problems differently than in the
US. I would talk to this student and have them solve a problem in front of you to make sure they
actually understand the work and then ask them how they write their solutions so you understand.
As long as the student understands the work and you can understand their solutions and how they
got it letting them solve their problems the way they want is ok while theyre learning because
there is lots of different things they have to learn.
32. An Egyptian student in your 3rd grade class is a good math student but becomes
disruptive when you teach a math lesson using math manipulative.
Many countries have teacher centered learning and not much participation from the
students so this student may view the use of manipulates as play time. I would talk to
the student and ask why they were so disruptive and explain to them that manipulates
are used to explain problems in a visual way.

33. You have a new 3rd grade student from Bosnia. During recess time, the child hides under
and bench and cannot be persuaded to come out.
This student may have been exposed to violence when they lived in Bosnia that causes
them to be fearful of outside play and large groups of students. I would talk to the
student and see if they feel comfortable telling me what is wrong and then I would
schedule a meeting with the parents to discuss what might have caused the student to be
so fearful. Some solutions to this could be having the student stay with a teacher inside
during recess or staying in the office if no teacher is available until the student feels
safe being outside.

34. You have new sixth grade student from Asia. The student appears to have an attitude from the
first day. Now he is out of his seat fooling around and youve just motioned to him to come
over to talk to you. He glares at you and seems even more angry. What happened?
In Asia you dont motion people to come to you because it is disrespectful and what
you do to animals. I would apologize to this student about your disrespectful action and
then talk to him about why he is being disruptive and see if you can come to a solution
together. Asians are very respectful of their elders and if this students behavior doesnt
improve mentioning this to their parents would probably be very effective.

35. As your second-grade class lines up for a field trip, you count your students as you walk
down the line touching each of them on the head. You notice that several students pull
back from you.
People in a lot of cultures dont like to be touched especially on the head so being
aware of this so you dont upset anyone is important. I would devise a new counting
method that doesnt include touching the students.

36. You take photographs of your students working in small groups for a Back to School
Night. The grandmother of one of your Chinese students is very upset when she sees
your photo of her granddaughter.
In China it is disrespectful to photograph other people without their permission and the
grandmother might be confused why youre taking pictures and why you didnt ask before.
I would talk to the grandmother and try to explain why Im taking the picture and then ask
her permission if its ok to take the picture.

37. You signal O.K. by making a O with your thumb and forefinger to a student who has
done a good job. Your 8th grade newcomer from Brazil looks very shocked.
In different cultures hand signals mean different things, for example this student may take
the ok sign as signaling an asshole. Being aware of these cultural differences and then
talking with your students is important in maintaining respect in the classroom and not
upsetting people.