Publication Date

2008

Abstract

In the aftermath of Solidarnosc, I moved to Poland to teach English as a Second Language. My intention was to share my native language, English, through teaching, with individuals who were as passionate about language as I was. My impact however was far from the intercultural synergy I had originally imagined. In fact, as I stepped outside of my cultural frame of reference, I came to realize that I played a subtle and unwitting role in cultural dominance as a Westerner inadvertently pushing a viewpoint without regard to the “cultural context” of my Polish hosts. This paper narrates a journey through my understanding of intercultural communication and social justice as a teacher and a trainer. It also documents a teacher training I designed and implemented when I returned to Poland in April 2008.

Teaching in Poland gave me first-hand insight into the testing practices in Polish education. I came to understand that teachers at many educational institutions in Poland tested their students with the intention of failing them. Either their tests did not reflect the coursework they had in class, or were so difficult that students had little chance of passing. I often wondered where this practice originated and its rationale. As it happened, these insights were the genesis of my understanding of my own role as an educator in multiculturalism.

The aim of my training was to raise awareness among a subset of Polish teachers of the unjust practice of failing large numbers of students without understanding student needs, motivations, and identities—in fact, without understanding their own needs, motivations, and cultural context. While the impact of the training on Polish teachers is difficult to gauge, I am convinced that the practice of inclusion and understanding of “the other”—whether in Poland or the United States—is one worth exploring.

Disciplines

International and Intercultural Communication | Teacher Education and Professional Development

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