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April 02, 2005

Workplace Issues - Are You Struggling With This, Too?

Hello everyone,

Boy, do I feel like a heel! Your comments about the student who comes to visit me were nothing like I expected! It seems that everyone is light-years of me on this subject. It never even occurred to me that this guy wanted more than just to practice his English and develop a friendship--but some of you saw other motives.

Did I mention that I'm blonde?

Thanks for all of your comments. You will be happy to know that . . .

. . . I have set clear boundaries with this student, and haven't had a knock on my door in days. Whew.

On to other things.

I have a few really bright students, and they keep current with the happenings in the U.S. Last week, several of them sparked conversations about the women who was dying because her husband pulled the feeding tube, despite her own parent's wishes. Now, I have some pretty strong opinions about the situation, and they aren't necessarily in line with the judicial system of my beloved country.

But when my more advanced students wanted to have a conversation/debate about the situation, I felt myself instantly become guarded. It was difficult to listen to them speak about the U.S. with utter contempt and disgust in regards to the actions taken by the judges.

Even though I am literally torn-apart by what happened, it was still difficult to hear people speak so coldly of my country. To be perfectly honest, I half-way agree with many things that they said, but something inside of me recoiled at hearing someone who had never experienced the positive things about my country completely tear it apart.

In most instances, I quickly changed the subject.

Have you ever felt like that? It's almost the same as being able to talk about the bad things a member of your family has done, but watch out if someone else agrees and then adds their own observations to the conversation!

To be honest, I am not only struggling with what happened, but my feelings toward my country, as well. Help! Is anyone else feeling like this?

Until next time,


Posted by msimmons at April 2, 2005 02:58 PM

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Hello Again

I assume that you are not in a teaching situation right now and that your letters are simply designed to stimulate debate. Nevertheless, I don't mind contributing.

I liked the bit about being blonde. You are a tease.

Unless you are teaching in a western country, then it is unwise to discuss with the students or the natives, for that matter, anything that might be controversial. Such as religion and politics, unless you agree with everything they say. Never criticise their lifestyle, even if they criticise you and/or your country. Many of these countries' inhabitants have a third world mentality and it is just impossible to reason with them and therefore, it is better that you don't try. It can be quite a culture shock going to a third world country amd if you can't put up with it, then leave before it effects your health.

Posted by: kenneth at April 3, 2005 07:07 PM

Hi Michelle,

I read your comments, regarding student's negative comments made about the U.S. Well, many see their traditions, etc. being replaced by what they feel are forced, Western traditions. And, unfortunately true in many cases.

When in a foreign country, you can not escape negative comments, regarding the Western way of life. Xenophobia exists in all countries, and inspite of America being a melting pot, it is no exception.

If you found the comments troublesome, you can take a couple courses of action. Insist on no negative comments in the classroom, but it will greatly limit your options. Or, let the students speak and ignore what bothers you. You can get some great classroom discussion out of controversial subjects, just put yourself into the group with whose opinion you agree.

I have long since gotten use to students stating Americans are fat, then, since I am smaller than most of them, they are instantly embarrassed. I do point out that according to the WHO, 64% of American's are overweight. Facts are handy, because the issue does not become personal.

Please note, the following is not meant personally, just basic advice, I give everyone. Getting the most out of your ESL experience is simple...it is wrong to go into another country and complain about how different things are than home. Learn what you can, demonstrate through example, and be a good citizen.

Warmest regards,


Posted by: Christina Rick at April 4, 2005 09:12 PM

Dear Michelle

I read your journal with a mixture of despair and sadness. Why do you deny your students the freedom of expression? Is it because you fear that they will expose your prejudices?

You have the most wonderful opportunity to meet others with ideas and opinions which differ from your own, to learn of their culture and traditions.

Listening is an art and a skill.

Why can you not learn to embrace their views with tolerance and interest? It is no wonder that so many thinking and intelligent people fear and despise America and what it stands for. Just look at your own behaviour and reactions for a moment. You appear to be a prime example of the brain-washed and inconsiderate and such an approach will merely endorse their already negative opinion.
Being blonde is no excuse for intolerance and prejudice.


Posted by: sally at April 6, 2005 07:39 PM

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