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Ethnic tensions in adult classes 
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:38 am
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Location: Italy
Post Ethnic tensions in adult classes
I'm in Italy. I have a class comprising about two thirds Italians and one third Romanians. The Italians mostly have a low opinion of the Romanians (despite that fact that's it's not so long ago that millions of Italians went to the USA for much the same reasons Romanians are coming here now) and the Romanians are understandably unimpressed by the attitude of the Italians.

The atmosphere in the classroom is getting more and more unpleasant, and it makes teaching very difficult.

I'm really not having a good time with them. Any suggestions?

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Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:07 am
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Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:52 am
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Location: Italy
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I'm in Italy too, and have a couple of Albanians in one class. The Italians act like they're not there. Grow up, Italian students. It's not 1960 any more. Multiculturalism is here to stay.


Sat Mar 15, 2008 7:02 am
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
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Location: Nagano, Japan
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Tough situation. :?

I'm sure they are aware of what they are doing, but what if you did a lesson about descrimination of some other group somewhere else. Talk about why one group is persecuted and have them discuss what would be best. Then turn it around and ask what kinds of descrimination occurs in Italy. And then ask if that happens even in classrooms.

I'm sure they'd see right through it, but maybe they'd see that their actions are bothering you.

Another option is to maybe do a lesson about similarities. Try to get them to find similarities between individuals in the class. Choose your topics wisey (not what language do you speak at home ;) )
- sports
- where they live
- work place
- foods the like
- things they do on weekends
- cars they drive
- entertainers they like
...

Then try to point out that Italians and Romanians aren't that different after all.

Too corny?

I think just doing something that shows them the situation is bothering you might be enough. If not, maybe split them up and charge them more because they can't work together! That ought to spark some cooperation and group unity. They'll all be mad at you.

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Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:51 pm
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Joined: Sat Oct 21, 2006 8:16 am
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I am with Mark. I think the key is to find some common ground, even if it is a favorite food or sport. Getting them onto a neutral playing field will help them to see each other as individuals. Even if no one overcomes their racism, the racism won't be an immediate issue with a person seen as an individual.

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Sun Mar 16, 2008 1:33 am
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Joined: Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:04 am
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Location: Chatan, Okinawa, JA
Post 
mesmark wrote:
Tough situation. :?

I'm sure they are aware of what they are doing, but what if you did a lesson about descrimination of some other group somewhere else. Talk about why one group is persecuted and have them discuss what would be best. Then turn it around and ask what kinds of descrimination occurs in Italy. And then ask if that happens even in classrooms.

I'm sure they'd see right through it, but maybe they'd see that their actions are bothering you.

Another option is to maybe do a lesson about similarities. Try to get them to find similarities between individuals in the class. Choose your topics wisey (not what language do you speak at home ;) )
- sports
- where they live
- work place
- foods the like
- things they do on weekends
- cars they drive
- entertainers they like
...

Then try to point out that Italians and Romanians aren't that different after all.

Too corny?

I think just doing something that shows them the situation is bothering you might be enough. If not, maybe split them up and charge them more because they can't work together! That ought to spark some cooperation and group unity. They'll all be mad at you.


What mark said...

I personally would go in the order Mark set it out as well. First try to do the discrimination type lesson, then do the similarities lesson. Also, make them uncomfortable by pairing up Romanians with Italians. This can help break boundaries if they are forced to work together (much like American History X).


Mon Mar 17, 2008 10:27 am
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Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2007 8:57 pm
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There a some great cross-cultural type activities.

One involves stickers. You give a different colored sticker to each person. However there number for each color is different.
For example you only have 2 of one color (ie green). You have to be careful who you give these to. I would choose good-natured students of the MAJORITY group. Then proceed as usual. Only when you make groups, the green group is somehow left out. (ie there aren't enough handouts, they get the leftover cards that are missing a few words etc) Then after awhile discuss what happened. Did they even notice? Did anyone offer another alternative, Why or why not? Did anyone mention the unfairness? How did the two people with the green sticker feel? What about the others?

There is another game that involves smaller groups a a deck of cards. If you are interested please PM me.

As for talking in groups, I agree with finding out about them as individuals. I would shy away from favorite foods, music and sometimes sports as you may find they are divided again by cultural groups. Instead give them a questionnaire and find out what they are good at. For each class have a discussion on that topic and make it a point to make that student a superstar, kind of building a separate personality for that class.
I would choose the person most likely to influence (for good or bad) the class atmosphere, and then in subsequent classes focus on another student. Make it clear that in your class ALL students are the BEST and that you won't tolerate any negative comments.

It's a difficult situation. You would think that students would grow out of it, but sometimes adults are harder to teach in this aspect than children. sigh.....


Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:25 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:38 am
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Location: Italy
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Those are all really good ideas - thanks!

I didn't mention that these lessons are free. Maybe if the students were paying for them they'd value them more, and not spoil them with their petty prejudices. Also they seem to have forgotten that I'm a volunteer, and can unvolunteer if I want to. In fact I wouldn't do that, but maybe I should remind them I can...

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Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:05 pm
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