Bosnian Interviews

What background information would have been helpful prior to your student teaching experience?

    More information on the culture and educational expectations the students brought with them. Also the difference between Croatian and Bosnian - I ran into some conflicts within the classroom that could have been avoided had I known the strong emotions. (MJ)

    I believe that having acquired a basis of their language before entering the teaching environment would have been extremely helpful! It would have also been helpful to first meet with the parents to hear their expectations of the classroom environment and instruction. (AMR)

    I had researched the war and knew what had happened there, but I knew very little about their culture including how women were treated and the Islamic religion. Being ethnocentric I assumed they were Christians and was really confused when they said Christmas was not in December. (TAS)

    I feel I could have benefited from a little more cultural awareness training. One thing that was helpful was Human relations class, however this was halfway into student teaching! I could have been helped also by more exposure to various ESL programs and classroom experience. I felt only partially prepared to teach in a classroom. (AM)

Were there any behaviors, specific to the culture, that are different from your own (i.e. eye contact, gestures, etc.)?

    With the Bosnians I really can’t recall anything. (MJ)

    They seemed to be more community based. There were a lot of little kids around and all of the adults disciplined them like they were their own children. The students depend more on each other for help than the teacher. (TAS)

    In Bosnian culture I have found few things that are different from our own. The largest difference I have found is that they are a more physical and affectionate culture, in public and private. All people are affectionate, males and females hold hands, kiss cheeks, etc. They are a much more caring culture and more willing to show affection publicly. (AM)

Did you find things that could be considered culturally inappropriate?

    Some of my students hate being "rewarded" physically for good work with a pat on the back or a hug. (AMR)

    [When visiting families in their homes] they always offered me a lot of things to eat and drink, and they always seemed really insulted when I only wanted water. (TAS)

    I found few things that are inappropriate for the Bosnian culture. [They] were minor. For example, women are not viewed as equal or even close to males. I qualify as an exception because I am a teacher. The other thing is that I am a single parent and this is viewed as a culturally inappropriate behavior/action. I have not been told in so many words, or actions. However, this is a big no-no in Bosnian culture and could be offensive or an issue to the families of my students. (AM)

Do you think that student teaching at a site serving Bosnian students helped prepare you for future teaching assignments? If so, how?

    Yes, I did. It prepared me for a class of monolanguage (native) speakers. I do think it would have been better to have more language backgrounds in one class - it would help me to prepare for difficult situations. (MJ)

    I think that this teaching experience has definitely helped me prepare. It has taught me that ESL [English as a Second Language] teaching is a cooperative learning experience in which the students, parents, and teachers all participate in the teaching and learning process. Teaching is more than just language, it is a partnership where both sides share themselves. (AMR)

    It helps because it is actual hands-on stuff in an ESL classroom, but a couple of the teachers have not been trained as ESL teachers and the regular classroom teachers and a principal seem very intolerant like they wish these kids would have never shown up and disrupted their lives. (TAS)

    I feel working with a culture different from your own is good preparation to work with other cultures. Student teaching helped prepare me, in that I incorporated each individual culture and language into my lessons as often as possible. I often showed example between languages and cultures and we pointed out differences too. Student teaching in a culturally diverse school was very helpful in getting my current position teaching ESL. It also helped me by allowing me to view different teaching styles and a variety of teaching materials! (AM)

What is missing? Please include any other information that might assist a person preparing to teach at a site serving Bosnian students.

    I decided not to have my classroom very grammar oriented and have a more relaxed atmosphere. We talked about history, drivers license (study for it), citizenship, and culture.  The students didn’t really care for this at first they were frustrated because they felt they weren’t learning anything. [Later on] they found out it really was fun and they did learn something. (MJ)

    Go in with an open mind, leave stereotypes at the door because the students will disprove them anyway!

    Ask members of the students’ community to help out in your class as interpreters or aids. They bring prior knowledge of the group and act as a bridge between you and your class. They are also great role models!

    A great way to help the American students to "adapt" is to have the ESL students or other community members share their culture with them. The children will get along better if they understand where each is coming from. (AMR)

    I feel that in order to be successful in teaching a culturally diverse population you must be open-minded, be willing to learn about other cultures and beliefs and be accepting of differences in people and cultures. I think these are important qualities and if you lack one then you should not teach ESL. All cultures are different and that is the excitement of teaching ESL. Teaching is exciting and it is an adventure. My advice is to be open to change and willing to learn because the teacher learns as much as the students, and that’s the fun of it. That and the students! (AM)