In adult education as well as in society as a whole, the mix of people from different ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds is growing. This enriches classroom discussion and provides a wealth of experience for the teacher to draw on. However, it can lead to antagonism and misunderstanding, often because of lack of knowledge about each other's culture.
Birgitta is 47 years old and lives in a village which has experienced an increase in shoplifting and burglary. This has occurred at the same time that the number of immigrants in the village has increased and the perception amongst some people is that the immigrants are to blame.
In an adult class Birgitta meets her neighbour, Ali 21, who is an immigrant. She openly shows her hostility and refuses to co-operate with him. She also spreads accusations about him in the classroom.
The slander increases and Ali feels attacked and unjustly treated. He feels picked on and he complains to you.
- Can you think of a group exercise in which Birgitta and Ali could work together in a positive way?
- Is there a way this incident can be related to the course content so that there might be a general discussion about discrimination and stereotypes?
- Have you thought about discreet ways of approaching Birgitta?
- How might you discuss the situation with her so that she does not become hostile?
- What might you say to alert her about her behaviour and make her realise it is unacceptable?
- What can you say to Ali to ease his discomfort with the situation?
- Is there a way of bringing the two students together outside of the class to discuss the situation?
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