12 year old Farah started school in Luxembourg. She is the only migrant student in her class. After about a month of special attention from the teacher, the teacher expects her to do her tasks within a small working group.
Farah: Yesterday we were asked to make a presentation about animals. We had to sit in small groups and I was excited at first: “Nice! What animal wants the teacher us to talk about?” But then she didn’t say anything! The children in my group shouted. “My dog!,” says one, “No, my cat!” says another, and one of the girls wanted to talk about her beautiful pony. I looked at the teacher but she was doing something else. Why didn’t she just tell us what to do? These children think they know it, but they don’t. I felt lonely and I missed my cat Dibah that is still in Syria.
Teacher: Farah is starting to catch up, she’s a nice girl. Yesterday I asked them to make a presentation about animals. It was good to see that the children started to contribute ideas in their groups. I’ve let them talk to each other and sort themselves out. Farah was a bit quiet though, she seemed absent. Maybe they don’t have any pets back in Syria.
Farah sees a teacher as an expert and leader. She is used to a teacher giving explanations and telling her what to do. Farah’s teacher in Luxembourg, however, prefers her students to take the initiative, work in a group and contribute their individual work to a group assignment, so they learn to express their opinions and take decisions independently. The teacher seems to sit around, but she will react to questions.
What are possible solutions?
Farah could try to overcome her anxiety, mingle with the group and share her own views. She can also approach the teacher and ask her guidance. The teacher could consider agreeing on signs from Farah if she has questions.
The teacher, after giving Farah extra attention, could give Farah a document describing the expected behavior, and ask Farah to discuss it with her parents. She could write a note to the parents and invite them for a meeting. It is also possible to set up weekly meetings with Farah and give her feedback on how she is doing.
Luxembourg has a low power distance culture (PDI -). Farah is from a high power distance (more hierarchy, PDI +) culture. In Farah’s culture, many people rely on a leader who looks after them in exchange for loyalty. In the class room Farah experiences an egalitarian culture with the teacher being more a facilitator than a leader. The teacher expects the students to take the initiative and to have discussions in the group. Each student has his or her own opinion and speaks out to share it.