Terry Freedman from the UK always has a great meaning wrapped up in a laugh. His newest article: It's a Bird, It's a Plane, no it is super M'am, talks about the cultural differences in global collaboration.
One of my students is submitting an article in Coming of Age about social networking and as the winning Horizon Project manager, is writing an article for Terry's newsletter about global project management.
“Recently, I've been working with a student called Casey, who is writing a chapter for the forthcoming second edition of “Coming of Age: An Introduction to the NEW Worldwide Web” based on her experience as a project manager on the Horizon Project. Casey comes from the southern states, and so tends to address people as “Sir” or “Ma'am”. Unfortunately, we are so not used to that in England that when she addressed me as “Sir” for the first time, I thought she was being sarcastic.”
He also talks about my male student who was just friendly to a female in Julie's class and made her feel uncomfortable. In her culture, “flirting” is a no no and although my student was completely harmless, it was still something that I talked to him about in terms of cultural awareness. After the project was over, the talked about the importance of being a “professional” with everyone even if you're a teenager. That was a great lesson to learn!
This is where a good relationship between the teachers is essential. Julie and I talked with one another often and stayed in tune with our student's feeling about the project as well as their work on the project.
Perhaps the greatest learning for all of us is the cultural learning, one that cannot be measured, and one that is not required on a standardized test and yet, the knowledge that not everyone is like you is perhaps a lesson for all of us to learn.
We also need to be good communicators — willing to clarify things — if Terry hadn't asked Casey about saying “sir” — Casey wouldn't have know that it could be a possible offense. Likewise, I have to be aware that “Yes” and “No” is what students say from other place in lieu of the “Yes m'am” and “No m'am” that I am accustomed to in my classroom. I do not think it is necessary to be homogeneous in our cultural mores, but rather more aware of our heterogeneity.
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