21 september 2018

Mixed classroom

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As I was preparing my presentation for the workshop Mixed Classroom (provided by LEARN! Academy and the International Office) about the integration of international students in a mixed classroom, I had a moment of reflection.

We are three weeks into the academic year and I’ve come to know my students very well in that short amount of time. I see them each day for the two different courses they take. Regardless of their background they are all in the same classroom. My mixed classroom. They have all taken a leap into the deep swimming pool of possibilities. And together they can make it an experience that will last a lifetime. My role as a teacher is to guide them throughout their experiences and let them know how valuable it can be to listen to people with a different perspective. A different perspective, simply because the student sitting next to them is from a different (part of the) country. Or because they are of an opposing gender. Or have a different cultural background.

Only when I was in my Masters I realized how valuable it could be to integrate other people's opinions and ideas into mine

When I studied Biology, some time ago, there was hardly diversity in my classroom. I wonder how my studies would have been if the classroom was mixed? Would I have listened to another perspective and made the choices that I did? I really want to believe I would have. With the knowledge I have now, I would. But back then? I was just happy to be in University, feeling like I was worth a million dollars. Partying and after some failed exams, studying my ass off. I felt most comfortable with people like me, people I could relate to. People that I still have dear friendships with. But was this mixed? Not so much. I vividly remember people that were different scared me, at least a little. It was unknown territory. Only when I was in my Masters I realized how valuable it could be to integrate other people’s opinions and ideas into mine. It was only then that I worked in an international environment in which I automatically was sucked into the mixed classroom. I remember one night there was a social event with the people of the laboratory – we all had one goal in common, our research. Other than that, we were as mixed of a classroom as can be. More importantly, I saw then, there that night, we are all human.

So now, in my mixed classroom, I teach students of all backgrounds, cultures, gender, ethnicity, from all over the world. Besides teaching them about biomedical sciences, I feel it is my role to have them experience how valuable it is to listen to people with a different perspective, just because they have a different background. So, step one. If all my students are to listen to each other, there is a simple issue that I need to overcome. Have everyone speak English in my classroom…

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