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  • Jennifer Shennel Simmons

Culture in the Classroom

Updated: Oct 21, 2020


The business of medicine is universal, however the language in which it is taught can vary. When I think about culture as it relates to my classroom; my mind goes to how life's circumstances have shaped this student for adulthood. This factor plays a huge role in determining the overall success of course completion and becoming a certified coder. It is important for instructors to be skilled in the art of identifying cultural differences and recognizing cultural similarities. This promotes relationship building giving your students' their first opportunity to network with with each other.

The composition of my classroom includes students of different financial class, race, age range and religion. There are some whose finances allowed them the privilege of paying for their course in full, those who paid for their course with payment arrangements and those who qualified for government assistance through state funded scholarship programs. My students have hailed from South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and the country of Israel. Some are just graduating from high school and decided to opt for a trade versus a degree. Others have had jobs in healthcare, but would like to specialize in medical coding. A few have children and grandchildren they are raising; while others are working two jobs to make ends meet.

My biggest challenge as an instructor, mentor, coach and source of motivation is keeping the student engaged with the same momentum they had on day one to the final step in sitting their exam.

There are many factors that could pose a threat to a student's success. I want to share the success story of one student in particular. Being from Israel; her primary language was Hebrew. English was a second language for her which she could not speak fluently, but understood the material and what was expected to pass the course. Most medical terms derive from Latin. In essence, she had to learn English with a touch of Latin that she then converted to Hebrew. We used her strengths taking time to find the contrast between the terms coupled with images and video. She is now a CPC credentialed coder working in her desired career path.

To truly engage students, I make a strong effort to connect with them in ways that are culturally and linguistically responsive and appropriate; making certain I don't bring stereotypes and assumptions into the classroom that may offend and hinder their learning process. I use some specific strategies when fostering cultural awareness in the classroom. My lessons are inclusive and I respectively allow students to express themselves by making it personal; relating what we are learning to health conditions they or a family member have experienced. I encourage them to tie in what we are discussing to their own interpretation based on their primary language whether it be Hebrew, English or Gullah Geechie. I show a strong interest in their cultural backgrounds by asking questions and making the material relate to their everyday surroundings.

I often transition from instructor to coach. As an instructor I'm teaching them the basic fundamentals of medical coding, terminology and human anatomy. As a coach I am there as a resource and a motivator to remind them that they all, no matter their differences, share one common goal. That common goal is to complete the course successfully and walk away with a knowledge level that will eventually help them secure a position in a career field that they chose and not one that chose them.

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