The business of medicine is universal. When I think about culture as it relates to my classroom; my mind goes to how the students live when they are outside of the classroom. This factor plays a huge role in the way they learn. As an instructor and entrepreneur it is important that you are skilled in not only the art of identifying cultural differences, but also in the art of recognizing cultural similarities.
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 to include tuition assistance because they were participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assessment Program. 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 a teacher has been teaching a course designed for students who speak English as a primary language to a student whose primary language is Hebrew and secondary is English. 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 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 when we talk about a topic (medical condition or procedure) they can personally relate to. I encourage them to correlate 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 will eventually help them secure a position in a career field that they chose and not one that chose them.