Classroom Challenges

I can’t bear the indifference of my classmates.

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  1. What classroom challenges do these two students describe?
  2. What surprises you most in the stories they tell?
Interpretive Questions
  1. Do you think the second student is right, in reading “indifference” in the behaviors of the American students in her  work group?
  2. What do you make of the image she uses “professional smile”?
  3. What do these two students conclude on the basis of their experience of American students?
Implication Question
  1. How can native speakers be helped to be more patient with–and less indifferent to–the challenges of international students in the classroom?

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Classroom Challenges

Speaker 1: Last year, I gave my first class presentation with an American girl. The assignment was to analyze news by using principles of economics learned in class. In China, we seldom do research like this. Professors in China will prepare materials for you to do research, and in class we passively receive knowledge. This kind of research would happen at the end of the semester, or would happen right before graduation. So this was the first time for me to give a presentation in the United States. The girl found three articles and analyzed them with me. I still felt confused about the homework. When we discussed them, she prepared almost everything we needed. She asked me some questions and told me what I needed to do. She was so patient with me. This presentation helped me approach other presentations smoothly.

Speaker 2: Last year, I felt hard-pressed to catch up to other students. When it came to what other students said, I didn’t understand them. I felt bad when we had group work. Some classmates didn’t want to talk to international students. I can’t bear the indifference of my classmates. When I talk to them, I can see the expression on their faces – they all wear their “professional” smile – so I felt that we could not be good friends.

  • Rachel

    This idea of the “professional smile” particularly got to me. I have found myself putting on this smile when talking to international students. In the moment, I was only thinking of being polite. However, after watching this video, it became clear that there is an important difference between being polite and being inclusive. Being polite is important, but it does not necessarily make anyone feel included. Rather, one feels tolerated, or worse – like a charity case. The first student that spoke in this video talked very highly of a classmate who worked with her to better her understanding a project. We should strive to be more like that girl’s classmate by actively engaging with international students and doing away with our “professional smiles.”