Cultural differences and international training.

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“Monsieur Lazhard”: relationships between teacher and students

The film “Monsieur Lazhard” by Philippe Falardeau is the “adventure “of an Algerian teacher (Mr. Lazhard) and his Canadian pupils in the snowy city of Montreal.

The cultural differences become evident as soon as Lazhard begins his lectures. To his surprise the children do not hesitate to contradict him and make aloud comments. And the kids tease their teacher as they would one of their friends.

Mr Lazhard changes the U arrangement of the desks because he thinks it’s not appropriate, demands respect from his students and starts with a very difficult dictation exercise arousing many protests in the classroom.

A clear example of how the different cultural values are reflected on mutual expectations in the relationship between teacher and students. The “teacher-student” archetype exists in every society while school is a strong vehicle of cultural values.

There are significant differences in Mr. Lazhard’s and his pupils’ concept of hierarchy and respect for the older and more powerful persons. In the individualistic Canadian culture students and teacher see themselves more as equals because of the small power distance perception, and is “normal” that students speak out their minds, make their own comments or open a debate with schoolmates. If conflicts arise with the teacher parents normally support the kid, what is totally amazing for Mr. Lazhard.

The Algerian teacher can’t really understand behaviors so different from the ones he learned in his childhood: for him teaching is a serious matter, while the classrooms here in Canada are full of drawings, colors, funny things, and even flowers.

Obviously Mr. Lazhard judges his pupils bad-mannered and rude when they confront him, instead of interpreting disagreement as an intellectual stimulus, as would his young Canadian colleague. Same judgment when the kids speak without asking permission: but in Canada teaching effectiveness is based on a two-way communication.

In general terms, we could say that in Anglo-Saxon cultures students expect to learn “how to learn” and to seek their own truth, not just the one taught by the teacher.

These kids, when adults, will probably sit in your international audience listening to you while making a business presentation or delivering a seminar. So be prepared to answer many questions, solicit an open debate and use your best communication or training skills: their expectations towards the speaker or the trainer will be the same they had when pupils at school.

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Posted in A world of Cultures, Featured