Serious Arab and Goofy American

This post is only about the culture of classroom in Jordan and USA.

The following story happened back in the days when I was an undergraduate in Jordan:
While our professor was busy lecturing, a colleague of him knocked on the door and asked to speak with him outside the classroom. While our professor was busy with the other professor I and someone sitting beside me had a little chat. I completely forgot what it was about but it made us smile. While we were smiling the professor entered the classroom and saw us chatting and smiling. He stood striaght and asked us what we were laughing at. We both answered “Nothing!” But he kept repeating the qustion and we both refused to share what we were chatting about. He didn’t like it and gave us “the look” to let us know that he didn’t like our behavior.

The following conversation happened in one of the classes during my first semester in the US:

Student: “How difficult is the exam?”
Professor: “It is not that difficult.”
Student: “This is like saying she is not that pregnant.”
The entire class including the professor laughed loudly.

These are two random stories. There are exceptions of course but in general the culture of the classroom in Jordan is that the instructor is serious while in the US it is a more relaxed and friendly environment. Before I was allowed to teach American students I had to attend three days workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to educate international TAs about the culture of teaching in America. We were told to be goofy, not to tell students they are wrong, not to embarrass students, and many do and don’t.

I found the relationship between students and their instructors here much more better than the one we have in Jordan. Although, instructors here are less serious in class their students respect them more than students in Jordan respect their instructors. I know a female professor who wears a purple wig or a magician hat on Halloween. In Jordan, she might be disciplined by the Dean.

Some American professors even tell their students to call them by their first name. This is more common in graduate level courses. Of course such thing is a no-no in Arabic countries.


7 thoughts on “Serious Arab and Goofy American

  1. In the West, a student is expected to inquire and learn, while in Jordan (and other Arab countries) a student is expected to memorize without understanding anything. That is why many leave (if they can) to study outside of the region.

    1. I agree with you on that. When I was an undergraduate, many courses I took students’ evaluation was based only on the exams; no assignments, projects, or presentations. What I found very impressive here is the amount of projects and presentations American students have to do. Learning to present your work in front of an audience build the personality of students, teach students teamwork and many other skills that Jordanian students miss.
      To be fair, this is my observation 10 years ago so I am not sure if things have changed or not. Hopefully, someone in Jordan can give us his/her opinion on the subject.

  2. زكرتني بايام سنه رابعه…كل ما يزيد قرب تخرج الطالب ﻛﻞ ما يزيد كره الدكتور اله…على اعتبار انه منافسه ولااااازم يضل يذكره ان معلوماتك ولا شي وانك بدك فت خبز لتصير تفهم وانك وانك وكله بيختم بانهم تعبو و شقيو لوصلو لمكانهم وانت لاااااا يمكن توصل لهالمكانه

    ليش بعتبرو الخريج منافس مش عارفه

    1. للأسف في نفسيات تعبانه بين بعض المدرسين. بتذكر في منهم كانوا دايما يقولوا للطلاب ما حدى بستاهل اكثر من 70% مش عارف مين وين جابوا الطريقه العبقريه هاي في التدريس. بعرف كثير من اللي بدفعتي خلصوا دكتوراه وبيدرسوا بالأردن. انا متأكد انه في منهم كثير مدرسين ممتازيين

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