A paradigm is a model, a system of thoughts that guides the way we think about particular aspects of our world. It is like a veil in front of our senses that filters everything we perceive. Paradigms filter reality for us and give it meaning according to their model.
Have you ever performed an act that was interpreted by others the wrong way because of cultural differences? have you done something that was perceived less respectful, shameless, or just wrong?
The world is full of different cultures. Each one carries its own paradigms to interpret reality. The differences grow to a point in which some things can be understood almost as opposites by individuals with different cultural backgrounds. The most complex concepts like beauty, humor, respect, honor, sin, grace, humility, they can all be understood so different nowadays.
watch this TED talk with Sheryl Sandberg about corporal perception and the cultural paradigm of beauty
On an educational context, students enter the classroom with these models veiling their senses, and telling them what to think. A language class can be the place where those concepts come out. It is important for teachers to recognize this possible scenario and open their minds to the very different interpretations of reality they will face in the minds of their students.
On the other hand, such language classroom could be the perfect environment to try broaden the limits of our students' paradigms and show them how different, and sometimes better, they can be. Students can learn about other cultures' beliefs, traditions and misconceptions. They can reflect upon why a determined paradigm exists and how valid it is. This situation can also lead them to escape from some of the bad cultural misconceptions they've been bound to their whole lives.
By understanding this, teachers have the incredible opportunity to redefine or shift paradigm in students' minds. That's how beautiful teaching can be.
TESOL 103 Class Assignment - BYUI