SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
A good instructor can teach anything. They can teach how to mount weapons onto an A-10 Thunderbolt. They can teach how to fix a jet engine. They can even teach some how to fly. Yet, to be a good instructor, it is argued you must know your student as each student learns differently.
That goes to another level if that student was born and raised in a different way and the Instructor has no idea how to connect with them. The International Military Student Office has built a program to build a bridge that spans cultures.
IMSO at Sheppard Air Force Base set up a new International Training Management class once a month to inform instructors on etiquette and cultural differences when it comes to learning and simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to their international students.
“We developed this training class with a primary focus on the instructor cadre to let them know, here’s international students and here’s how you deal with them, and here’s what we at IMSO are here to do,” said Ralf Taylor, chief of IMSO.
Taylor saw the struggles that some of his international students were facing, and decided instead of making young Airmen from different cultures completely assimilate to the American way, he decided to show the instructors a different path. One the international students can more easily follow.
The class is first to serve as a doorway with basic information for all countries in the program. Afterwards, if anything specific comes up, IMSO could help deal with it.
“The class is first to open the door,” Taylor said. “We decided this class shouldn’t focus on just one country, but is broad-based across all internationals. Right now we have 17 countries represented here, 14 countries represented in the 80th Flying Training Wing. All the countries and cultures are different, but there’s a commonality: they’re internationals, they’re all foreign guests, they’re all our partners.”
IMSO’s mantra of “building a partnership today for a better tomorrow” has not shined as brightly as with their push to make sure everyone is comfortable and getting the best training as possible. Although still only four months old, this class has brought new insight and helped bridge gaps, which the language/culture barrier has caused.
“Since we’ve implemented the class, most of the issues have decreased, but what I noticed the most is that the communication has opened up,” Taylor said.
Taylor expressed his happiness of the newfound comradery between the international students and their hosts. He also is thankful people know where to come for help when dealing with certain issues.
“We’re here to advocate for the internationals, but we’re also here to advocate for the Americans,” Taylor said. “We have to find a balance and keep people informed. We don’t want to waste the instructor’s time. I want them to leave with at least a, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’ then pass it on. I want them to know IMSO’s here. What we’re here to do. That we’re here to support them and we’re here to take care of the internationals and know they can come to us with questions.”