I would say that going in with a Flexible, Positive and Enthusiastic attitude is the best way to approach this or any program.
Be Flexible on any change in plans that occur, because sometimes that can happen.
Be Positive even when your lesson plan does not “land” as well as you would like. Learn from it and adjust as needed.
Be Enthusiastic about teaching the students, and about Learning the culture yourself. Your Enthusiasm has a tendency to be contagious and is a great way to introduce yourself to others.
We had an outlined “ game plan”.
I worked with an experienced group and they gave great guidance.
A) The evening before: We prepared our lesson plan. Usually “English Exercises or Lessons”.
B) Next morning around breakfast time, we fine-tuned our “lesson plan” and discussed it with other members. We would also give “thought of the day” and read the “Daily minutes” from the previous day. Afterward, we were on our way to the schools.
C) Did our introductions to the classes and interacted with students in a way that would support the learning objectives. (Speaking, listening or writing in English).
D) After classes, we would have a “regroup” with fellow volunteers and talk through “what went well and what could be improved“. This was a great time for others in our group to give suggestions.
E) In the afternoon, we had about an hour and 30 minutes to tutor about 4-6 young kids who were wanting to learn English. Usually playing cards or memory games.
F) After dinner, we would start on our next day's learning plan and discussion.
This process was repeated every day except weekends.
Going to a new or different place can be a source of anxiety. I arrived in the country about a week early and traveled around to learn some of the cultures. For me, this was a good way to transition into the assignment and relieve some of the anxiety that could arise. Interactions with the local folks served as a great way to “fit in” and feel more comfortable.
I think there are a couple of points.
1) People are more similar than different. I felt extremely welcome when I was in Poland. I was included and welcomed in many cultural activities. Just as we have busy lives and are focused on our families, so are they.
2) People seem to have a curiosity about others who are not from their direct culture. I wanted to learn as much about them as they wanted to learn about me. To me, the key is to learn it as a student, the same way they learned from me.
3) “Seek to understand first”. Understanding a different culture first can help in the teaching/ learning process. Do not assume that other cultures are the same as yours.