Being a western (white) teacher at an Asian university I constantly have to worry about being the subject of gossip and rumors between students (and others). So, I do need to be more careful about my actions with students and how my intentions are viewed by others.

What if I see a student has a strange blink pattern? Should I consider that (potential need for glasses) integral to the learning process and pull that student aside to tell them or is it generally considered that teachers in my situation should only consider issues directly related to the subject matter?

  • Has the student's performance in class suffered? – debray Sep 21 '13 at 6:27
  • @scaaahu I think your answer had some good points in it and indeed include my exact concerns. – earthling Sep 21 '13 at 6:57
  • @debray The semester has just begun but it is clear this student is quite weak and I'm concerned the symptom I've seen might be related. – earthling Sep 21 '13 at 6:58

First of all, I am answering this question from my own point of view. My opinion may not represent the majority of Asians (although I am an Asian myself).

I think one of the reasons your school invited you to teach there is for internationalization and diversification besides your excellent academic credentials. They would like to have not only your expert knowledge but also the views you can bring to them.

@UV-D gave an excellent answer. The strange blinking pattern could be a medical issue, so you need to take it to somebody else’s attention. I think he is right. However, as you noticed, you need to take care of the issue carefully.

Fairness and consistency would be the keys. Suppose you are a male professor and the student happens to be a female, there is a possibility this could become a gossip, something like “Our teacher likes that girl”. The gossip would spread until the next time you do the same or similar thing to a male student. Everybody would then say “Ah, he is just a very nice teacher, take care of everybody”.

I think people (not only Asians) would like to be treated fairly. Consistent actions between multiple events will make people think you are being fair. So, my point is, you’ll be fine as long as you keep your actions fair and consistent and do whatever you think is right.

An important note. Be extremely careful when dealing with the students outside the classroom. I noticed in your question, pull that student aside. This could potentially become a harassment case. Talk to an authority may be a better way to handle it. A western white lecturer in an Asian university is always the focus of the students and the faculty.

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    Having taught as a Westerner in an Asian country for several years (several years ago), +1, especially for the final 2 paragraphs. – user7130 Sep 22 '13 at 9:06

Strange blink patterns are not necessarily a sign of a need for glasses, one of my students has similar symptoms as part of Tourette's Syndrome - there are a myriad of other reasons what this could be a symptom of. Having said that, asking the students how they are individually as they enter class may give some insight.

Beyond that, I would ask your supervisor or someone in administration first if something has already been documented about the potential condition the student may have. If not, then it is your superior, the nurse or someone in administration that should be informed of your concerns, this will do 2 things:

  • save any potential embarrassment for you and the student.

  • provide evidence of you chasing-up the concern through official channels

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