nNEST: bush-league teachers? I don’t think so…

This is the second post in our Teacher success stories series. The first one was about Irma Horvath, who despite being a NNEST, landed a great job with the BC in Malaysia, and is now training other teachers. You can read it here.

This time we move to Italy, where Larissa set up her own flourishing teaching business. She’s a passionate blogger and you can find her blog here. So without much further ado, let’s hear how Larissa’s managed to succeed despite the odds.

Larissa: “When I was asked to write this post I felt immediately so excited at the prospect of telling my experience in the teaching language business which wasnt easy at all. Firstly, let me introduce myself.

Name: Larissa Albano.

Even though my name sounds Russian (my mother loved Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak), Im an Italian born and bred. Well, I spent long time in London and Swansea (Wales) but as you can see my features are typically Mediterranean.

Age: 29

Nationality: Italian

Profession: Freelance English teacher.

I started working as an English teacher, more exactly as a language tutor, in a school of languages in Rome in 2009.

It was there where I understood that there was a discrimination between NEST and nNEST. Why? Well, discrimination lead me to be a lying teacherfor two years. What do I mean? I had to tell my students my father was Italian but my mother was English so I was bilingual. Students want mother tongue teachers, so if they ask where you are from you will tell them your mother is English otherwise you can look for another job, said the director.

I have always loved teaching so I accepted her conditions but, meanwhile I was looking for another job. The one I found was even worse. Worse than lying? Yes, much worse. I was a bush-league teacher because NEST had conversation, vocabulary lessons whereas I had just to press playon a recorder. I had to give my students listening exercise worksheets and just press play and stop. I even had the keys of the exercises!

I couldnt put up with that any more. I decided to go to London to study more because I thought I wasnt good enough. Before leaving I told my students the truth about my origins. Incredible but true, no one was disappointed. They were happy they had learnt a lot with me. They were sad just because I was leaving and they were going to miss me. 

Then I understood it was not my fault but just a prejudice which was controlling my working career. During my stay in London all my students contacted me because they wanted to have class with me! I couldnt believe that! You dont have to be a NEST to be a good teacher! A good teacher is someone who allows their students to LEARN. It doesnt matter where you are from, your accent or if you make a mistake. Everyone can be wrong sometimes. No one is perfect. What makes a difference is the human touch you bring with you in the classroom!

When I came back from London I set up my own business in my hometown in just one room (because I couldnt afford an expensive flat). I have made a lot of efforts to advertise my language studio, to plan my lessons, commute to Rome, teach  my students, and get positive feedback from them. I think I couldnt have been able to do all this without the support of my family who always believed in my abilities.

Now I commute just twice a week because I have a lot of students in Gaeta (my hometown), too.

I have been an ELT blogger since last year. My blog is aimed at both teachers and students. I was awarded the British Council – Teaching English Featured Blog of the month for my post about using post-it notes in the English language classes.

With my greatest honour I also became one of the British Council – Teaching English Associated Bloggers together with the highest qualified NEST teachers in the world.

To sum up, you dont need to be a NEST to be successful. Your success as an English teacher depends on your willingness to succeed! Despite the discrimination, never give up!

Ps: By the way, Ive just rented a flat. From September I will have my lessons there! Who knows, I might have my own school of languages in a few years ;-)”

What do you think of Larissa’s story? Please comment below 🙂
Would you like to share a success story? You can email the blog here.

17 thoughts on “nNEST: bush-league teachers? I don’t think so…

  1. Anonymous says:

    Larissa, you're amazing & I love your blog. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I've been in your shoes for a long time I my own country 🙁

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful post! Larissa's story gives hope to all of us NNETS. Great job, Larissa and much continued success in your future endeavors!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love the article! I have been teaching English for 16 years and I am not a native speaker. I agree 100% that a good teacher is not the one who speaks English without an accent or mistakes, but the one who helps students LEARN! Good job, Larissa!

  4. JB says:

    I've been saying it for years – The obsession to have a 'Native teacher' is totally unnecessariy if the teacher has a very high level. Most importantly they know they grammar bettert than any native teacher will, as well as the typical mistakes made by the learners of that particular country. On the other hand I have met non-natives who think they have a high level but really don't, and who end up teaching their students bad pronunciation and making up verbs that don't exist! If you like music and learning English, please take a moment to visit my blog where I've written and recorded songs (mainly for kids but also for adults) to help with specific grammar and vocab points. http://www.englishthroughmusic.es

  5. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for your comment.
    We all have an accent, native and non-native speakers alike. Although proficiency or a very high level in the language you're teaching might be a necessary requirement, it should not be treated as the only or the ultimate one! As you point out, a good teacher does what it takes to help their students improve and learn. Teaching's about much more than just proficiency in a language!

  6. Marek Kiczkowiak says:

    Hi JB,
    Thanks for your reflection. Couldn't agree more.
    As I said in the comment above, I do believe that a certain high standard (C1/2) must be expected from a language teacher. However, we shouldn't forget that language proficiency is not the only necessary characteristic of a good teacher. Recruiters often get carried away, dismissing all NNESTs on the basis of their language level.
    In my opinion, there's a need for a more rational and objective approach. The simplest one would be to list 5 characteristics of your ideal candidate (e.g. language proficiency, qualifications, experience, classroom manner, etc.) and assign equal (or very similar) value to them. Then based on the CV and the interview, you score each candidate, e.g. on a scale from 1 to 5. The one with the highest score is your best candidate.
    What do you think?

  7. Susan Brodar says:

    Great Larissa! I have been reading your blog for quite a while now and your lesson ideas are so exciting and engaging! You offer high quality lessons! I find them really inspiring! Carry on the good work!

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