'The N factor': spreading equality in your workplace – by Sarah Priestley

After watching Silvana Richardson’s IATEFL 2016 plenary ‘ The native factor, the haves and have-nots’ this April I immediately asked myself what I could do to raise awareness of some of the issues Silvana highlighted.  Through meeting Marek on Twitter we started chatting about my ideas.  So, this post is to share with you the activities I have recently done to help my teaching colleagues and customer service staff be more aware of ‘The N factor’.  I hope I might inspire you to do something similar in your organization!1In May 2016, to get the ball rolling, I presented a slot in our monthly teacher 15 minute forum (a CPD event for teachers where teachers have 5 minutes to summarize a teaching idea, an article or an area of interest) on ‘The N factor’. 10 teachers came and for most of them it was the first time they had heard about this area of hot debate.   I highlighted some key facts and figures from Silvana Richardson’s plenary and commented on how our own staffroom was made up of both NS and NNS and that we should all be proud of who we are.  I reiterated this point by quoting Peter Medgyes, who I was lucky enough to hear speak at the EICE Valencia conference this May.

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To spread the word to all teaching staff I shared my 15 minute forum slides in an email and wrote a short summary of my 15 minute slot in our weekly teacher newsletter. I also continued to talk about the topic over the next few days and weeks with anyone who would listen to me!

Afterwards, I also realized that our customer service staff might be interested in hearing what I had to say.  After all, they deal with the public every day and a frequent comment they hear is ‘Of course, I presume that all your teachers are mother-tongue speakers.’  I wondered how confident my customer service colleagues were in handling this scenario and how knowledgeable they were of the advantages that both NS and NNS teachers can bring to the classroom.

Our Director and Customer Service Manager were very keen and enthusiastic about my suggestion so in June I organized 2 briefing sessions.  Chatting with a fellow teacher Ania Krzyzosiak, we decided to prepare and run the customer service sessions together (you can download the handout here).  That way, there would be both a NS and NNS delivering the session and 2 brains and pairs of hands are always better than one!  16 colleagues attended and our 30 minute briefing generated a lot of healthy discussion and comments.  I think the Venn diagram activity, where they had to think about the qualities that NS and NNS can bring to the classroom, was particularly thought-provoking and made my non-teaching colleagues consider advantages that they had never really thought about til then.

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The exit tickets we collected at the end of the 2 customer service sessions included comments such as ‘More convincing arguments for answering the basic question.’ and ‘Non-NEST teachers can teach as accurately as NEST teachers.’

IATEFL 2016 may be over but Silvana Richardson brought to the foreground very important issues and there is still plenty to be done on tackling discrimination and misconceptions in many organisations and at many levels in the ELT world.  I work for the British Council and we have a global policy of equal opportunity for recruitment.  That said, I still feel it is important to discuss ‘The N factor’ in my workplace.  I hope my small contribution will go some way to continuing this debate and that after reading this blog you might be thinking of how you, too, can spread the NSNNS word!

If you’d like to see some lesson materials for adult students connected to the NS NNS topic then click here.  If you have any ideas or comments about this blog then post them below and/or tweet them to me at @Sarah_TTrainer .

About the author

sarah priestleySarah’s teaching and teacher training career over the last 20 years has taken her to Eastern Europe, the Far East and Europe, where she currently works at the British Council.  A Cambridge CELTA and Young Learner extension tutor, she has trained both teachers working in the state sector and in ELT.  She is currently Coordinator of the Bilingual Education Consultancy Service British Council Italy and teaches adults and young learners.  You can follow her on Twitter @Sarah_TTrainer

 

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