TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy – looking back, moving forward

You might have noticed that TEFL Equity Advocates also has an Academy now, where you can take a variety of on-line training courses, which focus on offering ELT professionals practical solutions to the ‘native speaker’ bias that is still so widespread in our industry.

This is a bit of a change and you might be wondering how these courses fit with the rest of the work TEFL Equity Advocates has been doing. So in this post I wanted to tell you more about why I decided to set up the Academy, how I believe it builds on and connects with TEFL Equity advocacy work, as well as how it might help tackle native speakerism.

When I first started TEFL Equity Advocates back in 2014, I had no clue where it might take me. I’d also never imagined that it would gain so much momentum, so quickly.

What started as a simple blog post, where I could vent my frustration at the discriminatory nature of ELT recruitment policies, grew into a website.

What started as a pastime taking up a few hours of my time each month, grew into an almost full-time (unpaid) job.

It’s been a great journey so far. And I think TEFL Equity Advocates has helped to shake the ELT community out of its apathy – or perhaps resignation? – at the discriminatory status quo. It’s also managed to spark a lively debate at the same time as growing a community of dedicated ELT professionals who actively try to tackle native speakerism.

I’ve met some fantastic people along the way who have really helped shape TEFL Equity Advocates by offering advice, submitting blog posts, giving webinars, sharing posts on social media and supporting the project in a myriad of other ways. You know who you are, and I’m forever in debt to you.

But in the last few months, I’ve started to realise that the project has grown so big that it’s basically turned into a full-time job, becoming difficult for one person to manage on top of a (real) full-time job. Just replying to all the comments, FB messages and emails takes up a few hours a week. Not that I’m complaining, though! Love your messages, so please continue writing! 😊

Apart from the huge time investment, there are also of course the costs of running a self-hosted WordPress site, having a dedicated email address, an email automation provider, an app for automating social media posts, a job board… The list goes on.

Growing the advocacy work further requires time, funds and people who can dedicate themselves full-time to working on TEFL Equity Advocates.

More time wasn’t likely to happen, unless I quit my full-time teaching job, which I really enjoy, and which helps pay the bills. So that wasn’t a viable option.

In order to raise funds to continue the work of TEFL Equity Advocates, there were two choices.  First, I could set it up as a charity. This would need to be supported entirely with donations and rely on the generosity of people with no guarantee that it can be supported in this way.

This would also involve devoting even more time to the project, which I didn’t have. It would potentially involve putting together a team of dedicated people who would be willing to work on the project mostly for free.

It would also mean extra admin and paper work needed to set up and run a charity. And admin and paper work are two things I hate with a passion.

But if you’re going to spend a lot of your free time on something, you’d better be passionate about it. You can’t just like it. You’ve got to love it.

So while I hate admin work with a passion, I also love teaching with a passion.

That’s when it struck me.

Why not continue doing what I love doing most, that is teaching and educating, and see if I can tackle native speakerism from a more practical angle, while at the same time earning enough to cover the costs of running TEFL Equity Advocates?

This is how TEFL Equity Academy was born.

You see, I’ve also been working on my PhD on native speakerism for the last two years. During the process I’ve realised that the ‘native speaker’ bias goes far beyond recruitment policies in ELT.

It’s also deeply present in our ideas about the English language and how it should best be taught.

Just to give you one example, we all know that there are about four to five times as many ‘non-native’ users of English than there are ‘native’ ones. We also know from over two decades of research that certain features of pronunciation typical of ‘native speaker’ speech, such as word-stress or vowel quality are not important for intelligibility in international contexts. What’s more, many features of connected speech (e.g. reduced vowels, assimilation) can actually reduce intelligibility.

Yet, we still spend quite a lot of time on word stress, vowel quality or connected speech.

Why?

Because deep down many of us still feel that the more ‘native-like’ the pronunciation of our students, the better.

Of course, realising that the ‘native speaker’ bias also affects our teaching practices is one thing.

But being able to change your teaching practice accordingly is something else. Something which takes time and which can’t really be achieved through a blog post or a single webinar.

That’s where I see an opportunity for TEFL Equity Academy to play a crucial role.

It aims to offer ELT professionals practical solutions to native speakerism. It aims to extend TEFL Equity Advocates work and further promote equality not just in the workplace, but also in the classroom.

It also helps fund the website, the job board and any future TEFL Equity Advocates projects.

At the same time, it also allows me to combine two things I’m really passionate about: advocacy and teaching.

As a result of all this, I’ve decided to make two small changes on TEFL Equity Advocates. And since you’re a regular follower of the blog, I thought I’d give you a heads up about them, so you know exactly what’s happening.

First, the name on the top of this website (and of the FB page) will now be TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy. The second change concerns the blog. I used to keep a dedicated blog on TEFL Equity Academy site which focused more on practical teaching tips and issues related to the courses, such as English as a Lingua Franca or teaching pronunciation. Finding it physically impossible to keep up both the Advocates and Academy blogs, I’ve decided to merge the two into a single blog on this site. You can then expect a mix of more advocacy and more teaching oriented posts here. However, the Advocates and Academy posts will be put into separate categories, so you can clearly see which is which.

Hope you enjoy and find TEFL Equity Academy courses useful. 😊

And if you have any questions or comments about the Academy or the recent changes, let me know. Would love to hear what you think!

Cover photo by pine watt on Unsplash.

5 thoughts on “TEFL Equity Advocates and Academy – looking back, moving forward

  1. Katherine Bilsborough says:

    An excellent idea Marek. I’m so glad you’ve decided to continue with TEFL Equity Advocates and the Academy. It would have been such a shame to have stopped it. The academy is a very sensible and practical way to keep everything alive and kicking. Good luck with the new ventures and keep up the good work!

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