CATESOL position paper opposing discrimination against Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and teachers with "non-standard" varieties of English

In this quick post I wanted to share with you the CATESOL (California TESOL) position statement against discrimination of NNESTs and teachers with ‘non-standard’ varieties of English. CATESOL is a TESOL affiliate, largest in the US, and it was founded in 1969. As can be read on their website, “CATESOL represents teachers of English language learners throughout California and Nevada, promoting excellence in education and providing high-quality professional development.” The below statement was downloaded from CATESOL website here. They have also issued numerous other position statements, for example on Language Policy and on Second Language teaching in schools, which are all available here.

Similar statements have been issued by four teaching associations: TESOL International, TESOL France, BC TEAL (The Association of British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language ) and TESOL Spain. You can read them all here – if you know of any other similar position statements, please get in touch and I’ll add them to the list.

Let’s hope that more associations follow suit as this type of advocacy is very much needed now. A lot of great awareness raising has been done, however, what is still lacking is more advocacy and activism. So this is an open call to all the English teaching associations in the world: don’t turn a blind eye, support your NNEST members, speak out for equality, speak out for professionalism in ELT.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

CATESOL position paper opposing discrimination against Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNESTs) and teachers with “non-standard” varieties of English

Passed by the CATESOL Board of Directors, October 5, 2013

Resolved

CATESOL opposes any sort of discrimination against English teachers based on the “nativeness” of their English and / or their English variety. Sufficient proficiency in English should be an important criterion in the employment and ongoing assessment of English teachers. However, CATESOL does not condone job announcements that list “native English,” “native command of English,” “native-like fluency,” “standard accented English,” or similar, as required or desirable qualities. If reference is to be made to language ability at all in job announcements, suggested changes to such criteria are “high proficiency in English,” “proficiency in English suitable to the position,” or the like.

Rationale

The best teachers of English language are those with experience and professional preparation in their field, regardless of their own linguistic backgrounds. Instructors with noticeably “non-native” backgrounds or accents are often excellent teachers possessing an advanced understanding of cultural sensitivity (and are in addition prime role models for English learners), while some English teachers who grew up with English and are thus considered “native” may very well be poorly prepared (even entirely unprepared) or inexperienced, resulting in ineffective teaching. In all cases, the work of English teachers should be judged, and teachers should be employed, on the merits of their teaching abilities, of which the “nativeness” of their English should play no part.

The same principle holds true for teachers with “non-standard” varieties of English (commonly referred to as accents or dialects). Excellent teachers speak a wide range of local, regional, and / or field-specific English varieties. Sociolinguistic scholarship testifies to the systematicity, legitimacy and richness of varieties such as those in the “Expanding and Outer Circles” of World Englishes, the various forms of English as a Lingua Franca, and the myriad local and regional dialects across the traditionally native English-speaking world. No judgment should be made about the value of any these varieties – indeed, each has great value in the context in which it is used – nor, in turn, about teachers who use these varieties.

Teaching job announcements that indicate a preference or requirement for a “native” speaker of English trivialize the professional development teachers have received and teaching experience they have already acquired. Such announcements are also discriminatory, as they commit the “native speaker fallacy,” the notion that only native speakers are the possessors and nurturers of a language, when in actual fact, language is a public phenomenon that belongs to no one and is subject to constant innovation and disruption*. Finally, such announcements ultimately harm all teachers (native or not) by devaluing teacher education, professionalism, and experience. Therefore, CATESOL opposes such discriminatory job announcements and does not condone their distribution.

*See Phillipson, Robert. (1992). Linguistic imperialism. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

If you’d like to further support TEFL Equity Advocates and its call for equal employment opportunities for native and non-native English speaking teachers, you can add this badge to your website. For more information, please click here.

Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

 

'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

 

TESOL Spain position statement against discrimination

Recently, TESOL Spain has issued a position statement against discrimination in ELT, opposing job ads that require the candidate to be a ‘native speaker’, have ‘native-like’ fluency, or speak with ‘standard’ English. I had a chance to talk to the current president of TESOL Spain, Annie Altamirano, to find out a bit more about the statement and why it was issued. We also had a chat about how TESOL Spain is planning to put the statement into practice, promoting equality in Spanish ELT and supporting both their ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ members. We finished off by talking about ELT in Spain and what still needs to be done so that teachers are recruited and valued based on their skills, rather than their first language.

In compliance with Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, TESOL-SPAIN stands in opposition to discrimination against teachers on the basis of their national, ethnic or linguistic background, religion, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation, in terms of hiring, promotion, recruitment for jobs, or employment conditions.

With respect to the common, long-standing notion, unsupported by research, that a certain ethnicity, accent, or national background gives a person an advantage as a teacher of English, TESOL-SPAIN firmly believes that all teachers should be evaluated and valued solely on the basis of their teaching competence, teaching experience, formal education and linguistic expertise. Therefore, TESOL-SPAIN does not condone job announcements that list “native English,” “native command of English,” “native-like fluency,” “standard accented English,” or similar, as required or desirable qualities.

The statement is available on TESOL Spain website here.

Stand up and be counted – by Adam Beale

I recently started to apply to other academies here in Madrid. Several had been recommended by friends and colleagues and so I decided to send off my CV. I had an interview at one for a senior position, but no luck. I persevered and tried for another of the schools on my recommended list. Within a couple of hours of emailing them I received this response;

Hi there Adam,

Thanks for your email and interest in our schools. We are now holding interviews for the coming academic year 2016/17 between now and early September. Please get back to us and let us know which dates and times are good for you to attend an interview here in Madrid.

Our minimum requirements are that applicants be native speakers, hold a European passport (or have working papers for Spain),  have a degree, the CELTA (or equivalent diploma) and a minimum of one year’s prior teaching experience to work in one of our six schools here in Madrid.

This is exactly as it appeared to me and the ‘native speakers’ part was already in bold type. But why was it in bold type? Why was it necessary to stress this particular requirement and not any of the others? More to the point, why don’t they realise this is discriminatory practice?

I could have just not responded. I could have ignored it and replied with a time and a date for an interview. I could have pointed it out to my colleagues that this particular school was discriminating against teachers because they weren’t natives and to stay away. I could have done a lot of things, but instead I did what I knew was the right thing. I called them out and wrote back, telling them that they were wrong to ask for ‘native speakers’ only and I would not be continuing my application. My response is below;

Thank you for your quick reply to my recent email about potential teacher vacancies at your school.

Unfortunately, I will not be taking my application any further. 

In your reply to my email you stated that one of the school requirements was for the applicant to be a ‘native speaker’. I was saddened to see an established school such as yourself being discriminatory towards non-native English speaking teachers (NNESTs). 

In my six years as a teacher I have worked with many NNESTs and I can safely say that they are some of the best teachers I have had the fortune to work alongside. Not only do they hold the same qualifications as a NEST, but they often have a better grasp of the English language and a more intimate depth of its grammar. This is mostly due to them having been through the struggle of becoming proficient in the English language, which as I’m sure you are aware, is no mean feat.

Therefore, I find it difficult to understand why you would deny your students the chance of being taught by NNESTs. Why would you not want the students to have a role model who can show them that it is possible to reach proficiency in a language? Why wouldn’t you want to employ teachers that know the inner workings of English grammar and who have personal experience of successfully learning these structures? Why would you want to contribute to needless reinforcement of the view held by many students that the only way to learn a language is by having a native speaker as a teacher?  

I wish you the best of luck with your recruitment for the coming academic year and I hope that you reassess your requirements for teachers.

Kind regards,

Adam 

Some of you may have seen this on twitter. It got an awful lot of attention, which I was not expecting but immensely grateful for. My purpose for tweeting it was simply to draw attention to the fact that this happens rather than to get lots of retweets and likes. Nevertheless, the amount of attention somewhat validated my action. The stream of messages I received made me realise that this is something more people should be doing. It’s not a matter of naming and shaming but bringing this unfair practice to light. We should be confronting schools and academies that do this and we should engage in constructive conversations that aim to get them to change the way they advertise and employ teachers.

My email received a reply;

Hi Adam,

You are quite right in that non-native Teachers often make excellent Teachers. We have had experience of that in the past. However, we are somewhat pressured by the demand of the market here in Spain for “Native” teachers of English. It appears to be a strong requirement of theirs. Having said that, our school does believe in equality of opportunity and we never do close the door on non-native teachers but take everything into consideration and often do interview non-native candidates.

I wish you the best for the future.

I could have almost predicted this reply, the pressure in demand, a strong requirement from students etc. I understand that primarily (and sadly) academies and schools are businesses but this does not mean morals and good practice go out of the window. I could not let it lie, so I responded;

 Thanks again for responding and I hope you understand that this is nothing personal and clearly it’s an industry wide problem. However, I feel that to combat this problem, it is schools like yours that need to do it.

Firstly, we need to ask ourselves where this demand comes from. Secondly, when this demand appears as a requirement do we try to counter it with effective arguments in favour of NNESTs? Finally, you say that “we never close the door on non-native teachers but take everything into consideration” yet if I were a non native speaker and I received your previous email about how being a native was “a minimum requirement”, I would immediately feel as though the door was already closed.

I have no right to tell you how to run your business, but I feel that I have the right as someone who works in this profession, to ask you to reconsider your minimum requirements in order to buck the current trend in the ELT profession and promote inclusivity in ELT.

Kind regards,

Adam

I’m yet to receive a reply but I really hope that my actions might have caused them to stop and think. Wishful thinking, I know but I would implore anyone who finds themselves in the same situation to stand up and fight back.

Adobe Spark

adam bealeMy name is Adam Beale. I have been teaching in ELT for 6 years. I currently reside in Madrid and I am happy to call it home. I completed my Trinity cert in 2010 and promptly moved to Santander, Spain to begin my teaching career. Since then, I have spoken at several conferences about Dogme, learner diaries and projects with YLs as well as starting my own blog, where I write about my experiences as a teacher. I completed my DELTA this year and I am looking to make a move into teacher training.

 

 

 

"Five ways to speak out against the discrimination of ‘non native’ English teachers" by Katherine Bilsborough

I was asked to write something for this blog after being involved in a few informal discussions and chats that took place between talks and workshops at IATEFL this year – discussions about the absurdity of labelling the overwhelming majority of the qualified, experienced English teachers who exist in today’s world with the prefix ‘non’. I’m not going to write about injustices I’ve seen or brilliant ‘non-native’ teachers who I’ve observed. If you’re reading this post, it’s likely that I’m already preaching to the converted. Others on the site can express things much more effectively than me. I’m just going to share what I’ve learnt after some recent experiences of trying to speak up about this subject – and being told things like ‘change the record’, ‘get off your soap box’ or ‘get real’.

Every time I see an advertisement for a ‘native teacher’ I feel an urge to comment and draw attention to the ad. But I’ve learnt (the hard way) that criticism is much more effective if it’s done more subtly and respectfully so my tip number 1 is a ‘don’t’. Lots of us belong to social media groups of ELT professionals. I belong to teacher groups, teacher trainer groups, author groups, ELT research groups and others. Being inside such groups gives us opportunities to discuss issues that directly affect us as professionals in different ways but unless you want to upset people within your groups, think before you post an angry comment.

Designed by @tekhnologicblog

Designed by @tekhnologicblog

1. Be nice!

Don’t be aggressive or rude when you want to draw attention to a discriminatory post or advert. Don’t assume that the person who has shared the post is even aware of the wider issues. See it as an opportunity to raise awareness. Naming and shaming is not a good way to change a person’s point of view and can end up causing more harm than good. If you speak sense, calmly, you’ll have a better chance of changing minds. This is tried and tested. Over the past six months I’ve had two successful experiences in convincing language school owners that they should consider removing ‘native teacher’ from their job ads. After chatting online and sharing opinions, they have agreed to give it a go. The real result will come when we see a rise in the number of ‘non-native’ teachers working side-by-side with ‘natives’.

This is a job advert from a teachers’ group I belong to. I have removed the school’s name and contact details. The job ad has now been revised and the offending N word removed. The language school teacher and I have even become FB friends.

We are looking for a good native English teacher to teach in an English Immersion course next week.

Our courses are for professional adults in small groups of 2-6. Check us out at www.xxx.com

We pay quite well, all meals and accommodation included. The course runs from Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon. If interested email your CV to me at xxx@xxx.com

2. Praise good practice

Make a point of applauding those adverts that make a point of not excluding teachers because of their nationality. This is something that I’ve got into the habit of doing and now notice, within some of my groups, that very often somebody else has got in before me and posted a comment along the lines of, ‘Great to see a fair, non-discriminatory advert. Well done (name of school)’.

3. Send a message

Send a polite message to the person who has posted (or shared) the advert, suggesting that they might consider the wording so as not to cause offence. Sometimes the advert is sent out by a school year after year, with just dates and small details being tweaked. It can be a good idea to include a link to a blog post or website with an article about the issue so that they can get a better understanding of where you are coming from.

Here’s an example of the kind of message I send.

Hi (name),

I was thinking of posting a comment below the job advert that you posted but thought it might be more polite to send you a message. I don’t know whether you are aware of the current debate about using terminology such as ‘non-native’ in a job advert. There have been several discussions on this page and I’m confident that most of us agree that it is discriminatory to refuse work opportunities to teachers simply on the basis of their nationality. I’m sure you will agree that there is no room for discrimination of any kind on our profession. You might be interested to know that job adverts that don’t mention any nationality requirements but ask instead for experience or qualifications are usually praised and supported.

Thanks,

4. Talk about the issues

Start a discussion on social media about the unfairness of discrimination against ‘non-native’ teachers (and, indeed about all discrimination). A good time to do this is just after somebody has written an appropriate (or inappropriate!) blog post about the subject or just after a teachers’ conference has taken place when the issue will inevitably be spoken about in plenaries, talks and workshops.

5. Share the facts

Bring the subject up in your own teaching contexts and with your PLNs and staff room colleagues. Sharing opinions and talking about experiences are the best way to spread the good word. This word needs to reach not only language school owners and teachers but also students and parents of younger students. Read up on statistics, watch related webinars and read articles and blog posts so that you are up-to-date with what is happening regarding TEFL Equity (see the Reading list and Videos sections for articles and videos on the topic). That way you can argue your case effectively and help to change the world we work in.

Not everybody wants to wave a banner around on behalf of a good cause but from what I see there are lots of people who would like to do their bit to support a campaign calling for an end to discrimination of non-native speakers. You don’t really have to do much at all, just get informed, keep your eyes open for discriminatory advertising and speak up when you see an injustice. We don’t want to change the record just yet.

Designed by @teflninja

Designed by @teflninja

For more ideas how to get involved click here. You might also find this post written by james Taylor useful, as well as the discussion in this article interesting.

13112559_10154063940517429_1243802354_oKatherine has worked in ELT since 1986 as a teacher, teacher trainer and author. She has published coursebooks and materials for all ages and contexts. She develops materials for the British Council and the BBC and several ELT publishers and regularly contributes to the Learnenglish and TeachingEnglish websites. She co-curates the Facebook page Free and Fair ELT and has just published a new book called How to Write Primary Materials with the ELT Teacher2Writer group. When Katherine isn’t writing, she is gardening or lying on the sofa reading a book. Not having a blog of her own, Katherine enjoys gatecrashing other people’s blogs and was recently named ‘the interloping blogger’ – a title she approves of.

 

What can we do to promote equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS in ELT? How can I get involved?

Two days after Silvana Richardson’s brilliant plenary: The Native factor (read more about it here), there was an equally fascinating Q&A session. However, since it was impossible to address all the questions posed by the audience then and there, Silvana and I decided we would continue the discussion on this blog. We gathered all the questions and divided them into four groups according to the emerging topics:

  1. NS and NNS labels: a false dichotomy? – read the questions, the comments, and join the discussion here.
  2. Proficiency: is there a minimum level for a language teacher? – read the questions, the comments (99 and still counting), and join the discussion here.
  3. NS and NNS identity: issues of self-confidence, language ownership and authority. – read the questions, the comments, and join the discussion here.
  4. What can we do to advance equality in ELT? How can I get involved?

This is the fourth post with questions on the topic of what can be done to promote equality in ELT. We’d like to invite you to answer the questions below in the comments section. We’ll then gather the answers and post a follow-up article also including our comments.

What can we do [516775]

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  1. What can be done to address this problem on initial teacher training courses?
  2. How can we encourage other teaching associations to get involved?
  3. What’s the next step – what can we do? How do we organise?
  4. How can I change the parents’ or headmaster’s attitude towards NESTs and NNESTs?
  5. How do we deal with a government that wants NESTs and has strict visa restrictions for NNESTs from abroad?

If you’d like to get involved in TEFL Equity campaign, check out the Get involved page here for ideas about what you can do. And feel free to get in touch too.

If you’re interested in reading up a bit on NS and NNS issues, native speakerism or English as a Lingua Franca, check out the Reading List section with links to academic publications that are freely available on the internet. If you prefer to watch something, check out Videos section for a selection of talks and interviews.

'The Native factor' what's next after Silvana Richardson's IATEFL 2016 plenary

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It was Day 2 of IATEFL 2016. 9am. Silvana Richardson gave her plenary ‘The Native factor – the haves and the have-nots’. A plenary that is bound to go down in history. One of the best things that could have happened to our industry. It’s a plenary that should be a must see for all future plenary speakers. It received a standing ovation. It was interrupted several times by loud applause from the audience. Some had tears in their eyes when it finished. A perfect mix of pathos, ethos and logos. So if you haven’t seen it yet, please watch it now. I’ll wait for you.

Amazing, wasn’t it?

It’s probably not surprising then that the social media have exploded with blog posts about the ‘Native factor’. Lizzie Pinard wrote a great summary of the plenary. She also wrote a follow-up post which really hit the nail on the head as far as the inadequacy and simplicity of the NS and NNS labels is concerned.

Mercedes Viola wrote a post putting together some very interesting quotes, videos and pictures about being native, non-native and bilingual. Not least from the famous David Crystal, whom I interviewed for TEFL Equity here, and who said he doesn’t use the term native speaker as a linguist any more. The way forward?

Andy Hockley wrote an article about management in ELT, where he towards the end promises that “From this point forward, if anybody who has responsibility for recruitment says in one of my sessions ‘We have to hire native speakers, because the students expect/want it’, I will respond as I did back then, that even if that is 100% true it’s not a good enough answer.” And of course, this is not 100% true. Probably more close to 0% true. For example, in a recent study done in Vietnam, students were found to place greater importance on six other factors than on being a NS.

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For other examples, please watch Silvana’s plenary, or check out the reading list here on TEFL Equity.

Hugh Dellar via Lexical Lab reflects on CELTA and whether it privileges native speakers in this very thought-provoking article. Mind you, it’s worth reading the comments below it as it seems Hugh has opened a can of worms.

And in this 5-minute video which I recorded for The TEFL Show podcasts I reflected on a couple of things Silvana said in her plenary.

Also, Isabela Villas Boas addressed the NS and NNS dichotomy in this post.

If I missed any posts, please let me know, as there has been a flurry of blogging activity post Silvana plenary, so if you’ve written a post about it, I’d love to add it to the list.

And Silvana’s wasn’t the only IATEFL 2016 presentation on the topic. Together with Burcu Akyol, Josh Round and Christopher Graham we gave a panel discussion on tackling native speakerism, that is a prejudice against those perceived as non-native speakers of English. Here’s a short video introducing the talk:

Lizzie Pinard wrote a fantastic summary of the session which you can read here. Mike Harrison kindly offered to record the audio, and it will be available soon on TEFL Equity, so please stay tuned 🙂

Then Dita Phillips gave a presentation entitled: I’m a non-native English speaker teacher – hear me roar! It was summarised by Lizzie Pinard in this post.

I also saw a very interesting talk about intercultural communication and English as a Lingua Franca, which I reported on in this video for The TEFL Show podcasts:

You might be wondering then what’s next. How are we going to capitalise on the increased interest in the prejudice against those in ELT who are perceived as ‘non-native speakers’. Well, the first thing me and Silvana decided to do is to post all the questions which she couldn’t answer during the Q&A session on this blog, so we can continue the discussion. The first lot will be up next week, so stay tuned.

Of course, each of us is in a different position within ELT. Some of you might be school directors or recruiters. Some of you might be teacher trainers. Others might be chairs of teaching associations, while others simply English teachers. And probably several of you are some or all of the above. So there are different things you could do depending on your position. And some specific action points are listed here.

But there are some things each and every one of us can and probably should do if we want ELT to finally become a more egalitarian profession, where teachers will not be divided into two antagonistic species, but a profession which values all of us for what we do best: teach English. So if you’d like to get involved, consider some of the below points:

  • give a workshop at your school
  • present at a conference
  • give a webinar – TEFL Equity is always looking for new presenters, so please check out the webinars page
  • write an article for a newsletter or a blog post – if you’d like to write for TEFL Equity, please get in touch. You can check out the blog for inspiration here
  • add the supporter’s badge to your site – find out more how to do this here

    Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

    Design @Jonathan Cordero and @Tekhnologic

  • if you see a discriminatory job ad on a jobs board or on social media, please write to the advertiser – it will only take a couple of minutes, but can cause some real change (read my post about this here)
  • you can also write a statement of support for TEFL Equity – read other statements here
  • find out whether your school or teaching association has equal employment oportunities policy; if they don’t suggest one – you can base it on position statements against discrimination issued by teaching associations such as TESOL International
  • use social media – tweet about it, post on FB, share blog posts and videos related to the issue
  • you can also contribute financially by donating to TEFL Equity campaign by clicking on the button below – find out more about how the funds are being used and why they are needed here
    Donate Button with Credit Cards

And if there are any other ways in which you feel you could get involved in the campaign, please comment below or get in touch.

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You have the power to change the status quo

It’s been ages since I last wrote a post for TEA blog, which in a way is great, because it means that there have been more and more post from guest bloggers. The PhD that I’ve recently started is also taking up most of what I used to call ‘free time’, but now is more commonly dubbed ‘PhD time’. However, a recent experience I’ve had prompted me to write this article.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

One of the most common myths (apart from my no. 2 favourite – most students prefer NESTs, but that will have to wait for another post) I’ve heard from people on social media or on the blog here in the last year and a half of TEA existence is that we can’t change the discriminatory status quo our profession is locked in. 75% of all ELT job ads are for NESTs only, that’s the way it is, and there’s nothing I, you, we, or anyone else can do about this. End of story. Stop moaning.

Let me start the rebuttal with this quote:

“racism, as well as native speakerism, only survive if they are constantly reinforced through daily discourses that make them seem natural”. (Ruecker & Ives, 2014, p. 407)

There is no doubt in my mind that because native speakerism, i.e. the belief that a NS embodies the ideals of the English language, ELT methodology, and is thus a better teacher (see Holliday, 2006, for an extensive definition and discussion), has managed over several decades to infiltrate nearly all aspects of ELT, it has started to be viewed as an integral part of our profession. Part of the status quo. Omnipresent, yet invisible. Lurking in the background. But above all, disguised as common sense, completely natural and justifiable.

‘Dominant ideologies maintain their hegemonic positions not because they belong only to people in authority but rather because they are pervasive in much larger discourse formations located in a vast array of communicative practices’
(Shuck, 2006, p. 274)

To give just one example, many countries have strict visa restriction whereby only citizens of 7 countries are classified as NES: the US, the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Such visa restrictions legitimize native speakerism and racism, giving the public and the ELT community an impression that discrimination is legal and thus acceptable. They also legitimize the false belief that English is primarily spoken in those 7 Inner Circle countries. That it is their English that NNES students and teachers should imitate. Mind you, there are over 50 countries where English is the official language, and the country with most English speakers in the world is not the US, but India. While on the other hand, only about 5% of South Africa’s population are NES.

Coming back to the notion that we are powerless against the forces of native speakerism that drive our profession, I’d like to remind you that only fifty years ago segregation was still legal in the US. And a century ago the idea that a woman should have the right to vote was laughed at by most people in the West. Fortunately, things do change. Not of their own accord, though. Nor because those who hold power decide to benevolently rid us of discrimination – of which more often than not they reap the benefits. Discriminatory practices change, because of collective and collaborative actions of individuals like you and me. For as Ruecker (2011) points out:

the inequality surrounding native and nonnative speaker, like the inequality surrounding racial categories, is not a deterministic facet of our existence but rather a discursively constructed practice (p. 413).

A couple of days ago I ended up on Spainwise site, which is an online jobs board for English teachers in Spain. The first few job ads that I looked clearly said that only NES need apply. I drafted a very quick email and sent it to the contact address given on the website. Here’s what I wrote:

I have noticed that many job ads that you publish on your website are for NS only. I wanted to inform you that such language in recruitment is illegal within the EU. On 23 May 2003 the EC ruled the following:

“In its answer to Question E-0941 the commission states that the term native speaker is not acceptable, under any circumstance, under community law. The Commission also states its intention of continuing to use its powers to fight against any discrimination caused by a requirement for native speaker knowledge in job advertisements.”

Apart from the legal aspect, such ads also bar numerous highly qualified and experienced NNS professionals from applying for the job, putting into question the value of professionalism in ELT. As far as the market demand is concerned, there is absolutely no evidence in literature to suggest that the majority of students prefer any NS to any NNS regardless of everything else, e.g. qualifications. To the contrary, most studies show that students tend to evaluate their teachers based on how they perform in class, rather than on preconceived notions and stereotypes.

I also wanted to inform you that several teaching associations and online job boards, such as TESOL France, IATEFL World and TESOL International, have already taken steps to ensure the ads on their website are not discriminatory and that they comply with EU law.

I am looking forward to hearing back from you.

Believe it or not, a few hours later I got a reply, and a very positive one too. In short, Aidan O’Toole from Spainwise explained that the registered recruiters can post ads on the website, and that it is difficult to monitor all of them. However, he also said:

I have reviewed all the opportunities currently being advertised and removed any which specify ‘native speaker’ as a requirement. I have also placed the following text at the top of the page so I will be notified of any further infringements by the site’s advertisers:

“All posts advertised on this page must be open to native and non-native teachers of English. If you see an advertisement which requires that the applicants be native speakers, please inform the webmaster (info@spainwise.net) and the advertisement will be removed.”

I have e-mailed all the schools which are entitled to advertise on the site and informed them of their obligation to advertise positions for both native and non-native teachers. I have also the following message posted on both the Facebook page and Twitter:

“All posts advertised on Spainwise are open to native and non-native teachers of English. If you see an advertisement which requires that the applicants be native speakers, please inform us (aidan@spainwise.net) and the advertisement will be removed.” (Aidan O’Toole, personal correspondence)

It’s an important step forward, I think, and it only goes to show that it is possible to change the status quo. It is possible to change how recruiters advertise and hire teachers. While they might still covertly discriminate against NNES, what Spainwise did does send an important message to language schools: hiring teachers based on their mother tongue is neither legal nor acceptable. And we’ll have none of it.

If more [teachers] were to respond to specific schools articulating their qualifications but specifically stating that they will not support an institution that perpetuates such prejudice, they could send a message that these institutions may begin to listen to. In […] engaging in activist partnerships, and involving both NNESTs and NESTs in this project of change, there are great possibilities for more equitable hiring practices in the future. (Ruecker & Ives, 2014, p. 21).

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

I’ve sent similar emails many times. It’s true that sometimes you might not get a reply. But you would be surprised how often you actually do, and that most of the time it is quite a positive one. And there are more and more organisations and schools that have already decided to oppose discrimination in recruitment. The full list can be found in the Hall of Fame here. Some have also agreed to be interviewed, leaving a powerful message of support for more equality in ELT recruitment:

  • TESOL International – read their anti-discrimination statement and watch the interview with Rosa Aronson, the Executive director
  • TESOL France – read the interview with Bethany Cagnol, the former president here.
  • IATEFL – watch the interview with Marjorie Rosenberg, the current President.
  • MELTA – read the interview with Helen Strong, the current Chair.

I’m also convinced that:

NESs and NNESs need to work together to dismantle the hierarchy that permeates the ELT profession. [For] while there may be immediate loss for teachers and institutions from inner-circle countries that profit on maintaining their NES authority, there is much more to be gained in the long-term through raising the professionalism of ELT by highlighting the value of disciplinary knowledge and professional training over NES status. (Ruecker, 2011, p. 417)

What I’d like to encourage you to do is next time you see an ad that is for NES only, or in any other way discriminatory, email the recruiter (feel free to copy my email to save time!). Then comment below giving the name, city and country of the school you emailed, and what the response was. You can also highlight that if the school in question decides to revise their future recruitment policies to give equal opportunities to both NES and NNES, it will be placed in the Hall of Fame here.

Change is possible. And you can bring it about. So indignez-vous!

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References:

Interview with the IATEFL President, Marjorie Rosenberg

marjorieIn this interview from the Talk to the Expert series, I had the pleasure of talking to Marjorie Rosenberg, who is the current IATEFL President. Recently, IATEFL decided to stop publishing job ads on their Jobs Market site which are for Native English Speakers only. So, in this interview we discuss the reasons behind this decision, as well as how IATEFL is planning to implement the policy. We also discuss other ways in which IATEFL works towards making ELT a more egalitarian profession. We end by emphasising that both Native and Non-Native English Speakers need to work together, collaborate and co-operate to tackle the prejudices that still exist in our profession.

You can find other interviews and articles from the Talk to the Expert series here. You can also follow TEFL Equity Advocates on YouTube here. Visit the Hall of Fame for a list of ELT Job Boards, schools and Teaching Associations who like IATEFL have implemented egalitarian hiring policies.

marjorie rosenbergMarjorie Rosenberg has been teaching EFL for the past 34 years in Austria. She is currently a lecturer at the language department at the University of Graz, works with corporate clients, trains teachers and writes materials. She has written extensively in the business English field for Cambridge University Press as well as published materials with Pearson, Cengage-National Geographic and Macmillan. She is the author of ‘Spotlight on Learning Styles’ with Delta Publishing and contributed the chapter ‘The learner as a creativity resource’ in the British Council publication on ‘Creativity in the English Language Classroom’.  Marjorie has served as chair of TEA (Teachers of English in Austria), Coordinator of IATEFL BESIG (The Business English Special Interest Group) and on the IATEFL Membership committee.  She is currently the IATEFL President.

Employing both NESTs and nNESTs benefits students and improves business

learn english budapest logo

NEST – Native english Speaking Teacher

nNEST – non-Native English Speaking Teacher

I would like to share with you an interview with Andrew Davison, the founder of Learn English Budapest, in which we discuss why Andrew has decided to change his recruitment policy and also take on nNESTs

The website was setup after Andrew had spent some time in the city and seen how hard teachers were finding it to advertise themselves for private lessons. Seeing that students wanted an alternative to language schools he setup the website as an easy way for students to find teachers. After filling in a form on the website Andrew personally matches them with one of the teachers on his team based on their learning needs. Lessons then take place somewhere mutually convenient and teachers get paid directly by the student.

Originally, Learn English Budapest only worked with native teachers but as the business grew Andrew discovered that students that were looking for intensive grammar tuition, or students who were at beginner level learnt better with nNESTS and at this point Andrew started welcoming them onto the team.

Since its launch, the business has grown and helped many students find teachers. There are now over 30 teachers on the team and while most of them are native, Andrew is actively looking for more non-natives to join the team, especially those with advanced linguistic qualifications. Recently I have also written an article for Learn English Budapest’s blog in which I tried to show that nNESTs can be as good as NESTs and there is no valid reason for discriminating non-native English speakers. You can read the article here.

When your sts are asked about the qualities of their ideal teacher, which ones do they mention most often? Is being a NS among them?

Being a native speaker does often feature in the list of ideal qualities for a teacher however just as common are things such as “patience”, “strictness”, “motivated” and “willingness to give homework” – the last one always makes me laugh a little! Overall the picture that I see is that students want a teacher that is going to work hard for them and really push them to learn English. Many of our students report having bad experiences with language schools or with teachers that their bosses bring in at work – they feel like they didn’t get the proper attention and this is why they are seeking out a private teacher.
Why did you decide to also work with nNESTs?
While their are plenty of excellent native English teachers in Budapest there are also plenty of bad ones. Simply put, their aren’t enough good ones to supply the demand I’ve had and I was forced to look at why I wasn’t including nNESTs on our team. I admit that at first I was sceptical that nNESTs could match the quality of natives but overtime I’ve seen first hand that I’m wrong. Out of all the student’s we’ve matched with nNESTs there haven’t been any complaints.
If there is a market demand for NESTs in Hungary, where do you think it comes from?
I wouldn’t say their is a huge demand for them specifically. Some students certainly do need convincing as they have negative perceptions of nNESTS or have had bad experiences with them in the past. However, with beginner students and those that specifically want to focus on improving their grammar it’s quite easy to persuade them of the benefits of working with an nNEST over a native teacher. In some instances a student will decide to work with two teachers; a nNEST to help them with grammar and a native to help them with pronunciation, accent and overall conversational skills. This has worked very well.
Does the industry always have to give in to the market demand, or can it shape what their customers want and need?
I would say the market could be shaped, but only if the market works together on this issue and the cynic in me sees it taking a long time for some language schools to change their minds on nNESTs. However from my point of view, I’m only interested in making sure each student that comes to Learn English Budapest ends up matched with the best teacher based on their needs. Whether that is a native or an nNEST is not important and in fact I’m actively working on more ways to get students more interested and aware of the teaching skills nNESTs have. It will take some time though.
What qualities are you looking for in a prospective teachers?
As we match students and teachers together for private lessons rather than acting as a typical language school – one of my biggest demands is that they be reliable and proactive at making first contact with the new students and really taking time to find out what they want to learn and planning lessons around this. On top of this, teachers need to motivate and engage their students. as well as be willing to look at all sorts of techniques to help people learn. No student is the same.
What advantages do you see of having a mix of NESTs and nNESTs in the staffroom?
Having both NESTs and nNESTs on the team means we can really offer our students the best range of teachers to choose from. Everyone that comes to us has different abilities and skills they are looking to improve. Some of these skills – particularly grammar for example – I find are often better taught by nNESTS, while NESTS are great for helping people with their pronunciation. Also, having nNESTS has meant we can dramatically increase the level of support we can give to students at the beginner level. Having teachers that speak Hungarian means we can now offer lessons to those that may only speak a few words of English. Finally, and less on the business side of things, just having my NESTs and nNESTs mixing together has helped both sides learn new teaching techniques.