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Adobe Spark

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.

 

 

 

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Elizabeth Bekes
Guest
Elizabeth Bekes

Good for you, Adam! I am so pleased you insisted. If you ever want to come and work in Ecuador (paid or volunteering), let me know! You will find a lot of eager NNESTs there including my good self, Elizabeth Bekes

bealer81
Guest

Thank you very much for the offer. It is very kind of you. If I ever get to Ecuador, I will visit.

Ralph Doe
Guest
Ralph Doe

I sympathize with the feelings of this person however I have the dubious pleasure of working with a non-native speaker and she, an Italian lady, definitely still has problems grasping some pronunciation and grammar points.

bealer81
Guest

Hi Ralph,

Thanks for commenting. Have you pointed out to your Italian friend the problems she is having and tried to help her with them? She would probably appreciate it as long as it is delivered in the right way. Let me know how it goes.

All the best,

Adam

Elizabeth Bekes
Guest
Elizabeth Bekes

Ralph, there are non-native speakers and there are non-native speakers. Highly proficient, bi/multi-lingual NNESTs can bring an enormous amount of knowledge and experience to the table. Pronunciation (so long as it does not get in the way of comprehension) is not such an important issue any more in our globalised world. It is the lady’s duty to improve (as any professional would want to do) and perhaps you can even help her? Becoming her mentor might change your perspective from “dubious” to “very great”…:-)

Zhenya
Guest

Hi Adam

Thank you for the inspiration: this post, and your e-mails, are wonderful examples (even models!) how NNST ‘issue’ can and needs to be addressed. So often, we are just quiet! 🙂
Zhenya

bealer81
Guest

You are more than welcome, Zhenya. I am happy to fight the good fight wherever and whenever.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Adam

bealer81
Guest
Elizabeth Bekes
Guest
Elizabeth Bekes

Ralph, there are non-native speakers and there are non-native speakers. Highly proficient, bi/multi-lingual NNESTs can bring an enormous amount of knowledge and experience to the table. Pronunciation (so long as it does not get in the way of comprehension) is not such an important issue any more in our globalised world. It is the lady’s duty to improve (as any professional would want to do) and perhaps you can even help her? Becoming her mentor might change your perspective from “dubious” to “very great”… 🙂

Sue Annan
Guest

I’ve just had a similar conversation with my class of advanced adults. Most of them, unfortunately, would have agreed that their priority was to have a native speaker teacher. We discussed it for a long time, and finally they agreed that a NNest could have even better language skills- but they were really hung up on the accent thing.

Marek - TEFL Equity Advocates & Academy
Admin

But I think it’s really important to discuss it. We bring up all sorts of issues up for debate with students, so why not this one too. A few might be convinced. A few might not, but at least we’ve raised some awareness. Regarding the accent issue, there’s a recent study from TESOL Quarterly which shows that there was no difference in terms of pron improvement between the group taught by a NS and that taught by a NNS: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AkfcA1d4u3qwgupsqO5IoUozZeW-MQ Not surprising if you think about it. Very few sts will ever be able to pass off for a NS… Read more »

molly
Guest
molly

the truth is you CANNOT teach an accent! everyone has his/her own and the person will speak his/her own way anyway, especially when English is their second language.

bealer81
Guest

Whenever my students tell me they want to have a native like accent, I sit them down and explain as nicely as possible that spending 3 hrs a week with me is nowhere near enough time to acquire a native like accent. They would need to spend a minimum of 6 months in a English speaking country to achieve that.

Natália Guerreiro
Guest

That’s another myth, I believe. You can spend a lifetime abroad and not acquire a native-like accent, or acquire it in your home country.

Now why they’d want a native-like accent is a whole different question…

Ryan (Peru)
Guest

Adam, if the client requests a native speaker for a particular role, then it is not discriminatory for an institution to only consider a NS for that role. It’s simply meeting the demands of the business. No one is denying that a NNS can be a fantastic teacher, and it’s not to be taken personal. In your email thread, they explained this to you- you predicted it because you already knew the answer. As an owner of an institute in Peru, I have more than 100 teachers on my books, around 50-50 NS vs NNS, but some opportunities simply cannot… Read more »

Joe P
Guest
Joe P

Ryan, I want to address a couple of points you make. Firstly, the point that because the client requests it, it’s therefore not discrimination. That’s simply not true, and all we need to do to prove that is to create an analogy where a client demands to be taught by a white teacher (as has happened in schools I’ve worked in). I assume you would recognize that as discrimination, and the reason is that someone’s race has no affect on their ability as a teacher. Something doesn’t cease to be discrimination just because the customer wants it. So in order… Read more »

molly
Guest
molly

the thing is that NNS teachers have no chance of applying for the position and proving their skills.

trackback

[…] can read the write up of the Twitter conversation in Adam’s article Stand up and be counted here), so I thought why not do something about it as well. I tweeted screenshots of the messages and […]

Joe P
Guest
Joe P

Also Adam, did you not tell them that it was against EU law? I’d guess that schools would be a bit more careful after finding that out.

Ryan (Peru)
Guest

Hi Joe. Well, if you look at my original post I made it clear that “it is not discriminatory for an institution”. Regarding your first point which has been confused with a racial and skin colour issue with constant, irrelevant references to ‘whites’. Please stick to the issue for the basis of strong debate and rebuttals. We are talking about the discrimination between NNS and NS, not skin colour. Now, Whether or not one feels it is discrimination on the part of the clients to request NS only is the real question but, Adam refers to institutes being the main… Read more »

Shanshan
Guest
Shanshan

Hi, Ryan. I think the logic behind your points is interesting. Point 1 NNST are not discriminated against because the labor division(e.g., pronunciation should be taught by NST particularly. ) comes from the market demand. And if I am not mistaken about political economy, market itself is amoral. That’s why we need public institutions to introduce morality into the market. If you want to know more about this market and ethics issue, here is a good passage for you to read: Markets are Amoral. Whether their Rules are Moral or Immoral is Up to Us. https://nextgenpolicy.org/blog/markets-are-amoral-whether-their-rules-are-moral-or-immoral-is-up-to-us/ So what you call… Read more »

trackback

[…] example, take a look at this really inspiring article from Adam Beale, in which he tells us why he decided to refuse an interview offer from an employer […]

trackback

[…] not that common yet. Adam Beale is an example to follow, and you can read his TEFL Equity article here on how he refused to apply for a job advertised for native speakers, even though this benefited […]

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