Diversity in recruitment – why should we seek it? by Andy Hockley

Note: This is the first of two blog posts. The first seeks to explain what diversity is all about and why it is important, and specifically why it is important in our context in language teaching organisations (and indeed what it should mean to us).  The second, to follow, will talk about how we can think about our hiring policies and practices such that we ensure a diverse group of teachers and other staff.

What is diversity and why should we seek it?

An introduction to diversity

Diversity in organisations involves hiring and supporting a workforce of people with differences. The typical range of differences mentioned and referred to in the literature include race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical abilities and economic backgrounds. The idea of a diverse workplace is that employees work together to create a culture of inclusiveness, where all employees feel valued.

Being part of a diverse organisation has many benefits. One of the most obvious is that an organisation with a diverse range of experiences and points of view to draw from will inevitably have a greater range of approaches to dealing with possible problems or new challenges.  This also clearly illustrates why diversity is not merely about hiring practices – a diverse organisation will not benefit from its diversity if employees are not listened to and have no voice.

Diversity in language teaching organisations

In addition to the differences mentioned above which are meant to be tackled by diversity policies, I would suggest that in language teaching organisations (LTOs), and particularly in the teaching staff, we need also to ensure (as much as possible) a diversity of first language speakers.  Specifically, a mix of native and non-native speaker teachers. I am, of course, aware that the vast majority of LTOs around the world do not have the option of having such a mix, as they can only possibly hire local non-native speaker teachers – this is of course the reality of many contexts. However, for language schools that do have the option of hiring native speaker teachers, the aim should be to hire a diverse teaching body – meaning some native speakers and some non-native speakers – as well as diversity in race, gender, age, etc.

But, why is this form – that is to say speakers of different languages – of diversity important? Why is striking a balance of non-native and native speakers teachers so valuable? There are 4 main reasons

  1. Staffroom Sharing

The great benefit of diversity is having a diverse body of experiences to draw from. It is in staffroom interactions – teachers sharing ideas, getting suggestions, brainstorming ways of dealing with certain students and certain lesson aims – that this is most obviously valuable in the academic side of an LTO. Non-native speakers contribute greatly to these conversations – not only through their own experiences as teachers and as trainee teachers (frequently non-native speaker teachers have gone through much more in depth training than native speakers), but also through their own experiences in learning the target language in the first place. These professional conversations that occur in the better staffrooms are immeasurably enriched by the presence of non-native speaker teachers.

  1. Student Learning

It is difficult to research the effects of different factors on student learning as so many variables come into play. However, there is a slowly growing body of research into the effects of ethnic diversity in the teaching body into student learning in LTOs. The findings of these studies tend to show that there are benefits in having a diverse teaching body because (a) teachers from the “mainstream” privileged groups tend to have lower expectations of students – which in turn tends to result in lower student achievement; and (b) members of minority ethnic groups in the teaching body have a greater understanding of ethnic minority learners’ cultural experiences, and they are better able to serve as role models (Donlevy, Meierkord, and Rajania, 2016).

We cannot simply transpose these early research findings over to the non-native/native speaker question, but it would seem – especially in the case of (b) above – to make sense to at least consider (and research) the benefits that having non-native speaker teachers have on student achievement.

It is also important to note that research has been conducted into students’ attitude towards native speaker and non-native speaker teachers and concluded that students do not have a preference for one over the other (see articles on this site)

  1. Organisational Culture

As with any form of diversity, having a more diverse workforce has a positive impact on organisational culture. Having a variety of viewpoints, a variety of backgrounds, a variety of skillsets, enhances the organisational learning as well as the potential personal mastery of all.

In addition, in many “onshore” LTOs, the commonly observed organisational divide between academic and administrative sides of the school is exacerbated when all the teachers are expatriate native speakers.  A diverse teaching body makes a huge difference in this instance. (By “onshore” in this context, I mean language schools whose market is local, where the languages taught are not – usually – the languages of the country or region in which they are located.  An English language teaching school in Spain, for example, or a school teaching Spanish in Brazil.  By contrast an “offshore” LTO is one for which the market is elsewhere, such as a school teaching English in Australia to students wishing to study in universities there.)

  1. Societal Benefits

The message our organisations promote when they truly embrace diversity is not to be ignored. Offshore LTOs help with promoting wider integration in society when they employ truly ethical hiring practices. Onshore LTOs, on the other hand, provide a model for people in the community to aspire to.

In addition:

Finally, a growing body of literature investigates how the demographic make-up of public organisations affects policy outputs, often focusing on the theory of representative bureaucracy. This literature suggests that public sector organisations (such as schools) are more likely to formulate and implement policies that are in the interest of the service recipients (such as pupils) when they mirror the target population on key demographic dimensions, such as race or ethnicity. (Donlevy, Meierkord, and Rajania, 2016)

I hope that you will see the value, therefore of having a diverse workplace – in all ways. Be they related to race, sexuality, age, gender, ability, socio-economics, and in our particular context, first language.

In my second post, I’ll suggest some ideas regarding recruitment policies and practices that can help to build a more diverse workplace.

hockley5042Andy Hockley is the co-ordinator of IATEFL’s Leadership and Management SIG (LAMSIG) and is a freelance educational management consultant and trainer based in deepest Transylvania. He has been training (both teachers and managers) for 20 years and has been coordinating and training on the IDLTM (International Diploma in Language Teaching Management) since its inception in 2001. He is co-author of ‘From Teacher to Manager’ (CUP, 2008), ‘Managing Education in the Digital Age’ (The Round, 2014) and author of ‘Educational Management’ (Polirom, 2007).

Bibliography & Further Reading

Reflexión: lecciones aprendidas después de dos años contratando profesores de inglés no nativos

[note from the editor: this post was translated into Spanish from this article also published on the blog by Andrew Davison by Marina Escalada]

Mi experiencia en cuanto a trabajar con profesores de inglés no nativos (NNESTS en sus siglas en inglés), comenzó hace poco más de 2 años, cuando empecé mi negocio, Learn English Budapest. No somos una escuela de idiomas al uso, sino una agencia que pone en contacto a profesores de inglés con estudiantes de toda la ciudad. Cuando comencé, la meta era ofrecer una alternativa moda a los folletos y a anunciarse en foros de expatriados.

Durante los primeros meses, yo, al igual que otras muchas escuelas tristemente aún siguen haciendo, tenía una opinión negativa de los profesores no nativos. Asumía que los profesores nativos eran, simplemente, mejores a la hora de enseñar el idioma.

No fue hasta que fui contactado por Marek Kiczkowiak, fundador de TEFL Equity Advocates (Defensores de la Igualdad en TEFL), que realmente tuve la oportunidad de cuestionar mi opinión sobre el tema.

Lo que empezó como un intercambio de correos sobre el tema de nativos y no nativos (NESTS/NNESTS*) se convirtió en un experimento por mi parte. Decidí empezar a aceptar a NNESTS en mi equipo para ver que resultados obtenía y tan sólo unas pocas semanas después, me di cuenta de que había estado cometiendo un error al no contratarlos.

En aquel entonces, compartí un sumario de mis conclusiones en una entrevista. Hoy, vuelvo a estar aquí y me complace anunciar el lanzamiento de mi nuevo sitio web, Teacher Finder. Es el mismo concepto, excepto que esta vez pondremos a personas en contacto con profesores de idiomas en más de una docena de ciudades alrededor del mundo. También nos expandiremos incluyendo nuevos idiomas: Español, Italiano, Francés, Húngaro, Arabe y Alemán, entre otros. Por supuesto, los profesores no nativos son bienvenidos.

Para todos aquellos que se dedican a la gestión de agencias o escuelas de idiomas y que tengan dudas sobre trabajar con NNESTS, comparto aquí algunos de los resultados observados durante los últimos 2 años.

LA MAYORÍA DE ESTUDIANTES VALORAN LA EXPERIENCIA MÁS QUE LA LENGUA MATERNA

Cuando se trata de enseñar, es obvio que las requisitos más importantes son, la habilidad del profesor a la hora de explicar el tema y, obviamente, enseñar. Esto es particularmente cierto en cuanto a profesores de idiomas. En un mundo donde la lengua franca internacional es el inglés y el número de hablantes no nativos empieza a sobrepasar el de nativos, es ridículo pensar que los no nativos no pueden ser tan buenos profesores como los “elegidos”, que han nacido en un ambiente donde se habla inglés.

LOS ESTUDIANTES NO EXIGIRÁN UN PROFESOR NATIVO SI NO LES DAS LA OPCIÓN

Por supuesto, “nativo” sigue estando imbuido de un cierto estereotipo y, dada la opción, la mayoría de personas aún optan por un nativo. De hecho, solía haber una casilla en el formulario online de Learn English Budapest donde se leía: “¿Quieres un profesor nativo? Si/No. No es de sorprender que la mayoría de personas marcasen la casilla “nativo” o lo dejasen en blanco.

Decidí quitar esta casilla y reemplazarla con la siguiente pregunta dirigida a los estudiantes: “Describe como sería tu profesor perfecto”. Durante los siguientes meses, resultó evidente que los estudiantes no buscaban a alguien que fuera nativo. Estaban más interesados en encontrar a un profesor que compartiera sus intereses y pudiera explicar ampliamente el tópico en el que están interesados.

A partir de ese momento, no me ha contactado ningún estudiante para quejarse de haberle sido asignado un profesor no nativo de inglés. La mayoría están encantados al ver que los NNESTS pueden explicar gramática complicada (a menudo, mejor que los hablantes nativos) y establecer analogías con sus idiomas nativos.

LOS NNESTS PUEDEN SER MÁS DINÁMICOS

Uno de los factores que más favorece a los NNESTS es que tienen experiencia propia de haber aprendido el idioma. Poseen una gran comprensión de lo que los estudiantes están pasando y de cuáles pueden ser los mayores obstáculos para alcanzar la fluidez.

Su propia experiencia del aprendizaje del idioma, ha menudo les ha enseñado algunas técnicas innovadoras sobre cómo explicar mejor y entender inglés. Cuando pregunté a mis profesores cuales eran los consejos y trucos que les son de más ayuda a la hora de enseñar inglés, en seguida vi que los NNESTS eran los que sabían mucho más acerca de la manera de mejorar sus habilidades lingüísticas, (y las de sus alumnos).

LOS NNESTS TIENDEN A TENER MEJORES RECURSOS PARA LA ENSEÑANZA

De nuevo, ya que los NNESTS han pasado por la inmensa tarea de llegar a hablar otro idioma con fluidez, han explorado las posibilidades, dentro del panorama de recursos de aprendizaje de idiomas, para encontrar los mejores. Mientras que los NESTS cuentan con el lujo de poder contar siempre con el recurso de ser hablantes nativos y poder elaborar “recursos” improvisados, los NNESTS normalmente, cubren ese espacio preparándose mejor las lecciones.

También son los que comparten con los estudiantes más métodos de aprendizaje alternativos a los libros y les ayudan a mejorar más rápidamente el manejo del idioma. También he observado que, por norma general, también hacen más esfuerzo en crear sus propios recursos y combinar estrategias diferentes para encontrar la mejor manera de enseñar a cada alumno.

CUANDO SE TRATA DE ENSEÑAR A NIÑOS, LOS NNESTS, A MENUDO LO HACEN MEJOR

Cuando rememoro mis días en la escuela y las clases de idiomas que nos daban, no puedo acordarme de, ni tan siquiera, un profesor de idiomas nativo. Cuando se trata de principiantes y niños, la habilidad de explicar el idioma en su idioma nativo y limitar la presión que el estudiante siente, es irreemplazable.

Cuando era joven y estudiaba mis primeras lecciones en español, no hubiera podido sobrevivir frente a una persona española oyéndome imitar su idioma; por lo que he aprendido de los comentarios que recibo de los estudiantes, a menudo, estos se sienten igual cuando están empezando. Los más avanzados puede que se sientan cómodos siendo expuestos a más presión, pero los niños no suelen progresar en ese entorno.

CONCLUSIÓN: MIENTRAS QUE LOS ESTEREOTIPOS LIGADOS A LOS PROFESORES NATIVOS CONTINÚAN, LOS NNESTS ESTÁN, A MENUDO, MEJOR PREPARADOS PARA ENSEÑAR INGLÉS.

Incluso en Teacher Finder aún tenemos gente pidiendo profesores de inglés nativos pero, muy a menudo, no presionan sobre el tema. También hemos conseguido explicar con éxito los beneficios inherentes en el aprendizaje con profesores no nativos de inglés.

Diría que una de las ventajas de tener a un NNEST enseñándote, es que entiende perfectamente por lo que estás pasando como estudiante del idioma. Al haber pasado por el mismo esfuerzo frente a las cuestiones gramaticales, entiende lo que se necesita para poder explicar claramente las normas. Esto es particularmente importante con los niños, quienes pueden desanimarse si tienen a un profesor nativo.

A pesar de que, desafortunadamente, me tomó un tiempo llegar a darme cuenta, ahora se que los NNESTS pueden estar mejor equipados y preparados para enseñar que los profesores nativos. Al final, lo que realmente les importa a los estudiantes es encontrar a alguien con quien puedan conectar y que haga del aprendizaje del idioma algo ameno, indistintamente de si son nativos o no nativos.

andrew5041Andrew Davison es el fundador de Teacher Finder y también disfruta escribiendo y viajando en su tiempo libre. Vive entre Londres y Budapest.

*NEST(S): siglas en inglés de “Native English Teacher-s”. En español, Profesor(es) Nativo(s) de Inglés.

NNEST(S): siglas en inglés de “Non-Native English Teacher-s”. En español, Profesor(es) No-Nativo(s) de Inglés.

The long and winding road to success by Tatiana Njegovan

On the 31 October 1991 my ten-year old dream came true – I became an English teacher.

I was born in Belgrade, the capital of former Yugoslavia, today Serbia. I successfully passed my State Certification Exam there too. I worked not only as a teacher in a high-school but also as a Sworn Court Interpreter. I had an excellent score on TOEFL 620/700 and I obtained Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English. In other words, things were going great.

In 2002 my husband got a new job in the aeronautics and we moved to Toulouse in southern France. There, I was told that I had to redo my last two years of graduate studies if I wanted to work again as a teacher. Which I did.

touluse

I first did 3 years of French at the university obtaining the C2 level in French and the Certificate of Teaching French as a Foreign Language. Afterwards, I studied English at the French university for two years together with students who were almost half my age. I passed all my exams and went to teach in collèges (higher grades of elementary schools in France) and in Lycées (grammar schools).

The atmosphere was such that I very soon realised that I must hide the fact that I was from Serbia. I let the students for a long time believe that I was from Russia, since my name is Tatiana. I did not say it myself, but I never denied when they when they concluded (wrongly) that I am Russian.

Yet, how stupid and unnecessary seemed to me to have to do that. I do not like lying and I felt humiliated having to lie about my origin. I knew I was a good teacher of English and I never stopped believing in that. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of the ‘long and winding road’ (the name of one of Beatles’ songs).

I could not stand any longer having to lie to teenagers and found a job in a private school of foreign languages.  I felt like an ugly duckling there. Some of the students and fellow teachers were treating me badly because of my origin –  I was neither a native speaker of English nor a French teaching English. This lasted for a year and finally I decided to take some time off; otherwise, I felt I was going to burst.

So I quit and started doing private tutorial classes and giving volunteering teaching lessons to the groups of adults who were very kind and appreciated very much both my work and my personality. I kept on applying for teaching jobs. However, every time I met the school manager the first question I was asked was always “Where do you come from?”.

My friends told me to lie, to invent British parents, phony Anglosaxon name (a common phenomenon –  when I worked in a collège I met an excellent teacher of English who was French, so good that she objectively did not need to lie about her origin, but who spoke French with a false English accent all the time), but lying my way through life was never my idea of living. So, many times the conversation with my potential employer was finished after just one question.

And then, suddenly, when I almost gave up hope, one employer did not ask me anything about my origin. One of the things he asked me at the job interview was to speak English and I got the job. From that moment on my life changed completely.

to-acomplish-great-things

I became a self-employed teacher of English working full time and often overtime. I do ‘prépa concours’ courses preparing young French students for very complex and difficult entrance exams for Les Grandes Ecoles (Private Elite Universities). I also prepare students for IELTS, TOEFL, GMAT (verbal part), ACT, SAT, TOEIC, BULATS and other English language exams.

The proof that I am a good teacher is that my students pass their exams. I never hide from them where I am from. If they insist, I sometimes tell them my little life story and they find it inspiring because they are learners of English themselves.

In addition, with regard to the level of preparation of a teacher of a foreign language I can say that I have a C2 level of French and the Teaching Degree, but can I teach French to a C level student? I don’t know. I  can definitely teach  levels A1 – A2, I might help somebody  who is a B1 level or B2 maximum.

However, never, never in my whole life has it happened to me to come to my lesson unprepared. Never. I am proud of myself and do not feel that my origin is a handicap, but a  source of strength because a native English teacher  wouldn’t know what it is like to learn English.

I am the member of TESOL France and I admire and respect a lot both my NNEST and NEST colleagues. They are my role models and my inspiration. They are my teachers and I will never stop learning from them. They are dedicated, serious and enthusiastic about their job just like me. We teachers understand that we must never stop developing ourselves professionally, learning from the best among us and modernising our teaching methods.

So this is my story with a happy-end. I think that I was very, very lucky. The important thing, though, is to never stop trying, to keep on searching – somehow at the end the pains will prove to be worth it. However, I am not sure that all similar stories have a happy ending like mine.

To sum up, I would like to emphasise that the quality of teaching does not necessarily come from being a NEST. It is simply based on doing our best, on loving our job and believing that we have become the teachers of English, the first world language today, in order to build bridges, connections and communication between people of different origins, thus diminishing any prejudice, discrimination and bias that degrades  our human and professional dignity

tatianaTatiana Njegovan, originally from Serbia is a self-employed tacher of English in Toulouse, France

TEFL.com – et tu contra me? by Paulina Woźniak

To be or not to be…

I’ve never defined myself as a fighter. I’ve always followed the rules and believed that if everyone did so, the world would be a wonderful place to live. You might see my attitude as a little bit naïve but I’ve always believed in equality, in the end, we live in the 21st century, we’re getting smarter and more conscious every day. Nevertheless, until very recently I had not seen anything wrong about language schools wanting to hire only native speakers.

What has changed?

You might wonder how somebody, who’s always lived in their idealized bubble, finally realised that the world we lived in was not as perfect as it seemed. Well, it happened pretty much by accident. A couple of months ago, I attended a TESOL conference in Vitoria-Gasteiz. I had made a list of all the talks I wanted to attend, and the one about acting against native-speakerism was… not on my list. It was actually my boss who, the day before the conference, encouraged me to go to that talk. I had not had any expectations, and I think that’s why the talk affected me so much. I left the room with my legs shaking and a thousand thoughts running in my mind at the same time. I realised I had been a target and probably an object of discrimination. But, how was it possible that I hadn’t realized it before?

It’s all about being in the right place at the right time

After the talk, I started thinking about my “employment history” and I realised that luck was very important. Because of various reasons, I always looked for the job in the middle of school year. As you can probably imagine, if a language school looks for a substitute teacher in January or February, they need them asap. I have never been asked to pretend I am a native speaker or not to mention my origins. I just got the job I had been looking for without any problems. The life in my idealized bubble was just perfect. Thanks to the fact that I am a well-organized and hard-working person, usually modest too J, I’ve never had problems staying in a language school because my employers knew about my experience, qualifications and teaching style. Being a non-native was a fact but not a stumbling block.

All good things come to an end…

Some time ago, I started feeling a need to change something in my life. As an EFL teacher, I simply thought that it might not be a bad idea to change the place of living. My colleagues recommended I used tefl.com to apply for jobs. If you’ve ever used the webpage, you probably now that it’s full of job offers for EFL teachers you can apply for directly and instantly. At first I was pretty impressed by the number of offers. However, after some time, I realised that all of them had one thing in common: everyone was looking for native level English speakers.

 

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Well, there is nothing wrong or incorrect about looking for proficient English speakers. As a teacher I know that the better the teacher’s English (by which I also mean qualifications), the more students will possibly benefit from classes. What struck me the most though, is the fact that experience is not as valuable to some employers as language proficiency.

Time to apply

Whenever I see an interesting job offer, I jump at the chance and send my application. I started the whole process around April. Since that moment, I hadn’t had any problems until the moment when I wanted to apply for a job and I suddenly saw this notification on the screen:

At first I thought it was just a system bug. In the end the job offer said “native level English speaker”, and if you just have a quick look at my profile, you’ll see that there’s no higher level of language competence than “fluent”. However, before the questions about the foreign languages, there is one tricky question: “Are you a native level English speaker?”. To your surprise, my answer to the question was “No”. Why? Firstly, what does native-like even mean? It is already quite problematic to decide who a native speaker actually is not to mention a native-like speaker. Well, I was not born in an English-speaking-like country, my parents do not speak an English-like language and my education was never in an English-like language. Thus, my answer to the question was “No”. Therefore, I could not apply for the job mentioned above.

What’s actually worth discussing

Since that moment I have been thinking a lot about this loophole in TEFL.COM’s system. Wouldn’t it be better to simply use CEFR (the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) which is widely accepted and respected to verify teachers’ English language proficiency? It is worth mentioning that according to CEFR a C2 English language speaker has “the capacity to deal with material which is academic or cognitively demanding, and to use language to good effect at a level of performance which may in certain respects be more advanced than that of an average native speaker”. You’ve probably noticed that being born and raised in an English speaking country is absolutely not a requirement here. Neither is an RP pronunciation. A C2 English speaker might actually have a better linguistic competence than a native speaker, now the question is, how does this influence the teaching process? Non-native speakers actually underwent the learning process themselves and know what it is like to be in students’ shoes. They quite often, just like me, have a teaching degree, postgraduate studies and CELTA. They’re simply prepared for the job because they’ve been working their whole life (or most of it) to do this job.

I am not a native speaker, a fact I am not ashamed of. Anyone who has studied a foreign language and is capable of teaching it knows how difficult and challenging this task is. I’ve found being judged, only on the basis of me being born and raised in a non-English speaking country, outrageous, offensive and unacceptable. I’ve been denied the possibility to apply for a job which is a pure example of discrimination. That was the moment my bubble burst and I felt the need to speak out against the discrimination of non-native English speaker teachers.

What’s the euphemism for irony?

If you’ve ever tried to post a job offer on tefl.com, you’ve probably seen this notification below which provides you with short information about what’s acceptable and unlawful within the EU.

First, Tefl.com inform school schools that it is illegal to advertise for native speakers. Consequently, the advertisers ask for “native-like” English speakers to comply with the law. At this point we have to be honest, those who advertise for “native-like level” are still looking for “native speakers”, they just put in politically correct words. As a result, unless I tick the box in my online resume that I am a ‘native-like level English speaker’, my application will be rejected right away.

The webpage’s terms and conditions are undoubtedly legal, but difficult to implement or stick to in practice thanks to the system which, probably, automatically discriminates against non-native-like speakers.

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One more thing I have to clarify here. Before I did my CELTA, my application had also been rejected once or twice because I did not have “relevant” qualifications (some employers asked specifically for CELTA) which I found absolutely acceptable. But the very first moment I could not apply for a job because I was born and raised in Poland in a monolingual Polish speaking environment I decided to take an active stand.

“If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime.” ― Jack Kerouac

I have to admit, that even though discrimination itself is not a pleasant thing, it may be an eye-opening experience. After the talk in March, I was sort of aware that something similar might happen to me. However, what struck me even more than being discriminated on the grounds of my mother tongue, were my colleagues’ reactions. One of them, a teacher form Ireland, asked me directly why I did not say I was a native-like speaker in my profile (His justification – “Your English is better than mine”). He did admit I was right when I asked him if he would say that he was English instead of Irish in order to get a job.

I have no intention of denying who I am and where I come from. My colleague’s reactions showed me that we have to raise people’s awareness and highlight the current situation. We have to stand up to all those ridiculous requirements and fight for ourselves.

One for all and all for one

 

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Designed by @teflninja

 

As I said in the beginning, I’ve never defined myself as a fighter but I’ve realised that if we do not want to live in the world where all teachers are equal but some teachers are more equal than others, we have to take an active stand and speak out against the discrimination now.

paulina-wozniakPaulina Woźniak officially started teaching English in 2013, however she says that she actually started the job at the age of… four. In 2015, she started teaching English in Spain and she’s recently started a new teaching job in the south of Spain. As a teacher she likes the challenges involved in the job, believes that chocolate can solve all of the problems and tries to pass on her passion for English to her students. After doing her CELTA, she’s now looking for a new challenge.

Recording of my Innovate ELT 2016 plenary

This is the video recording of my 10 minute plenary at Innovate ELT 2016 in Barcelona. Some parts of the original did not record properly, unfortunately, so I had to rerecord them at home. Still, I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear your comments. Below the video, you can read the transcript of the plenary.

If you’re interested in getting involved in TEFL Equity Advocates campaign, take a look at this page for ideas on how you can help.

Plenary transcript

How many of you in the audience are NNS?

And how many are NS?

And how many of you are English teachers?

This is precisely the point I’d like to make today. We’re all English teachers. And if we want to empower ourselves, it can only be done together. As English teachers.

So I have a very simple dream. A dream that one day we’ll all simply be seen as English teachers. That this artificial divide that seems to separate us, will disappear. Become irrelevant.

So my dream is very simple indeed. It’s a dream that soon we will be valued based on what we do best: teach English; and not based on an accident of birth. Because we are all English teachers. And what defines us is our professionalism. Our ability to teach a language that we all love.

So when I look around today, what I see is English teachers. Not NS and NNS. Simply English teachers. I want you to take a good look around you too. We’re a diverse group. We speak different languages. Come from different countries. But there’s one important thing that unites us: we’re all English teachers.

Can you see that?

We’re all English teachers.

And together we’re stronger. Together we have the power to change ELT. To bring professionalism back into our industry.

And change is possible. It is actually taking place right now. This conference is a sign of change. The topics discussed here are a sign of change. And I, you, we, as English teachers, we can become the driving force of change in ELT.

The story I want to tell you will hopefully show you that change in ELT is possible. No matter how insurmountable the obstacles seem. And all of you there have the power to change things.

There was a time when I didn’t think of myself as a NNS. I thought of myself as an English teacher. Call it naivete or innocence. That time is unfortunately gone. It was a happy time when you thought of yourself as an English teacher. But it all changed back in 2011.

I was teaching in IH San Sebastian. The IH transfer list came out and I applied for work at IH Lisbon. What I didn’t know back then was that I was a NNS. And NNS weren’t welcome in IH Lisbon. I received an email that said my CV wouldn’t be considered and I should try another IH school.

I was furious. My CV won’t be considered because I’m Polish?! This was utter nonsense. I was a qualified and experienced teacher who was proficient in English. What else do you want? Well, clearly, they weren’t that interested in qualifications or experience or proficiency. They simply wanted a native speaker.

I was furious. But thanks to an English colleague, rather than smash the computer screen, sulk, or even worse: give up; I vented my anger into an article. Mind you, I’d never written an article in my life. But I couldn’t just sit silently. I had to speak out. IH Lisbon wasn’t going to get away with it. I wanted to go after them.

I entitled the article ‘Nativity scenes’. I sent it off to several newspapers and magazines, and EL Gazette replied saying they’d publish it. Of course with changes. And there were a lot of them. Remember I didn’t have a clue about writing articles. I was just a young English teacher from Poland venting his fury.

The article must have created a bit of an impact, though, because the CEO of IH World wrote an official reply which was published below the article. And in the reply she promised IH would change their hiring policies. Which as far as I know they did. At least officially.

What does this story show you? That if you’re a young English teacher from Poland venting his fury into an article, even a giant like IH will not be safe.

But jokes aside, what I think it shows is that you also have the power to change things in ELT. We all do. As English teachers, we are ELT.

But change also takes time. It takes a lot of determination. It takes commitment. It takes grit. With IH it might have been a stroke of luck. To really change ELT, it will take time.

But it is possible.

Two years ago I started TEFL Equity Advocates campaigning for equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS teachers in ELT. The basic premise was and still is that we’re all English teachers. And we should be valued for that, for our teaching skills. Not for the language we unwittingly picked up as kids. And the stereotypes, the prejudices, they make us all weaker. They divide us when we should be united.

And equal employment and professional opportunities should be important to all of us. Because the current ELT recruitment model disregards professionalism. It disregards us as English teachers. It is based on a false assumption that the mother tongue of the teacher should be the most important criteria.

Since I started TEFL Equity, one of the most frequent challenges I’ve faced is people saying that things will never change. That I’m fighting a lost cause. There’s a certain defeatism among many ELTers. But remember, we, as English teachers, are ELT. And we have the power to change it. To shape its future.

So the most beautiful moments since starting TEFL Equity have been to hear from teachers:

Thanks, now I know I’m not on my own.

You’ve given me the tools and the courage to fight for my rights.

I used to accept this discrimination as a given, but now I know I shouldn’t, and I won’t.

This is what I call empowerment. And a call to action. If we want change, we need to act. We need to make it happen

So if the issue of inequality between NS and NNS in ELT concerns you, do something about it. Write an article. Talk to your DoS. Propose or give a workshop in your school on the topic. Give a conference talk. Or a webinar. Talk to your local teaching association. When you see a job ad that’s discriminatory, comment on it. Write to the employer.

And last by not least, talk to your students. Discuss this issue with them. As I’ll try to show later today in my session with the learners, it’s a great topic for debate. And as teachers we have the obligation to educate our students. To empower them.

English has changed. It doesn’t belong to the English any more. Nor does it belong to the US, the Irish or the Australians. It belongs to all of us, all those who teach it. Who study it. Who use it. It is an international language. A beautifully diverse one.

Let’s embrace this diversity. Let’s speak out for greater equality in ELT. For greater professionalism. For empowerment.

Let’s speak out for us, English teachers.

We are all english teachers

Sexism, racism, ageism and native speakerism – job ads in ELT

Earlier this year Marek Kiczkowiak and I gave a talk at TESOL Spain in Vitoria-Gasteiz about native speakerism in teacher training (you can download the ppt here).  In preparation for the talk, I set up a survey on general issues of discrimination in ELT to get an idea of different attitudes about discrimination in general, but predominantly to look at native speakerism; that is, the prejudice against individuals based on their mother tongue or perceived ‘nativeness’.  The survey features a series of ELT job adverts with examples of language which could be interpreted as discriminatory.  Participants were simply asked to judge if the language was discriminatory and if it was, was the discrimination justified in the context provided.  The scenarios were as follows.

  • A women’s college in Saudi Arabia seeking only female teachers.
  • A summer camp for teenagers seeking only teachers aged 18-30.
  • A private language school in Prague seeking only native English speaker teachers.
  • A language school in China seeking only Caucasian teachers.
  • A language school in Japan unwilling to hire anyone with visual tattoos.
  • A university in Turkey seeking only teachers with C1 or above language proficiency.
  • A language school in Poland only willing to hire teachers with an EU passport.

Some of the adverts were genuine and taken from http://www.tefl.com whilst others were adapted to include the discriminatory language.  In total, over 580 people took part in the survey coming from all over the world and from every corner of the industry, from trainee teachers to teacher trainers to academics.

General tendencies

Looking at the collected data, some things were unsurprising.  Overall, 92% of respondents believed that a Turkish university requiring teachers to have a minimum language proficiency of C1 was completely reasonable with the majority stating that this is a necessary attribute for the job and, in theory, attainable by anyone.  A similar percentage (88%) felt that seeking a Caucasian teacher was unjustifiably discriminatory, the only surprise perhaps being that 6% felt it was in no way discriminatory.

The other ads were more divisive.  Half of the respondents felt that refusing to employ someone due to visible tattoos was unjustified discrimination with a quarter feeling that it was either justified or not discrimination at all.  Requiring a teacher to have an EU passport was only found to be discriminatory by 44% of those responding with 14% overall finding the discrimination justified.  The issue of the employment of only women for a women’s college in Saudi Arabia was the most controversial.  The majority (44%) felt that asking for female teachers wasn’t discriminatory whereas a third felt that despite being discriminatory, within the context provided, it was justified.  The two questions that showed the most similar attitudes were regarding the need for native speakers and for teachers to be within a certain age range with 68% and 62% respectively finding the terminology both discriminatory and unjustified.  In each case 12% found the language to be discriminatory but justified in some way.  Analysing the justifications given for the discrimination a few trends became clear.

Culture

The most common justification given for both the Saudi and the Japanese contexts was that of culture.  Many, for example, were keen to point out that having visible tattoos was not, in itself, a reason to refuse employment, but considering the connotations tattoos have in Japan e.g. organised crime, it may be culturally more sensitive to employ teachers who do not have tattoos on display.  Similarly, many pointed out that considering the political and religious climate in Saudi Arabia it may be necessary to only employ women to teach women.  However, many were also keen to express their dissatisfaction with what they saw as an incredibly oppressive regime with one stating that “Saudi is a patriarchal hellhole”.

Ability to do the job

Another trend that arose was discriminatory criteria that could affect the successful candidates’ ability to do the job in question.  The most common, unsurprisingly, was the requirement for a university teacher in Turkey to have a suitable level of English proficiency – one respondent even commented that they didn’t believe that C1 was high enough for such a position.  Ability to do the job was also the most commonly stated justification for the summer camp wanting employees under 30.  A number of participants stated that working at a summer camp requires a lot of energy and younger applicants may be better equipped to deal with those demands.  In addition to this, there were a number who believed that native English speakers would be better able to teach colloquial language and culture and therefore be more suitable to be English teachers and so justifying the discrimination in this case.

Language schools

The third major justificatory factor was that which was seen to be imposed on the language schools by external factors.  Market demand was often mentioned as a factor in both hiring native speakers and in hiring only Caucasian workers.  The general tone of such justification was that if that is what the customer wants, then the language school should do its best to meet those demands, even if it means not employing the most qualified or experienced teachers.  It was also felt that visa requirements set by the government could be an acceptable reason for discriminatory language in job advertisements.  It was pointed out many times that the process of getting a visa in the EU can be expensive and schools may not have the financial resources to sponsor this.

Conclusions

It’s clear from the responses to the survey that discrimination can be justified in a number of different ways.  However, much of the justification provided seems to shy away from individual responsibility to the situation.  Market demand is a convenient excuse to prefer Caucasian teachers as accusations of racism can then be firmly levelled at the customer in the same way that seeking NEST has frequently drawn the comment “I’d love to hire NNEST, but the students want natives”.  Despite the convenience though, it’s a cowardly and reckless response.   As long as language schools continue to persist with NEST/NNEST labels, they perpetuate the idea that there is somehow a difference between the two and no amount of insistence of market demand can abdicate them from the responsibility of creating such demand.  A demand, incidentally, that there is no academic evidence of.
Ability to do the job is a much more acceptable justification to prefer one group over another and would rarely be described as discrimination.  However, there is, again, no evidence that a NEST is any more capable of teaching idiomatic language or pronunciation  than a NNEST only that some individuals are better than others.  There are NNEST with tremendous language proficiency and phonological ability just as there are NEST with pronunciation and grammar that few would identify as native and vice-versa.

What isn’t clear is whether this discrimination is fuelled by a genuine ignorance to the fact that NEST are not intrinsically more capable, a genuine belief that this market demand is really there or whether the motives are something more sinister entirely such as attempts to maintain the NES dominance of the industry.  What is clear is that despite the percentage of respondents finding native speaker requirements unacceptable being encouraging (68%), the 32% minority at around one third of the industry is a noisy one.

The next post in this series will look at the perceptions of teachers in training and compare them to those of the industry in general. You might also be interested in a paper I co-wrote with Karin Krummenacher and Marek Kiczkowiak, where we suggest practical activities that could be used in initial teacher training programmes such as CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL to tackle native speakerism. The paper is available for free via ELTed journal here. You can also download it for free from academia.edu here or from researchgate.net here.

daniel bainesDaniel Baines is the Director of Studies at Oxford House Prague and a Trinity CertTESOL and DipTESOL tutor. He holds an MA TESOL from Sheffield Hallam University and has given talks at conferences in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and most recently at IATEFL in the UK. His primary research interests are native speakerism in ELT and reflection in initial teacher training. He was a finalist in the 2014 British Council ELT Masters Dissertation Award.

‘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.

 

 

 

‘Tackling native speakerism in ELT’ – recording of the IATEFL 2016 panel discussion

Finally, we got around to publishing the recording of the panel discussion on native speakerism that me, Burcu Akyol, Josh Round and Christopher Graham did at IATEFL 2016. In it we addressed the problem of native speakerism in ELT; that is:

a prejudice, stereotyping and/or discrimination, typically by or against foreign language teachers, on the basis of either being or not being perceived and categorized as a native speaker of a particular language. […] Its endorsement positions individuals from certain language groups as being innately superior to individuals of other language groups (Haughton and Rivers 2013, p.14).

We addressed the issue from three perspectives, that of a ‘non-native speaker’ (Burcu), a recruiter (Josh), and a teacher trainer (Christopher). Each of the speakers offered practical ideas how the prejudice against ‘non-native speakers’ can be overcome. There was also a 30 minute Q&A session.

For your convenience, the recording was divided into six shorter sections:

  1. Introduction.
  2. ‘Non-native speaker’ perspective.
  3. Recruitment perspective.
  4. Teacher training perspective.
  5. Q&A session.
  6. Conclusion.

For each, both an audio recording and a video with the slides are available. You can access the audio playlist on Soundcloud here. The video playlist is on YouTube here. You can also read the transcript of the whole panel discussion here. The audio was recorded and edited by Mike Harrison (thanks a lot Mike!). You can visit his website here. The transcript was done by Karina Roberts (thanks a lot Karina!).

1. Introduction – marek kiczkowiak

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2. Non-native speaker perspective – Burcu Akyol

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3. Recruitment perspective – josh round

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4. Teacher training perspective – Christopher graham

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5. Q&A session

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6. Conclusion – Marek Kiczkowiak

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