In today’ s world, the lottery of birth would appear to be at the forefront of many areas of political issues. Who we are born to, the socio-economic background we are blessed with and the country that we automatically belong to is likely to have consequences that shape our futures. Discrimination based on gender, wealth and nationality can be observed worldwide and unfortunately, the world of TEFL/ELT is also a victim of this, with perhaps the most effected group seen as being our “non-native” teachers. Regardless of these teachers potentially possessing all the necessary attributes and qualifications of an exemplary teacher, the failure to be born in an English speaking country is likely to mark their careers from the very start.
Truth be told, I only stumbled across TEFL Equity Advocates a few months back. Founded three years ago, TEA fights for equal employment opportunities for both native and non native teachers. More information can be found here at http://www.teflequityadvocates.com
As a Director of Studies of a TEFL training centre, I have had the privilege of training many fabulous individuals over the years. Of the 500 plus trainees I have had the pleasure of shaping, I have seen everything from poor, fear-provoking classes, to outstanding masterpieces, and while many factors may influence the performance in the classroom, the “nativeness” of the teacher has never been one of them. Yet many agencies and academies around the world constantly place ads for “native speakers” placing this one attribute above pedagogical skill, personal attributes or qualifications.
Whilst I absolutely agree that employers need to be challenged regarding their job ads and employment policies, I also firmly believe that attitudes should be challenged from “grass roots” upwards. Not only do non-native teachers need to be aware that they have every right to be employed in the same way as a native teacher, but native speakers should also be aware that non-natives have every right to this same entitlement. At my TEFL training centre, the PED team is compromised of five trainers, two of whom are non-natives. As a team we all teach grammar, soft skills, observe classes and give feedback. It is our experience and certification in the field that qualify us for the job. While I hope that my trainee teachers graduate the course with increased pedagogical knowledge, confidence in their performance and with an ability to self-reflect, perhaps my biggest hope is that unfair attitudes are shattered before they have even been formed. By having a mixed training team, I truly hope we are sending the right message to our trainees; that where you are lucky enough to be born has absolutely no bearing on how successful we can become as a teacher, not should it influence the opportunities you have for development within the sector.
Thank you TEFL Equity Advocates for striving for a more just world!