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  • timothyhampson 1:21 pm on April 29, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Careers   



    Scott Thornbury posted an interesting blog post about power in TEFL on Sunday. The post talks about gender and native speaker bias. The comment section is, uncharacteristically, really awful. I wanted to share some thoughts but I’m going to put them up here instead of there.

    I agree pretty much entirely with what Scott says but I’d like to shift the focus somewhat. Most of the talk there was based around who big conferences book to be plenary speakers and who big publishers send to those conferences. The problem with this isn’t just that we have very little power to change those decisions. It’s also a problem that it’s easy for everyone to have a good ol’ hate on big organisations and then, having blamed them, do nothing.  It reminds me of the adage:


    It’s very easy to imagine people in their cars swearing at the rest of the traffic oblivious to the fact that they’re also causing the guy behind them to swear in the way. Similarly it’s easy to be mad at big TEFL groups while not looking at our own behaviours. The amount of non-native plenary speakers might be a sign that the TEFL industry and community gives a huge amount of privilege to native speakers and their opinions.

    In my (fairly limited) experience of TEFL conferences I’ve noticed that there might be a lot of microagressions and other behaviours that might make it harder for non-naitive EFL teachers to be a part of discourse. I’m not attacking anyone here as lots of these are based on dissatisfaction with things I’ve done and how things have gone in workshops I’ve run. This is all from my experiences in South Korea and I’m pretty clueless about elsewhere (tell me in the comments!)

    I’m also aware it might be problematic for me to make this post as a native speaker so I’m very open to, and indeed hoping for, feedback and things I’ve missed from the list.

    • Basing decisions about what conference talk to go to on native speaker status.
    • Talking a lot during workshoppy time to the extent that non-native speakers don’t have time to.
    • You break off into groups, you chat, it’s time to feed back, you pick the native speaker (or the native speaker picks themselves) to summarise the groups opinions.
    • When you’re in a break off group, asking questions to non-native speakers like ‘how do you feel about this as a non-native teacher…’. Surely ‘how do you feel about this as a teacher…’ is fine.
    • Asking more follow up questions in break off groups to native speakers than to non-native speakers.
    • Reading few books and blogs by non-native teachers.
    • After conference drinks with mostly native speakers (or at least inviting only native speakers).
    • If you’re running a conference event and you’re taking questions and you do it in a way where the loudest and most confident (read ‘most privileged’) attendees get the most questions. (Pro tip: giving everyone a post it to write a question on and then taking them in means you can also filter out crappy questions, hurrah!)
  • timothyhampson 1:05 pm on April 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply

    A letter to my younger teacher self 

    Tomorrow there’s a KELTchat about advice to a younger teacher self which was inspired by  Joanna Malefaki’s blog. It feels a bit weird to write a letter to myself circa December 2013 as it doesn’t feel like that long ago. There are quite a few things to tell myself; either this means I’ve made lots of progress or that I was really clueless when I first got here.

    Dear Tim of 15 months ago,

    Well, here you are stepping off the plane. If you were less exhausted from the eighteen hour flight you’d be pretty nervous right now. It is a little awkward because you don’t know much about teaching EFL but you’re going to have a great time. Everything is going to be fine but I’d still like to give you some advice to help things go better.

    First up, you might not have thought of this, but you’ve gotten your job based only on where you were born. That’s based on a lot of colonial history and horrible stuff. You can’t do much about that but you’ve got a responsibility to become someone who’s worthy of teaching these kids. You’ve got to be as giving as you can be of yourself and swot up! Review your grammar as early as possible and do it often. Read as much as you can about teaching and experiment. If you don’t have any money read blogs. Be confident about developing yourself as a teacher. Don’t wait to start that blog and to do conference presentations. You’ll meet some great people and learn a lot.

    In terms of pedagogy don’t be afraid of looking silly or childish stuff. One day you’re going to find out that singing songs and being silly is really easy, fun and effective. There are two key skills you should try and pick up as soon as possible. Talk less in class! You’re very interesting but your students don’t know what you’re talking about and your chat will go down much better in the hof. You should also get better at knowing what you can expect students to do. Don’t expect too much of them or dumb things down too much.

    You should be more confident about demanding what you’ve been promised. You deserve to have healthcare and get paid the full amount you’re supposed to. Don’t think that because you’ve got a job from someone, that you should do whatever they ask. When the time comes to apply for a job, be fussy it’s going to work out well for you.

    Finally, when you get to your new apartment from the airport and then head out for a snack, check the ramyeon you’re buying. The black one with the flames on it is painfully hot and will make your face go red and swell up. Don’t eat it!

    Have fun with it


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