Thursday, 18 November 2010

Dogme Blog Challenge No. 6–A staffroom conversation

Time to get back to the dogme challenge! This week’s post from Karenne called on us to ‘explode the myth’ that non-native speaker teachers can’t do dogme and, inevitably, the discussion has swung towards the different perceptions of teachers from an English speaking country and those who were students of English themselves before they became teachers.

I would have loved to do an interview with one of my Turkish colleagues for this challenge but school’s here are on a week long holiday so I had to make a conversation up instead:


All, of course, very much tongue-in-cheek but the fact is, I have heard many of these lines used in discussions between/about these two different ‘types’ of language teacher.

I will say at this point, I’m not a fan of the NEST/NNEST acronyms. As Ceri Jones suggested in a comment on one of my older posts, I shall now refer to NESTs as ‘imported’ teachers and NNESTs as ‘local’ teachers. Of course, this doesn’t fit well for native speaker teachers working in their home countries but it will do for now!

So, to answer the first question:

Are Non Native English Speaking teachers disadvantaged?

I’ll give the easy answer: NO

Just look at some of the regular contributors to this challenge so far: Cecilia Coelho, Henrick Oprea (got it right again!) and Willy C. Cardaso – all from Brazil; Sabrina de Vita from Argentina. All interested in dogme and teaching unplugged, all because they are dedicated professionals looking for ways to improve themselves as educators.

And that is the key: we should be looking for ways to expand our horizons as teachers by constantly challenging and evaluating our teaching practice and beliefs. Maybe imported teachers don’t know grammar that well but this isn’t a problem as long as we seek the knowledge we lack and, most importantly, learn how to teach it effectively. Local teachers may lack natural fluency, perfect pronunciation and a complete vocabulary but they can improve as long as they are willing to.

We are not really that different at all. Both ‘groups’ have examples of great teachers who strive to improve professionally and work on their weaknesses as well as poor teachers who see teaching as nothing more than a way to pay the bills.

However, there is a problem: I know and recognise this, you know and recognise this BUT do students always know and recognise this? What about parents? School directors? Ministry of education officials? They see us as different and until that changes, the misconceptions and presumptuous declarations shall remain…

Other Posts for Challenge #6

10 comments:

  1. Hi David! Yes, you are right. Sometimes students, parents and directors don't see this. Lots of food for thought with your last questions. People have a lot of misconceptions and prejudices. It happened to me this year at the company where I work. One of the teachers had a severe medical problem and so we had to fill in for her for the rest of the teaching year. She gives classes twice a week and It was impossible for me to work both days. So I took one day classes and a NEST teacher would teach the students the remaining day. Of course, as you can imagine the instructions we were given were Sabrina will follow the book and the NEST teacher will work on speaking and pronunciation (more dogmeic class). I was not that happy with the arrangement, but I can manage to teach the coursebook in a more personalised and unplugged way. So no problem for me. However, the result was extremely surprising. I ended up doing a lot of speaking in my classes and the NEST teacher teaches very grammar centered lessons. He plans his classes around a grammar topic and he starts by lecturing on the topic. Of course, I'm no one to criticise what he is doing. What I want to point out is that NEST teachers also rely on grammar when they don't feel very confident on their teaching skills. To sum up, we cannnot make generalisations about the issue, every teacher is unique and goes through totally different paths that may end up anywhere.

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  2. Hi Sabrina,

    Thanks for you comment. I have had similar experiences to you, albeit from the other side. ;)

    This year, in fact, I have been assigned to 4th grade as a 'conversation' teacher (although I'm supposed to focus on developing writing skills and using graded readers as well). I share each class with a local 'grammar' teacher. But what happened? We were told not to worry, somebody would prepare material for conversation lessons for us. What we got were highly-controlled activities that involved speaking or writing, further showing that where you are from doesn't make as big a difference as how you approach your job. I quickly said thanks but no thanks and started to work on actual conversation and writing, the results of which you can see elsewhere on this blog.

    But, the reason for things being structured like this runs at a level much higher than I can control. In the past, so I'm told, imported and local teachers used to teach different classes in the same year group but parents soon complained: 'Why hasn't my kid got a native teacher when the next class on the corridor has?' etc. Until those perceptions change, the way we are categorised will not.

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  3. That's a great little movie David! Captures the NS/NNS dialectic in a nutshell. Nice work.

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  4. LOL Pretty funny what parents pay attention to. I would never get to understand them fully. Maybe, when I get to be a mother myself who knows. Thanks for sharing your experience. It is nice to get to know the other side point of view.

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  5. Dave, that animation is quality. Had me chuckling away to myself here at my desk. Well done!

    Though tongue in cheek, it reminds me of conversations I had with teachers in Kazakhstan, where in our school the locals out-numbered the imported native-speakers by a fair few. We were living in fully subsidised flats in the city centre - a hugely expensive area (in Almaty) - and some of them had to commute for an hour or more everyday because they were not subsidised and couldn't afford to live in the city. It was embarrassing.

    However, without doing that, they'd get no native speakers, which is important for the business as that's what the 'customers' expect. It's a vicious circle, I suppose, isn't it?

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  6. Scott - glad you liked it! It just came to me in a moment of inspiration/boredom and wasn't something I spent a few days thinking about and revising at all... ;)

    Richard - I'll have you know all the stuff on my blog is quality! Not always high quality but... A vicious circle as you say. The natives at my school get a higher basic salary, rent-free accomodation, extra Christmas holiday and Wednesdays off! Needless to say, it causes some resentment, which only serves to reinforce the misunderstandings.

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  7. Fantastic animation, Dave! It made me laugh out loud a few times! You've made some very good points, which those who have already commented have mentioned, so I won't start repeating them!
    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed the post!

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  8. I'm going to join the chorus here Dave and say I loved the animation - you have to teach me how to do that! It made me laugh out loud... It's amazing how many stereotypical sentences/exchanges you were able to fit in and make it sound like a real conversation.

    I won't discuss the NEST/NNEST debate here - I think you said it well, and so has everyone else. I will, however, share something I just realized - and that actually embarrasses me. I just realized I may have been a bit hypocritical on the issue. See, both my kids go to a bilingual school. And I have to admit I was thrilled when I found out my 5-year-old son would have a NEST as a teacher this year, and again, this past week when I discovered my 9-year-old daughter will have a NEST as her teacher next year (our school year starts in February). Shame on me right??? Don't get me wrong, they both have had fantastic NNEST teachers, which is why they both speak English quite well by now. So why did I have this reaction when the NESTs came into the story? I need to do some self-assessing ;-) Maybe some of the beliefs thrown around have seeped into me? Who knows? All I know is that it's something I'll work on.

    Great post, as usual Dave!

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  9. Hi Michelle and Cecilia,

    Nice to spread a bit of laughter. The animation is amazingly simple to do. Just go to xtranormal.com, choose your setting, characters and accents, then type the script and they say it!

    Obviously Cecilia, I was able to fit in the stereotypes and make it sound like a conversation as I am a native speaker and skilled at such things! :p

    Interesting comment about your kids though. Is it perhaps because of the L1 issue? Do you feel as a parent that your kids may benefit from interacting with a teacher who they have to make more of an effort to speak English with?

    And one thing where I may be a bit of a hypocrite - I think local teachers can do as good as job as imported ones but would I be happy if tomorrow it was recognised by my employers and we were all put on the same salary with no accomodation or flights home? Probably not!

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  10. Wow! I just found Cecilia's comment really interesting about her kids and their teacher. I think these stereotypes are so incredibly ingrained that as much as we try to pretend that all's equal, we know they're not (I was actually surprised not to have seen more posts on that issue!)

    Like everyone else I thought your video was absolutely cracking!

    K

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