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"If you heard me speak, I'd be you'd think I was white" - Problematising teacher identity in TESOL


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As recent postings to the BAAL-mail discussion list indicate, the topic of the nativeness of English language teachers is an enduring and divisive one. In this session, we will further problematise this topic through an exploration of the professional life-stories of visible ethnic minority native-English-speaker teachers (VEM-NESTs) and consider what these might reveal about the complexities of 21st century teacher identity in TESOL.

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"If you heard me speak, I'd be you'd think I was white" - Problematising teacher identity in TESOL

  1. 1. ‘If you heard me, I’d bet you would think I was white’. Problematising teacher identity in TESOL Northern Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Eljee Javier and Richard Fay LanguageTeacher Education,The University of Manchester 1
  2. 2. The NarrativeTurn study of narrative (i.e. narratology) vs. the narrative study of e.g. teachers' lives (narrative inquiry) the narrative construction of experience/reality (Jerome Bruner) researcher learning from narratives + narrator's learning through narration (Ivor Goodson; also narrative therapy) life story vs. life history (Ivor Goodson) small stories (Alexandra Georgakopoulou); critical incidents; auto/biographical research; oral history; auto/ ethnography  EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 2
  3. 3. "... it is difficult to separate judgements of people from judgements of language. In fact, it may always be a matter of identity, that is to say that when judgements are elicited about people or about their language, what is obtained is some view of the people themselves" (Davies, 2003: 199)   EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 3
  4. 4. Identity and ‘nativeness’ in TESOL Native-speaker by birth Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) by being an exceptional learner Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) through education Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) by being a native user (post-colonial) Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) through long residence in the adopted country (Davies, 2003: 214) EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 4
  5. 5. NESTs and Non-NESTs "For teaching Germans, a phonetically trained German is far superior to an untrained Englishman [sic], the latter being quite unable to communicate his [sic] knowledge ..." (Henry Sweet, 1884: 595, in A.P.R. Howatt 1984: 183) native-speakerism - "a language-based form of prejudice affecting language teachers" (Stephanie Houghton) EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 5
  6. 6. "With reference to some recent postings on BAALmail, I too am concerned to see that we are promoting adverts which discriminate against non-native speaker teachers of English by inviting applications from native-speaker teachers only. I hope that the association is opposed to such discrimination, and will make the reasons for our oppositions clear to employers who seek to advertise through us." (Guy Cook) EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 6
  7. 7. "I agree that a blanket preference for native speakers is untenable, but it is tricky to enforce across the board. Does it mean that UK schools cannot ask for French/ German/Spanish 'assistants'? Does it mean that a European university, for example, cannot ask for an English 'Lektor'? Does it mean that a language school or university faculty cannot try to have one native speaker, as a consultant on a particular variety of English, as part of their wider English staff? Thought needs to be given to how we can regulate against discrimination without unreasonably precluding choices. Not easy; I don't have the answer...." (Ivor S.) EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 7
  8. 8. FLE Jobs Adverts e.g. "The person appointed will ... be a native/near-native speaker of French" EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 8
  9. 9. Professional narratives of identity and nativeness The Galician Aha Moment Cert.TEFL - eligibility EFL summer schools Polish experiences Recruiting teachers (for Eastern Germany) EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 9
  10. 10. EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 10
  11. 11. Three Stage Methodology Stage Three: Restorying process Stage One: Written narratives Stage Two: One - to - One Interviews EljeeJavier,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 11
  12. 12. How do you see yourself as a native speaker of English? Why did you choose to share this key incident? Written Narrative Interview Schedule EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 12
  13. 13. Interview Transcription Restoried Narrative EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 13
  14. 14. Restoried Narrative EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 14
  15. 15. Background What kinds of information was shared? Why would this information be important? Delarozier, F. (2010), pg. EljeeJavierandRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 15
  16. 16. “...native-speakerism is an established belief that ‘native-speaker’ teachers represent a ‘Western culture’ from which spring the ideals of both the English language and of English language teaching methodology.” (Holliday 2005: 6). EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 16
  17. 17. Identity and ‘nativeness’ in TESOL - participant responses Native-speaker by birth Eljee / Andreas Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) by being an exceptional learner Suri/ Li Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) through education Suri / Li Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) by being a native user (post-colonial) Suri / Li Native-speaker (or native-speaker like) through long residence in the adopted country (Davies, 2003: 214) Li EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 17
  18. 18. Critical Incident What was your reaction to their stories? How is the content of these stories similar or different to one another? How are they similar or different to your own experiences? EljeeJavierandRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 18
  19. 19. Further problematising the NS/ NNS binary ✤ ‘Non-native speaker’ label is placed on teachers simply on the basis of their ‘ethnicity’ ✤ Calls into question the non-linguistic aspects associated with native-speaker model ✤ Who’s worth more? Why? EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 19
  20. 20. Reflections on being a VEM-NEST What was your reaction? In what way do these teachers pose a challenge to the NS/NNS binary? Delarozier, F. (2010), pg. 27 EljeeJavierandRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 20
  21. 21. VEM-NEST GreyAreas ✤ Continued use of ‘western’ identity Eljee / Andreas ✤ using ‘western’ associations to offset negative views of ethnic background ✤ Identity construction can be strategic Li ✤ positive identities for themselves to give a positive meaning and value to their ethnic background ✤ Professional skills Suri ✤ focus on being a good teacher as ‘proof’ that ‘someone like me’ is capable, able and successfulas EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 21
  22. 22. Final thoughts... 22
  23. 23. @eljeejavier http:// EljeeJavier,andRichardFay,TheUniversityofManchester,2012 23