Friday 13 June 2014

#ELTchat Summary 11th June - How can we show that our profession should be respected? Do we need more qualifications, or a body which oversees quality?

That's a mouthful of a title for an extremely useful and motivating discussion. Teachers from many corners of the world met for #ELTchat on twitter last Wednesday evening to try to make sense of it- and suggest some alternatives to change the situation.


The question was raised because I had been feeling like the poor relation amongst my friends who had gone into 'proper' teaching. They have more respect, more money and more holidays- and better job protection than anyone in the ELT business. Allowing for the fact that many of us treat our role as a professional career, and spend vast amounts of our free time on CPD, I find it disheartening.

Lack of respect from other teaching professionals

@KateLloyd05 agreed with me, and had heard such things as: 'anyone can do it- it's just talking to people'
or 'when are you going to get a proper job', or ' you can do it without any qualifications'. @01LPearson told us about his friends with their PGCEs (British: Post Graduate Certificate of Education) wondering when he was going to do the same. I find that many of my trainees do a CertTESOL and teach EFL for a couple of years, then do a PGCE and we are suddenly seen as 'less' in some way. Of course, all we had to do was a 4-week CELTA course- how can that compare with all those months at university?? (tongue firmly in cheek)
@Laila_Khairat's Primary Teaching colleagues tried to discourage her from changing her job to become an ELT teacher.
@Ashowski said that he knew colleagues at work who had had problems
Naomishema pointed to a lack of EFL teachers in Israel, as they were all off to find work in higher institutions.
@Marisa_C pointed out that it wasn't only a question of pay, but a feeling that we were not being recognised as doing a 'real'job. @01LPearson agreed that the respect was a higher priority for him.
@Ashowski mentioned that the British Government didn't offer university credits for ELT Teaching, even with a DELTA,  but would for youth workers etc.

@Naomishema and @esolcourses found that there was a general lack of respect for teachers, not just those in ELT, and @Philip_Saxon's marketing students didn't believe that going into the teaching profession was a positive step.
@Philip also said that Medicine and Law set high entry barriers, which ELT doesn't. @ebefl agreed but reminded us that demand  often outstrips supply.

What is the problem?

@01LPearson mentioned 'Mickey Mouse' schools where people do just talk!.... and there are many school owners who are looking for the cheapest people to hire- and who will take on backpackers, NS who just want to travel the world- and don't necessarily have any teaching qualifications and/or experience. @Ashowski worried that this misrepresented the professional behaviour of most of us. @MarjorieRosenbe suggested that the decriers should try teaching sometime :-)  
Even amongst the trainees with a recognised qualification there is a split between those who want to work and those who want to travel @01LPearson
@LizziePinard wanted to know how we could influence the hiring process. How can we teach employers to hire qualified teachers?

Rates of Pay

@Marisa_C said that EFL teachers in Greece were earning 20% less than 5 or 6 years ago, and that the hourly-paid teachers were hardest hit. At the other end of the scale are the well-off school owners who thrive on cutting salary costs.
@MarjorieRosenbe: Institutions in Austria pay ELT teachers far less than other teaching professionals.
@seburnt, based in Canada, was one of the luckier group as he hadn't been subject to this attitude or a reduction in salary. However it might be a feature of working in the higher education sector.
I spent my time increasing my skills and knowledge, and would like to be paid accordingly.
@designerlessons : the biggest issue is pay. If teachers are willing to accept low rates they will never be respected. There will always be those who will accept less pay, or those who are desperate to work and can't refuse. However, they diminish the industry by doing so. Some market research on pay and qualifications 
@joannacre wanted to know what the salary criteria would be-qualifications or experience? She mentioned some very low hourly rates.

Those who can, do.   Those who can't, teach!

How do we combat such an attitude?
@theteacherjames thought that you were okay if you had a supportive family, such as his, who were happy to have a teacher in the family. @KateLloyd05 agreed and said that the attacks didn't derive from her family, teachers themselves, but from friends in 'states' education. I find that my own family are reasonably supportive, even though I earn 5 times less than my husband, and  my young daughter's starting salary has surpassed mine, although I have more than 30 years in my business. However, my in-laws, who are all medical professionals, look down their noses at my job. 

We have a medium and a message...

Powerful words from @Marisa_C, but she is right. We are web-savvy  bloggers and riled enough to press for change.  Let's make videos for YouTube, or blog in all the world's languages. As @HanaTicha pointed out, we can take power and confidence from our use of the medium, and it may be more valuable even than qualifications.
@theteacherjames thought that the first step was to be seen to act as professionals, and he sited #ELTChat as a good example of 'walking the walk'. @MarjorieRosenbe agreed and added : and go to conferences and write for journals.
@esolcourses; asserting our right to be paid and treated as professionals is the next step...- although it requires confidence to do so.
@Marisa_C should we start a wiki where we collate information on working conditions in each country and make it available to those who need it?

Do we need to belong to a body which will recognise our professional development? Think global- act local :-)

@Ashowski: a body might be a good solution, state school teachers belong to unions.@theteacherjames agreed, but, mindful of our global nature, he thought it could be difficult-but not impossible, to organise. Another problem is that there is a difference in accreditation in each country.

@Marisa_C: could we form a movement such as the one started by Tessa Woodward? @theteacherjames thought that it would be possible as he had been helping set up  a NNEST Equity blog and had achieved a lot in a short time.

@LizziePinard : does this come under @NicolaPrentis's new IATEFL SIG idea?
@NicolaPrentis  joined us at this point and suggested lobbying IATEFL for a SIG to promote awareness of the rights of teachers. @Marisa_C thought that a SIG might be too inward looking...

@angelos_bollas : how about a body that gives work permits to all qualified teachers worldwide?

@Naomishema made a good point-we already have professional organisations, but her employers don't care either way whether she is a member or not.  Even if standards are set, they can be easily ignored by employers.
@Marisa_C explained that many of the organisations, such as IATEFL, were local- based, and didn't only include qualified members. Perhaps IATEFL could change its membership criteria, based on level of qualification?
@01LPearson suggested setting up an institution, getting it backed by the British Council, or somesuch body, and then inviting good schools to join. There were a few posts which suggested that the BC were not always rigorous about the standards in their own schools :-( 
@seburnt felt worried about a single organisation having the accreditation power, rather than devolving it to local groups. But perhaps a large organisation is necessary to get recognition.
@ELTwriter mentioned that she joined a Union in the UK. @esolcourse suggested that ATL was a relevant one in the UK. @LizziePinard suggested that this could be a job for the proposed new SIG.

@esolcourses felt that a unionised profession would get her vote, and a number of us were in agreement.
We heard that Australia has a union, and mandated pay rises and official  pay scales.

@pjgallantry joined us at this late juncture to tell us that this discussion was active 20 years ago- and here we still are.....  He suggested a peer- accredited network, which could be self policing.

 Would it help if the Students are aware of our qualifications?

@theteacherjames: if students are aware that the school employs non qualified teachers, they might go elsewhere, and this would serve to change the attitude of the employer.
It is key and shows value for money for the students. If students know the facts they are better placed to make decisions.
@MarjorieRosenbe urged caution : it depends on the reason sts attend a class- it could be for the social aspect!

We determined to continue this chat on our Facebook page #ELTchat and to not drop the ball... We were all in agreement that something has to happen, so watch this space.........................................


1 comment:

  1. Thanks Sue for both a great topic and summary! We need to find a way to keep this discussion going - it clearly concerns us all and doesn't seem to be getting any better.