This was a pretty intense Sunday. In the afternoon, I attended a great webinar by James Taylor (The Teacher James Blog) . It was the first of a series of webinars brought to us by Marek Kiczkowiak (Tefl Equity Advocates and Tefl Reflections) and BELTA (the Belgian English Teachers Association). If you still don’t know their work, I suggest that you click those links now!
Being a non-native speaker English speaker teacher (NNEST), it goes without saying I support Marek’s movement 100%. I have faced discrimination in Brazil, my home country, and I wonder what it would be like to get a job in an English-speaking country or in any other country where there are native speaker English teachers (NESTs). Back in the day, I remember visiting the website from a certain language school and they were very clear about their language requirements policies: if you were a NNEST, you should be a CPE holder and your grade should be, at least, B. If you were a NEST, all you had to do was show your passport. They didn’t use exactly these words, though. That was me trying to add a little bit of honesty. After all, being born at the right place means much more than holding a CPE grade C.
During James’ webinar, he asked what we could do to change this. How can we actually fight discrimination? Some very interesting answers popped up and I hope you watch the recording as soon as it is available.
We sometimes feel defeated and think there’s very little we can do. We forget that, as teachers, we have a tremendous impact on people and the way they see the world. Everything starts when you are empowered to make a difference. I’ve had many teachers, to whom I am so grateful for, that changed life somehow. We have to choose to not belittle ourselves and remember that we can be that change. I know it is easy to get dimmed by disappointment and the daily grind, but don’t underestimate the power you have to influence others.
As I said at the beginning of this post, this was a very intense Sunday. I watched the Oscars. I love everything about the Oscars. The red carpet with Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest, the gowns, hair, make-up, the actors and the ceremony, of course. When I was growing up, there was no internet (technically there was, but it wasn’t popular at all) and I used to spend a lot of time watching movies and telenovelas. There is something truly magical about what you can convey with film. This year was particularly interesting due to Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress.
It makes me sad that in 2015, men and women do not have the same opportunities. It makes me angry that in 2015 people like Sean Penn feel comfortable enough to make xenophobic remarks about director Alejandro Iñárritu for the world to see. ‘It’s a joke’, they said. ‘They’re buddies’, they said. No, it’s not okay. Being someone’s ‘friend’ doesn’t give you the right to be offensive. The weirdest thing, to say the least, was that it took place in The USA, as Iñárritu brilliantly pointed out, a nation of immigrants.
It was a pretty intense Sunday. Right after Patricia Arquette’s amazing speech, lots of people commenting on a Facebook post by The Daily Mail that it was funny how women like Patricia talk about the gender gap, but don’t say a word about compulsory military service for men or about maternity leaves. Pay gap is a fabrication and women like Patricia should be quiet because Hollywood actors make way more money than the average person.
Apparently, a feminist woman who advocates for women’s rights is really annoying. I find it odd that men who have a problem with compulsory military service prefer nagging at a feminist instead of taking action to change things.
By no means I intend (or want) to speak for women. I don’t know their struggle because it is not something I live every day. The beauty is that I don’t need to be a woman to support women. I have a mother, a sister, female students… I can be appalled by world hunger, even if I have food on my plate. It is the same with James Taylor. Even though he is a Caucasian British male, who does not know what it is like to be a NNEST, he still unapologetically chooses to talk about how discriminating people based on where they are from makes no sense, as there is no evidence whatsoever that NESTs are necessarily better teachers.
Equality starts when you acknowledge you may be in a privileged position and do something to make sure others have the same rights.
As teachers, we can (and should) use our public platform to raise awareness against public issues. If you want to educate people about equal employment opportunities, you should also educate them about the many challenges women still face nowadays. Devote some of your time to openly discuss how people of color have been given fewer opportunities over the centuries. Show your students the privileges that benefit them as well those that don’t. These are not controversial or taboo topics, at least they should not be perceived as such. These are real-life issues, possible contexts for your lessons. If you make a commitment to fight for equality, commit to it as a whole and not just to the part that benefits you directly.
Unfortunately, in some countries we cannot be completely open about some issues. However, as teachers, we are usually very resourceful people. I believe there is always something that can be done, a seed we can plant. I am sure you will find your way to fight for equality, for a better world and therefore make a difference in someone’s life.
It is not going to be easy. Trust your wisdom and be brave. Don’t be afraid to stand for what you believe. And as a wise person told me earlier this morning, if you feel crazy pants along the way – remember, you’re probably wearing just the right pants.
Have you felt you were making a real difference to your students or people in your life by taking a stand on equality? How did it go? I’d love to know!
Thank you for reading!