Back in February this year I published a short entry titled: Something to say about NNESTs. The acronym stands for Non Native English Speakers. In the post, I speak about English speakers who are hired to teach English only because they are native speakers, forgetting or simply disregarding (the hiring institution, I mean) the need for appropriate qualifications to do this important job. This is not the case with all native speakers, of course!, but there are far too many to just pass under the radar without detection.
This all comes up now because of a publication of El Comercio on Friday 19th, just last week, called “Institutos y Centros de idiomas.” The twelve-page supplement offers interesting articles, they even interviewed recognized specialists in the TEFL field like Marita de la Lama from U. del Pacífico, Claudia Marín from UPC and Cesar Saldaña from U. Ricardo Palma. But the item that connects this comment today with the February post is the advertisement on page 5, whose image is posted here too, but with the name of the institution covered, just to avoid problems.
The ad opens with the line “Pagaré mis estudios dando clases de ingles,” that is “I´ll pay my studies teaching English.” I suppose the phrase is an invention from the “creative team” (the quotes are mine) that produced the ad. I can only speculate and/ or speak of my own personal reaction to the message that the ad implies.
The line tells me that the people who wrote it (I am not so sure if the institution supports this view) think that teaching English is a temporary activity that university students can do just to pass the time and get some easy bucks out of it while they pursue a more “serious” career. Once this “cool” teacher finishes university, what? No problem, mate, there are more “teachers” waiting in line.
The implications are easy to list but I´ll mention only two. The first one is that training can´t be too demanding. Logic tells me that it is not efficient to spend resources on a person who will not last long in the institution. The second is the rate per hour. Why pay high if the “teacher” is actually NOT a teacher. This affects directly those who are (and there are many professional teachers in that institute, I know). Then, a question appears: Is this happening at other institutes as well?
Another line that called my attention is the one that says: “Profesores certificados por la University of Michigan y TESOL, USA.” As far as I know, the certificates given by Michigan (and Cambridge) are not professional qualifications but language certificates. I don´t know about TESOL USA (is it a qualifying body? Beats me.) Are they trying to substitute (in their scarcity) native speakers by “near-native” speakers?
Between non-teacher native speakers who are hired to teach and university students who take up the job as a sport, how much space is left for the real teaching professionals? My intention with the two posts, last February´s and today´s, is not to attack these people (who are ultimately looking for a job) or institutions (who may hire whoever they want) but to raise awareness among us, the teachers who do this for a living, who try and get the appropriate qualifications, who try and look for opportunities to improve (and, in passing, among the authorities at the institutions). We are the ones who must point the finger and demand professionalism, who must demonstrate that our job is not a form of moonlighting. And to do this, there are so many ways.