This is our response to the #ELTChat discussion on Wednesday 11th June. Links to this discussion and follow up posts can be found at the end of this post.

While you read, I’d like you to think about the following three questions:

1. Considering benefits to the client, your experience, and what you bring to the table, what value do you place on your services?

2. Do you consider preparation time, travel cost and inconvenience of location when you set your fee?

3. What fee per hour would you be most happy accepting?

And if at the end of this post you strongly agree or disagree with me please add your comments underneath. I’ll do my best to get back to you.

Respect and Value

EFL Teachers are skilled workers who bring value to their clients and their employers. These teachers are dedicated to their students; they plan their classes and deliver a service tailored to the needs of the people they work for. TEFL practitioners develop professionally, they debate methodology (sometimes quite heatedly) and they reflect on their classes, their progress, and their students’ results.

Every teacher knows that although the contact time is important, it’s barely scratching the surface of what they really do every day. Some of the most motivated people I know have become teachers. They are professionals who have a desire to continue learning, a desire to improve, and to help their students do the same. They study, read and contribute to blogs, they take qualifications, and go on courses, they attend conferences and workshops…the list goes on and on. It’s really not just that 90 minutes in the classroom that counts.

And for the learners, teachers are there to show them their experience and knowledge, to facilitate learning, and provide concrete contexts to practise, produce and develop language skills. Teachers are there to coach students through a tough process of achievements and setbacks, they highlight students’ strong points and correct mistakes, test them on what they’ve learnt, and correct and test again – until they get it right.

Even though there are those people who somehow learn perfect English through watching Dallas re-runs, the reality is that learning a second language without a teacher is a very hard slog indeed.

Go on, let me say it—teachers are awesome. JR Ewing would agree.

Investment in TEFL

According to a rather old British Council article, there are around 375 million speakers of English as a second language. I’d bet there are a few more now. Anyway, whatever the exact figure, it’s clear that many people consider a second language to be a worthy investment of time and money, which is great, but can you put a figure on what that investment will bring?

Well, according to the Economist, having a second language is in fact rather lucrative, earning the average US college graduate an extra $67,000USD over their lifetime.

But that’s not the end of it—having a second language can benefit you in many other ways. Research has uncovered that having a second-language will also reduce your likelihood of developing dementia in your old age, which is just splendid.

And for those who don’t know whether to go for the red pill or the blue pill, being bilingual also has the added bonus of improving your decision-making abilities.

That’s win-win-win, right?  So, although it’s hard to put an exact figure to having language skills, with all those advantages – and not to mention, actually being able to speak to at least 375,000,000 more people –  one could argue that speaking English as a second language is something almost priceless.

So why then, are teachers paid so unfairly?

Unfortunately, I’m not going to make you feel any better about your pay packet. In 2010, the guardian valued the global TEFL market (including all related linguistic services) in Europe alone at $12 billion . If TEFL is a multi-billion dollar industry, language skills are unarguably a commodity. However, TEFL practitioners are undervalued, underrepresented, and working in an unregulated industry— which is frankly outrageous and needs to change and to change right now. Can you hear me typing from over there?

If you want to look at the numbers, please have a look at our Barcelona TEFL survey results to see actual and aspirational earnings

Okay, if I try to eke out something positive from this, the good news is that teachers are keen to invest in their professional development. According to our research in the Barcelona area the majority of EFL teachers are actively pursuing career development opportunities.

That’s great, and for most professionals, taking courses, qualifications, and attending conferences is a way of adding value to their service, and is something most business get behind and sponsor.

So, what are EFL teachers’ expectations?

As you’ll see in the Barcelona Teachers Survey:

  •         78% of teachers want sponsorship for their professional development
  •         67% want access to free workshops and training.

This really is a great reflection on the desire and drive of teachers as professionals (see, I told you they were motivated) – teachers are ambitious, keen to improve their classes and develop their skills.

It’s clear that, on the whole, TEFL professionals want to deliver the best results to their clients.

What is the reality?

Although most teachers say that they undertake professional development, our research suggests that only 14% receive any kind of sponsorship. Fewer still receive recognition or an increase in pay for their investments of time and money. Those who want new qualifications often can’t afford them, as they aren’t paid enough to invest in them. Now that really does suck.

Of course, we don’t think this is fair.

What are we doing about it?

We set up the cooperative to bring teachers who are keen to improve their conditions and their careers together. We offer professional development courses, training, access to materials and teaching space, we offer sponsorship for conferences and qualifications, and we offer solidarity.

What do TEFL teachers deserve?

I’m going to go for the following. Please add your opinions in the comment section below.

  •         Investment – in professional development courses
  •         Respect –  for the value they bring
  •         Fair Pay – to reflect qualifications, professional development, and preparation
  •         Equality – TEFL is a skilled profession. It should be both represented and regulated fairly.

We argue that teachers should be paid a fair hourly rate – one which reflects the time and effort it takes to deliver a good service, that reflects qualifications and dedication to professional development, and of course that reflects all the other brilliant things teachers do that I’ve already mentioned in this article.

To conclude

Finally, I’d like to say that the cooperative is very keen to investigate the best ways in which to support industry professionals – be this through the creation of an effective union of language service providers, or through the creation of an international association of teachers.

We are also very much on board with the suggestions made in ELT Chat in the most recent Twitter discussion – and both support and would wish to become an active member of a Teachers as Workers SIG, as originally suggested by Nicola Prentis (see below).

SLB was created for teachers and translators to share services, to work for themselves and the cooperative – and we are here to encourage and sponsor professional development.

Aside from the work that we do within the cooperative, it is our objective to support any groups of teachers and language services providers who demand the right to fair pay and for equal rights. We exist and this is our direction, our motivation, and our aim.
But let’s face it, what we believe and fight for is only important if you believe and are willing to work for it too. So, come on – stop reading and start typing. What do you think?

 

Thanks for taking the time,

George

 

Links please list in comments or tweet to me at @SLBCoop if you have any other related links:

ELT chat summary from Sue Annan.

 

From Nicola Prentis

Teachers as Workers SIG

From paulw ‏@josipa74 (Twitter)

A poll indicating teachers  are interested in this topic

 

There are 11 comments so far

  • 6 years ago · Reply

    Just included this blog post on a list of campaigning TEFL blogs and posts:
    http://tefltastic.wordpress.com/2014/09/27/campaigning-tefl-blogs/

    More recommendations here or there gratefully accepted!

    • georgechilton Author
      5 years ago · Reply

      Thanks Alex. I read the post – lots of good links there.

      Would you be interested in joining a group discussion about forming a Teachers as Workers association? We have a Google group I can Invite you to if so.

      Cheers,
      George

  • 6 years ago · Reply

    Thoroughly support your campaign. As you point out – there’s nothing wrong with teaching English in a gap year or to support your travels, but a clear difference (in salary and working conditions, among others) should be made between those who have gone into the trouble of CPD.
    As a NNEST, for me the fight for fairness in TEFL/TESOL is not just about the salary (though this is a major issue as well – often a NNEST will earn less than a NEST, regardless of qualifications or experience), but more about actually getting a job, which in some places (Spain being on the top of the shame list) can prove a daunting and difficult task. I’ve actually started a campaign for equal employment rights and opportunities for NNESTs and NESTs: TEFL Equity Advocates. Would be great if we could mutually support each other. Let me know if you have any ideas on http://www.teflequityadvocates.com
    I like the idea of Fair/Shame list mentioned by Mike. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for TEFL Equity Advocates.
    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • 6 years ago · Reply

      Hi Marek,

      Thanks very much for your comment. I didn’t deal with the non-native/native speaker issue in this post, I possibly should have in hindsight – but I believe it warrants more than a single post. We received a few comments in Barcelona TEFL teacher Association (BTTA) group on Facebook, which you might find interesting. I’ll paste them below for your reference.

      I applaud what you’re doing, and I am sure we would be very keen to support your initiative as well. I’ll put the idea forward to the cooperative.

      I see you’re now following us on Twitter, I’ll DM you our email address (I’m avoiding posting it here as spam bots tend to crawl for them) if you’d like to get in touch with us.

      Thanks again.

      George

      From the Facebook conversation:

      Gabriela Albano I completely agree with you Tark Mhomson. Some people even pay more experienced teachers less because they’re non native. I’ve been a TEFL teacher for 17 years and I still find some students don’t trust me to be their teacher until I actually teach them and prove myself to them. I find this disheartening. Back home, where we do not have the opportunity of having as many native teachers, this doesn’t happen and we all learn English just as well. Another stereotype to break. The question remains, though, how?

      Tark Mhomson by not accepting it, Gaby. Unfortunately you’ll have to work twice as hard to get to the same placed as less experienced teachers who just come from the right place, but it can be done. You’re doing well at the IEN! I think qualifications are even more important in the case of non native speakers, as it seems to really speak volumes. The main issue is getting your foot in the door as, on paper, some people just see “born in Argentina” and it goes to the bottom of the pile. Schools need to stop marketing on the bias of native teachers, and market on the basis of excellence instead. The first stop is to convince the employers to respin it and let the market take care of itself. Secondly, networking is very important as a non native speaker as recommendation will get you past the bias at times, digo yo!

      Tark Mhomson Gaby, you should write about your experiences. I do think there are a lot of people in the same boat who would like a bit of support. I definitely think more awareness of the total lack of logic in prejudice against non native speakers is needed. Judge people on what they have done and can do, not where they are from. The fact that you had to learn the language to such a degree that you could actually teach it speaks volumes for your dilligence and perseverance, and as an L1 spanish speaker, you have a distinct advantage over many others in understanding transference errors and where they come from

      Futuramos Juntos Very interesting article and comments. As a language provider, we employ freelancers simply because the cost of providing a contract is so high, given the Spanish tax system. That said, we pay minimum 21 euros an hour and this goes up depending on the company/teacher. However, and unfortunately, there are more and more unscrupulous academies that are offering questionable teaching to companies at knockdown prices, and then paying their teachers the same hourly rate as a cleaner. It’s a real shame that many companies fall for this false economy, but fortunately some do believe that quality comes at a price. Good luck with the cooperative and would happily help if possible.

      George Chilton Yes, not mentioning non-native speakers in the post was probably an oversight – although this should come under equal rights. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me if a teacher is a NS or an NNS – what counts is knowledge, experience and qualifications. Neither is better than the other – though perhaps the NNS has more empathy with the student, as they’ve been there themselves.

      The stereotype needs to be broken, I agree. It’s true that some native speakers straight off the TEFL course may be valued more than a qualified and competent NN teacher, which is obviously unfair. There are lots of considerations here, and there are a few blog posts about this knocking around, I shall dig them out in a second. I believe schools are partly to blame, as they market native speakers as part of their service, which plays to the stereotype that native speakers are always best – rather than highlighting the skills and services of the individual teacher. Surely it’s illegal to deny people a job based on their nationality (if legal to work in the country in question) anyway?

      http://eltrantsreviewsreflections.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/some-thoughts-and-stories-about-native-speakers-in-south-korea/

  • 6 years ago · Reply

    This is an excellent idea. I fully support it the whole way. My only concern is that many employers may still opt for the cheaper staff over the higher paid ones who are approached by such a union. Therefore I suggest creating a name and shame list, which will list all employers paying below a certain amount of money, and for those who violate workers’ rights. If this is something you’re interested in developing, please contact me via Twitter @mikearmstrong11

    • 6 years ago · Reply

      cheers Mike – we are considering re-doing our teacher survey Europe-wide, potentially listing school as you mention – though we’ll do this under advice. I’ll be in touch over twitter!

      George

    • 6 years ago · Reply

      The website ESLwatch.info does that already. Though difficult it seems to work.

  • 6 years ago · Reply

    These are comments copied with permission from the BTTA Facebook group:

    Tark Mhomson: This really is quite a good, thorough article, and something I feel strongly about. I’ve been teaching for about 12 years now, in a variety of settings. Something that struck me immediately about Spain was the drop in salary (huge drop!) I took when I moved here from Sweden. However, I have come to understand that there is a cultural tendency here to devalue English teaching because, by and large,we are native speakers. “what’s so hard about teaching someone to speak your own language”? Couple this with the plethora of teachers who (a) are only teaching to travel, turn up to class and just open a textbook,never ever thinking about furthering or developing their skills and (b) offer their services for crazily low quantities of money. The fact is that “English teacher” is an appelation that could be used by anybody at all. I do think that getting 12-15eur ph is actually ok when you are just out of a CELTA (which, after all, is just a 1 month course!). However, as your skills and experience grow, you need to raise that amount year by year, providing you are actually developing as a teacher and raising your game. you need to BELIEVE you are worth it above all, but charging loads and just opening English file for a 1-size-fits-all lesson is giving others a bad name. I’ve ended up doing an MA and, while I wouldn’t say it’s the be all and end all, it has certainly helped open doors into many interesting areas. another end game is to start your own business (or even just go autonomo and do company work) which, providing you know your market, can really be a good way to earn a decent living. In the end, the opportunities are there but you have to fight past cultural stereotypes and bad examples of the practice to carve yourself a niche (and if you are a non native speaker, it’s even harder….and this is perpetuated by a shameful amount of schools who pander to yet another local stereotype that only native speakers can teach well!)
    45 mins · Unlike · 4

    George Chilton: Thanks so much for your comment Mark, really appreciate it. We recognize that more qualifications do give people the opportunity to charge more – and we also think that professional development is a requirement for serious and experienced teachers. We were only just speaking about the point you’ve made today in a meeting (we have meetings in a Sunday, for some reason) – we all agree that newly qualified and inexperienced teachers should charge something that reflects the value of service they provide – but still there are academies that are paying teachers of your caliber and experience far too little, forcing people to be autónomo, when they might not otherwise want that.

    We also (or I do anyway) think that we need to work on the “English teaching brand” quite hard in order to attempt to change some of the more negative stereotypes associated with the gap year / turn up and teach from page 27 TEFL teacher. There’s nothing wrong with teaching tefl in a gap year at all, but for those who have the experience and have invested in the PD, there should be fair differentiation. And that’s a message for the clients.

    Tark Mhomson: not at all. as for the branding aspect, an increasing number of people call themselves language trainer or language coach. The first is probably preferable because coaching, while an element of language teaching, is a profession and and of itself. This is something else that’s now getting abused, when people with a weekend online certificate call themselves a coach, but hey. I think one thing that’s needed is for an accreditation system of schools to be implemented. Not run by British council, but something unpartisan. schools that are themselves run by a qualified DOS, pay and tax their staff fairly, invest in their personal and professional development etc…these schools should be accredited. Other schools (the majority) who pay their workers crap, mess their tax around (we’ve all been there), never mention a syllabus or an observation…they should also be known, but perhaps a less reputable blog is the ideal channel for the anti-accreditation system. If you need help with this, let me know. I’m also happy to advise teachers on setting up their own business/using their teaching experience to move sideways into other related fields, or just how to avoid getting ripped off as a teacher: perhaps as a couple of blog postings or whatever. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, so would be glad to help

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