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.
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,
Links please list in comments or tweet to me at @SLBCoop if you have any other related links:
From Nicola Prentis
From paulw @josipa74 (Twitter)
A poll indicating teachers are interested in this topic