Tag Archives: second language

Dilin Liu

NNEST of the Month
February 2011

dliu [at] as [dot] ua [dot] edu

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your educational and professional background, and why you decided to become an educator?
Dr. Liu: After completing my undergraduate education with a major in English at Jiangxi University (now Nanchang University) in China and teaching at the university for a few years, I came to the U.S. in 1985 to pursue graduate studies, first receiving a master’s degree in TESOL from Oklahoma City University and then a Ph.D. in English from Oklahoma State University. I taught and served as the Director of MA TESOL at Oklahoma City University from 1991 to 2006 (first as assistant, then associate, and full professor). In 2006, I took the position of Associate Professor (promoted to Full Professor last year) and Coordinator of Applied Linguistics/TESOL in the English Department at the University of Alabama because UA is a research university where I would have more resources and time for research, something I enjoy doing very much. As for why I decided to become an educator, I guess it’s my destined professional calling. As just mentioned, I was selected upon graduation by my undergraduate alma mater to stay as an instructor of English. Then, when I was working on my dissertation at Oklahoma State University, I received a call from a former professor at Oklahoma City University encouraging me to apply for their advertised MA TESOL position. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job. And the rest was history. Of course, the main reason I’ve been an educator for two decades now is that I really love teaching and research. I enjoy interacting with students and seeing them learn and grow. I sincerely believe, cliché as it is, teaching is a profession where what you do can truly make a difference in people’s lives.
Ana Wu: In your book chapter “Training Non-Native TESOL students: Challenges for TESOL Teacher Education in the West,” (1999) you said that cultural study, especially the study of cultures of English-speaking countries is therefore a subject that many NNS students want and should do more (p.207). Given that international graduate students in TESOL or applied linguistics programs stay in the USA two-four years, how can they maximize their opportunities to interact with local people, and continue to improve their communication skills and intercultural competence?
Dr. Liu: Based on my own experience and observation, the best thing to do is to find (or create) all possible opportunities to interact with individuals of other cultures or ethnic groups in this country. For example, one should try to participate in as many school and community activities as possible, including attending meetings of student organizations, visiting church and political gatherings, and attending/watching sports games. Also, one should try to read newspapers, listen to radio programs, and watch TV. The reason for participating in the aforementioned social, political, and sports activities is that, as I pointed out in my books on idioms, metaphor, and culture (2002, 2008), political, religious, business, and sports activities constitute arguably the most important aspects of American culture. The jargon used in these activities permeates American English (i.e., many English expressions/idioms come from these activities: promised land, touch base with, and the jury is still out [on something]. . .). A good knowledge of these topics will enable us to have a better understanding of the values and beliefs of American people (and also, believe it or not, a better command of American English as a byproduct). It is important to remember, however, that a casual participation and observation would not be enough. You have to be sensitive and pay close attention to what you observe, i.e. to note closely what people do and say. Then you have to reflect on what you observed, thinking about why the people acted the way they did and to what extent what they did and said is similar to or different from what people in your own culture typically do in the same context or situation.

Ana Wu: You have published over 30 journal articles, book chapters, and proceeding articles as well as three books (two authored and one edited). Also, you have served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of The ELT Journal (2001-2004), TESOL Quarterly (2005-2008), Reflections on English Language Teaching (since 2006), and the new TESOL Journal (since 2009). How do you deal with writer’s block and avoid procrastination? Would you share some of your writing rituals?
Dr. Liu: I don’t think I really have a good answer to the question of dealing with writer’s block and avoiding procrastination. I often have to fight these problems myself. One thing that I think may help us in dealing with writer’s block is to always keep an eye on issues that interest or puzzle you in your teaching and learning (as teachers, especially NNEST, we are always learning). If you constantly ask questions and try to find answers, you are likely to come up with a topic worth writing about. Concerning overcoming procrastination, I usually set aside blocks of time and a self-imposed deadline for a writing project.

Ana Wu: You also have remarkable experience holding leadership positions in TESOL. Before being currently coordinator and professor of Applied Linguistics/TESOL in the Department of English at the University of Alabama, you directed and taught the MA TESOL program at Oklahoma City University for 16 years. You were also the President of Oklahoma TESOL (1996-1997) and the Chair-elect/Chair of the Applied Linguistics Interest Section (1994-1996, 2010-2012).

a. How did you prepare yourself for these leadership positions? What kept you motivated when dealing with difficult teachers? What inspired you when feeling marginalized or unsupported?
Dr. Liu: Actually, I didn’t really do anything special in preparing for these positions and I haven’t really had colleagues that are difficult to work with. I think I’ve been just very lucky as I have always had very supportive colleagues and administrators.

b. According to Manrique and Manrique (1999), studies on immigrant non-European faculty demonstrate that 20% of male faculty were discriminated against by colleagues in their departments. Have you ever faced subtle or covert disrespect to your authority? What are your most vivid memories noticing innuendos about your nationality or racial remarks from your peers or administration? How did those events affect your teaching philosophy?
Dr. Liu: I’m afraid I might not be in the 20% mentioned by Manrique and Manrique. As I said above, I’ve been very fortunate to have extremely supportive colleagues and administrators, partially as evidenced by my successful tenure/promotional experiences at both OCU and UA. I’m not sure whether I’ve faced subtle or covert disrespect. The reason I’m not sure is perhaps I’ve always tried not to view any comments on my nationality, race, or accent as disrespect or discrimination. Instead, I’ve tried to see such comments in a positive light and use them as a motivation to improve. For example, I remember that, during my interview for the Oklahoma City University job, a few of the search committee members commented on the fact that I was not a native English speaker and the likely implications it might have (e.g., students’ concerns). One member said, “We could say that you [referring to me] are from California.” (I guess the person mentioned California because it’s known as a place with many immigrants). I considered the comment good-natured or good-humored, but I also used it as a constant reminder for me to work harder to prove that I could be as good as anyone else. My effort paid off. In my twenty years of teaching in the U.S., I’ve had very few students complaining about my English. In fact, many of them praised my command of English. Many non-native English speaking students stated in the course evaluations that they viewed me as their role-model and wanted to emulate me.

c. What strategies would you consider essential to NNESTs with foreign background in order to navigate the cultural politics in one’s academic community?
Dr. Liu:I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer because of a lack of real challenges I’ve experienced in this regard. To me, good performance on your job is the most important thing. If you do well on your job, generally your colleagues, administrators, and, most importantly, your students, would appreciate you. I may be wrong on this but it’s the impression I have based on my experience.

Ana Wu: What do you see yourself doing ten years from now? What do you want to be remembered for and why?
Dr. Liu: I may be retired then but even in retirement I probably will still be doing some teaching and writing. I would like to be remembered as a life-long language learner, teacher, and researcher who has had the wonderful opportunity to learn a second language and use it in a very rewarding profession. My reason for wanting to be remembered not only as a language teacher but also a language learner and researcher is that, to me, to be a successful language educator, one must simultaneously be a life-long language learner and researcher.

Ana Wu: Thank you for your contribution to the blog.


Liu, D. (1999). Training non-native speaker TESOL students: The challenges for TESOL teacher education in the West. In G. Braine (Ed.). Non-native educators in English language teaching (pp. 197-210). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Liu, D. (2002). Metaphor, culture, and worldview: The case of American English and the Chinese language. Lamar, MD, University Press of America.

Liu, D. (2008). Idioms: Description, comprehension, acquisition, and pedagogy. New York: Routledge.

Manrique, C. and Manrique, G. (1999). The Multicultural or Immigrant Faculty in American Society. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press.



Bonny Norton

NNEST of the Month
January 2011
bonny [dot] norton [at] ubc [dot] ca
1. From Ana Wu, City College of San Francisco:
a. Would you tell us how and why you decided to become an educator?
Dr. Norton:This is an interesting question. In many ways, I did not “decide” to become an educator; it was one of the few options available to me as a young woman growing up in a large South African family in the 1960’s and 1970’s. When I observed working women in our society, the few professionals were mainly teachers and nurses. I remember my father saying to me, half-jokingly, “Why do you want to go to university? You are just going to get married and have children.” Because of our family’s limited resources, it was essential that I get a scholarship to fund my university education, and this was available through the education department. Fortunately, I found teaching a meaningful, challenging, and enjoyable profession, and was very happy to become a full-time educator.
b. Besides having published extensively, you have been a keynote speaker in more than 40 countries/cities, including in Gramado, a beautiful city in Brazil known for their chocolate, hydrangeas, and annual film festival (As a Brazilian away from home, I am always nostalgic). Would you share some of your most vivid experiences visiting and giving a presentation in a country for the first time?
Dr. Norton: I have immense curiosity about the world, and find that professional invitations to speak in different countries provide the perfect opportunity to gain insight into a country and its people. Before I leave (and on long plane journeys) I always read about the history of the country I’m visiting, the different groups in the country, its political structure, its cultural practices, its languages. Wherever possible, I seek out English language newspapers, and read these on a regular basis. This helps me to understand the people I meet and the educational practices I observe. I also read novels from authors in the host country, and I’m particularly interested in learning about struggles for greater social justice and educational opportunity.I remember well my visit to beautiful Gramado, which was so different from other regions of Brazil I had visited. In Rio, for example, I jumped on a local bus and visited a favela on the outskirts of the city (my hosts were shocked when they learnt of this activity!). The poverty in the favela reminded me that Brazil remains a country where extreme wealth and extreme poverty co-exist, with disturbing consequences for educational opportunity. Gramado was an idyllic town with an alpine character. Was I really in Brazil?

2. From Young Mi Kim, Assistant Professor of English, Duksung Women’s University, Seoul, Korea
In teaching my university students in Korea, I became interested in the study of ICC (intercultural communicative competence). Byram (1997) said that the goal of ICC is for students to strive to extend their ability to perceive events in a new cultural context, and in this way come to have a broader intercultural identity that will enable them to move fluidly though a range of cultural contexts.

I think it is very important for students to be aware of positive and negative changes in their identity through EFL courses and other events such as watching American television programs ( a variety of American television programs such as ‘CSI,’ ‘Gossip Girl,’ and ‘America’s Top Model’ are available to watch on cable TV in Korea with Korean subtitles). However, during interviews it is very difficult to get students to talk about any changes in their identity. They always say my courses and watching the TV programs don’t effect their identity at all. They don’t think about the relationship between language, media, English learning and identity at all.

First of all, I would like to know whether you think it is better for students to be made aware of changes in their identity through the course explicitly and also to be able to describe these changes in order to increase their communicative competence in English. If it is better, how can I increase their awareness? What kind of strategies can I teach my students to develop their awareness of changes in their identity? In general, in order for my students to have positive development of their identity, what should I do as an EFL teacher at the University level?

Byram, M. (1997) Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters, Ltd.

Dr. Norton: Thank you for these questions. When I consider issues of “identity” among the students in my classes, I seldom use the term “identity” as such. At some level, this is an abstract term that is difficult to relate to. What I consider, instead, are the ways in which students relate to one another, to classroom practices, to me as a teacher, and to the wider society. As I said in my 2000 book (p.5): “I use the term identity to reference how a person understands his or her relationship to the world, how that relationship is structured across time and space, and how a person understands possibilities for the future.”

Discussions about a student’s relationship to the world, in the different domains of their lives (the home, the classroom, the playground, the workplace etc) all give me insight into a student’s complex and multiple identity. That identity, of course, also changes across time, as students engage with new ideas and relate to different people. The central questions I ask in my classroom are, “What is the student’s investment in the language practices of my classroom? How can I ensure that I structure classroom activities in ways that foster and encourage investment?. A student’s investment is integrally related to their identity: i.e. the way they relate to the world and their hopes for the future. If students have little investment in the language practices of my classroom, they may become bored, resentful, and resistant. A challenge for any teacher!

3. From Terry Doyle, Civic Center Campus of CCSF, ESL Instructor
a. In your article “Identity as a sociocultural construct in second language research” (2006) you mention that in the 1970s and 1980s second language researchers made a distinction between social identity and cultural identity. In recent years you and other researchers have come to the realization that one’s social identity cannot be separated from one’s cultural identity, and in this article you argue for the need to adopt an interdisciplinary and critical approach to identity research which entails studying identity in language education using a sociocultural construct. In your opinion, is such an interdisciplinary approach better able to describe the identity formation of new second language teachers, especially those who are teaching a language other than their “native” language?
Dr. Norton: This is a thoughtful question. Traditional conceptions of “social identity” are associated with the field of sociology, which is in turn primarily concerned with practices in (mainly urban) institutions such as schools, homes, law courts, and hospitals in a given society. Sociology assumes a “top-down” more macro-analytic approach to an investigation and understanding of these institutional practices. “Cultural identity” is associated with the field of anthropology, and assumes a “bottom-up” more micro-analytic approach to cultural practices. Such cultural practices include child rearing, marital conventions, religious belief systems, etc.

More recently, interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge construction have collapsed distinctions between the social and cultural. A second language teacher, for example, works within a given institution, which is part of larger set of social institutions (departments of education etc), but is simultaneously grappling with diverse cultural practices in her classroom (ways of talking, interacting, reading, and writing). In this context, both top-down, macro-level and bottom-up, micro-level analysis is needed to understand her practice. A second language teacher who is teaching in a language other than her native language faces a different set of challenges than a teacher teaching in her native language. Consider, for example, the current challenges faced by non-native English teachers in the state of Arizona, in the USA.

b. In your 1997 article “Language, identity, and the ownership of English” in TESOL Quarterly (1997) your introduction to the special topic issue on “Language and Identity,” there is quite an extensive review of articles on NNEST issues and the ownership of English. Since that time, the literature on both identity and language learning and also NNEST and the ownership issues have developed greatly. In your opinion where do these two literatures intersect? In particular, how may research on identity in second language education inform the education of new second language teachers, especially those who are “non-native” teachers?
Dr. Norton:This is another important question. My first and immediate response is to note that the vast majority of teachers who teach English internationally are not native speakers of the language. Interestingly, it is often in western, English-dominant countries such as the USA and the UK that the “non-native” standing of English teachers is a topic of debate. In many countries in Africa, for example, the English teacher is an English teacher, and not a NNEST. Having said this, however, I am aware that in Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan, many institutions give disproportionate value to the “native speaker,” often causing concern and distress amongst local NNEST. The work of Aneta Pavlenko has been particularly powerful in encouraging NNEST to consider themselves “bilingual teachers” rather than NNEST. Manka Varghese, Vaidehi Ramanathan, Brian Morgan, Kelleen Toohey, Karen Johnson, Margaret Hawkins, Bill Johnston, Matthew Clarke are other scholars who are grappling with these issues, amongst others. Issues of power are central.

c. I am currently doing research on the role of the mentor-student teacher relationship in the teacher education process and the identity formation process of ESL teachers. In particular, I have been thinking about development of collective identity of student ESL teachers. Danielewicz in her book Teaching Selves defines a new teacher’s collective identity as “being recognized by others as a teacher”. She writes that the development of collective identity comes about when a student teacher is working in an actual classroom with a mentor teacher and also that what kind of affiliation occurs between the mentor teacher and student teacher is very influential on that student teachers’ collective identity development. In your opinion, how does collective identity come about for new teachers? How can a mentor teacher encourage and promote collective identity development? What is the role of the mentor teacher in the development of collective identity of student teachers? For example, what kind of feedback might be appropriate after student teacher lessons during the practicum?

Danielewicz, J. (2001). Teaching Selves: Identity, Pedagogy, and Teacher Education. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Dr. Norton: As someone who has taught for nearly thirty years, and served as a teacher educator for the last 15, I know that I am continually refining my own practice. My own learning has never stopped. Every class I teach offers a new challenge and a new set of possibilities. So in mentoring new teachers, I reassure them that teaching is a journey, and that every class is unique. I make mistakes; I have lapses in judgement. However, what I try to do in every class is to learn more of each student in the class, and seek to establish some kind of relationship with each student, so that I can adapt my practice to students’ needs and investments. This is what I model for my student teachers. In every class with student teachers, I am constantly assessing how the student teachers are responding to my instruction, and determining if I need to adjust my practices. The mentor teacher serves as a model for student teachers, but also seeks to encourage the student teacher to find her own comfort level, and to build on her particular strengths.

Clearly, student teachers have complex and multiple identities, with diverse investments in the language practices of their classrooms. These will likely relate to past experiences of learning and teaching, and their imagined identities as teachers. The mentor needs to seek to understand these investments and identities, so that the mentoring experience is rewarding for both parties. At the same time, the mentor teacher needs to be aware that some of the challenges a student teacher has may have little to do with preparation, energy, and commitment. Sometimes student teachers may be disempowered if their race and/or gender, for example, is not valued in the classroom. These issues relate to dominant social practices in the society at large.

d. Also, how important is how the two participants in this process refer to each other? Danielewicz used the terms “mentor teacher” and “student interns,”but I prefer to refer to both participants in this collaborative process as “co-teachers.”For as Danielewicz points out, it is the act of naming more than experience itself which makes us who we are. What is your opinion about this?
Dr. Norton:This is a complex question. Although both participants are indeed “co-teachers,” there is also a power imbalance between them. It may be most productive to name this difference, rather than assume it doesn’t exist.

e. Related to my previous question about the role of the mentor-student teacher relationship in the teacher education process, and what might be particularly interesting for readers of this blog, is a question about the collective identity development of student teachers who are international students working with teachers in an ESL context.

Can you see any difference in the collective identity development of international (NNES) MA TESOL students and United States-born (NES) MA TESOL students?
Dr. Norton:With regard to collective identity development, issues of “imagined communities” and “imagined identities” might be relevant here. (See Kanno & Norton, 2003; Norton, 2001; Pavlenko & Norton, 2007). If an NNES MA TESOL student wishes to remain in the United States rather than return to the country of origin, the imagined professional community would differ from that of the NNES student who is returning home. Similarly, the NES MA TESOL student who plans to teach internationally rather than in the USA would also likely have different investment in the future than the NES student who plans to remain local.

f. Do you think it is useful and appropriate for new and also experienced teachers to focus consciously on their identity formation? What seminal papers and books would you recommend to NNES and NES professionals to learn more about research on identity in language learning and also in teacher education?
Dr. Norton:As I have noted in my publications, every time a person speaks, reads, or writes, they are engaged in the negotiation of identity. A teacher may not use the term “identity”, but there is no doubt that a teacher’s sense of self is implicated in all classroom exchanges. If students do not listen to a teacher, she will feel discouraged; if students are excited by a class exercise, she will feel happy and successful. Such feelings are all implicated in a the teacher’s sense of “self” and identity.

I have a chapter on Identity in an edited volume by Nancy Hornberger and Sandy McKay, which has just been published by Multilingual Matters (Norton, 2010). My chapter highlights current research on identity and language learning. I have another chapter, co-authored with Margaret Hawkins, on Critical Language Teacher Education. (Hawkins & Norton, 2009). As mentioned above, the work of Aneta Pavlenko, Vaidehi Ramanathan, Manka Varghese, Brian Morgan, Kelleen Toohey, Margaret Hawkins, Karen Johnson, Bill Johnston, Matthew Clarke and others all address identity and teacher education in innovative and intriguing ways.

Ana Wu: It’s a great honor to have you in our blog. Thank you for this informative interview!


Hawkins, M., & Norton, B. (2009). Critical language teacher education. In A. Burns & J. Richards (Eds.), Cambridge guide to second language teacher education. (pp. 30-39) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kanno, Y., & Norton, B. (Guest Eds.). (2003). Imagined communities and educational possibilities [Special issue]. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 2(4).

Norton, B. (2000). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity and educational change. Harlow, England: Longman/Pearson Education.

Norton, B. (2006). Identity as a sociocultural construct in second language education. In K.Cadman & K. O’Regan (Eds.), TESOL in Context [Special Issue], 22-33.

Norton, B. (1997). Language, identity, and the ownership of English. TESOL Quarterly, 31(3), 409-429.

Norton, B. (2001). Non-participation, imagined communities, and the language classroom. In M. Breen (Ed.), Learner contributions to language learning: New directions in research (pp. 159-171). Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Norton, B. (2010). Language and identity. In N. Hornberger & S. McKay (Eds). Sociolinguistics and language education. (pp. 349-369). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Pavlenko, A., & Norton, B. (2007). Imagined communities, identity, and English language teaching. In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), International handbook of English language teaching (pp. 669-680). New York: Springer.

Vicente Sadraque

NNEST of the Month
November, 2010
Ana Wu: Could you tell us your linguistic and professional background, and why you decided to become an educator?
Mr. Sadraque: I first started studying English in Revival English School, back in 1994. Then, I went to Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) school, where I studied English language at an advanced level. Between 2000 and 2003, I attended high school where I learned how to teach English as a foreign language.When I graduated in 2004, I decided to be more exposed to English language but in a different field. So I started to study Business English and Letter writing at Cambridge International College. Currently, I’m a student of this institution. It is also worth mentioning that my exposure to English in various workshops and national and international conferences shaped my current linguistic knowledge.Professionally speaking, I’ve been teaching English as Foreign Language (EFL) since 1999 in both private and public schools. I’ve also been highly involved with language associations since that same year.

One of the associations where I am still a member and Vice-president is ANELTA – the Angolan English Language Teachers Association.

After my graduation in 2004, I started sharing my knowledge working as a teacher trainer for private schools of English and to fellows who wanted to teach English.

I decided to pursue a career as a language educator because I strongly believe that this is my direct contribution to the development of Angola. Working with young students gives me opportunity to help them gain important skills (communication, leadership, management, social and teamwork skills) for their everyday life and that of their respective communities. Additionally, I love teaching; it is my passion.

English is an international language, it is now between the third and fourth from the most spoken languages in the world. This is to say that English is one of the languages for globalization, students shouldn’t get lost in communication almost everywhere if they can speak English. Secondly, for academic purposes, it would be very helpful for their research in any area as there are few books written in Portuguese language, which is the language spoken in the country. Third, English gives them more job opportunities. They can apply for a job everywhere. In Angola, there are many companies where one of the main requirement to apply is fluency in English language.

Angola is in a process of development in terms of economy and leadership. As Angola is not apart from the world, it needs to enhance its relations with developed countries and to have a success in this direction needs to use the language.

Ana Wu: You also studied Law. Tell me more about it and how helpful it has been in your TESOL career.
Mr. Sadraque: I would like to stress that due to the luck of opportunity at that time to study English Language Teaching at University, I went to Gregorio Semedo University were I studied Law in 2005 and finished my course in 2008. Up to now, I’ve been working in my dissertation and by October this year I will present (defend) it.English has been my passion since I was a child. I think I can conciliate both things and use my degree in law to help the teachers of English community in my country. While being a lawyer by the next few years, I will always have at least a class to teach English and this is the idea I’ve been passing around to my fellows who have bachelor degree in English Teaching, but are working in other fields.

During the 2010 TESOL convention in Boston, I’ve met some teachers who are also lawyers and teachers of English, so we took advantage to exchange our great experiences – for example, we talked about teaching English for lawyers.

Ana Wu: You are the 2010 TESOL Leadership Mentoring Program Award Recipient, and Brock Brady, the 2010-2011 TESOL President in your assigned mentor. How did winning this recognition affect your career? Tell me about your experience of having Dr. Brady as your mentor.
Mr. Sadraque: Knowing that what I do is recognized outside of Angola made me feel more motivated to promote TEFL/TESOL profession. Meeting and working with Dr. Brady triggered my interest in English for Specific Purpose (ESP). Currently, I’m helping my students learn English for specific purpose. So this nomination helped me bring some innovations to the Instituto Médio Industrial de Luanda (IMIL), the public school where I work. The Principal of the school is really interested in my initiative of teaching ESP and such an initiative is now being reviewed in order to be fully implemented – let’s see!This recognition also enhanced my own reputation as a language professional. The Principal of IMIL counts on my technical contribution to the English language teaching in that school.

In fact, it was a great honor to have Dr. Brady as my mentor. Now I better understand how TESOL works. I’ve learned and acquired some leadership skills from Dr. Brady by observing and interacting with him – something I have been informally sharing with my ANELTA (Angolan English Language Teachers Association) fellows.

Dr. Brady and I have discussed many ideas that ANELTA can implement in partnership with TESOL. These ideas include affiliating ANELTA to TESOL, which is expected to occur in near future. As a result of our discussions, someone in ANELTA was recently appointed to be our TESOL contact within ANELTA – TESOL will hear from him soon.

I must admit that through this Leadership Mentoring Award, I have improved my communication, networking, and interpersonal skills.

Ana Wu: At the age of 16, you and some students founded the United English Speakers Association in Luanda, Angola, an organization that focused on socio-cultural and environmental issues. A few years later, as one of the founding members of the Angolan National English Teacher Association (ANELTA), you served as Secretary General of the association from 2003 to 2006, and have been Vice President since 2007. Allow me to tell our members that you are only 27 years old.a. Why is taking leadership roles important to you? Professionally, what would you like to accomplish in the next 5 and 10 years?
Mr. Sadraque: Taking leadership roles is something that comes automatically, and when I realize I am already taking this role. It happens due to the fact of setting clear goals and doing things by heart. I am also charismatic and I think taking leadership position is a good way to influence others.To help visualize what I posted above, back in 2003-2004 when I was leaving my high school, where I studied English Language Teaching, I could understand the differences from what I learnt and what I saw in some schools I visited. So I realized that teachers needed to enhance their teaching techniques and methodology. It emerged on me a strong need to help though I didn’t have that much to give. In this regard, with the experience I had with previous associations as leader, I spent months planning to organize a big conference in the country where teachers of English should gather and discuss the trends in the field and find the respective solutions. Experienced teachers should give workshops and plenary. People didn’t just believe me because I was very young and plus didn’t have the university level at that time.

In the same year, I met good friends who believed in my plan and supported it so that in 2004 we could organize the first international English Language teachers conference in the country. I would like to have the honor of mentioning them here: Otmar Filipe (who finished his bachelor in ELT) and Nina Bell (from California; her husband used to work for Chevron in Angola and she worked as volunteer teacher in my high school). Other people gathered the group such as, Susanna Lindsey, from Netherland; Paula Duarte, my former methodology teacher; Caetano Domingos, former principal of the school where I studied; and Dana Swain, from California, though she was not a teacher but could contribute for the success of the event. We spent all our time, day and night, and energy for more than 8 months planning and arranging things for this workshop.

In 2004 before the conference, two of our friends (Francisco Aristides and José Iege) suggested that if we were to support in a regular basis the needs of our teachers, it should be good to create an association. That’s what exactly we did. During the first international conference in November 2004, we announced the existence of ANELTA the Angolan English Language Teachers Association, where I worked as general secretary. Don’t you think it should be the best position to achieve the goal of promoting professional development in English language teaching? As the general secretary with the help of the group, I could influence more than 750 teachers around the country to participate in our events, some in the town and other in the provinces. We also could identify leaders to help in the organization of the next conferences and to conduct the organization as board members.

The role of leaders is the key for the development of a community. Leaders have visions; they see beyond the future than everybody else in their community. They help people bring the best they have out of themselves to achieve common good.

Leaders are always preoccupied with common good, that is, the community’s interest or development. They work with people, analyze the environment, identify problems affecting their community, and work hard to find solutions by engaging other people as well. They reframe everyone’s dream(s) in such ways that everyone feels identified with those dreams, and feel energized to do something about it, in order to make them come true for the community’s well being.

Leaders inspire people around them. They help them overcome their weaknesses and maximize or release their potentials. We have in fact good examples of that as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and recently Barack Obama. Leaders are in fact the catalyst of changes in their community or group.

This is why taking leadership position is important to me. It is easier to do the above mentioned when I am in a leadership position. That is the best position where I can do more and better to achieve my goals. To give more examples, below I mention some of my goals to achieve within 5 to 10 years time – which will be easier to accomplish if I am the decision maker.

In terms of accomplishments, I first would like to have ANELTA affiliated to TESOL.

Secondly, I would like to help ANELTA have local representatives in all the 18 provinces of Angola. This project is already in process with collaboration of the current ANELTA board, including its newly appointed president, Mr. Caetano Capitão.

Personally, I intend to support members of ANELTA by organizing workshops, regular training in high schools and universities, publishing articles on ANELTA newsletter and probably on some international newsletters. As I am an attorney, I would like to defend local EFL teachers’ rights.

In order to accomplish my goals effectively, I am looking for further educational opportunities to complete a master degree in TESOL/TEFL.

In 2004, two friends and I created a project called ANELI. The project involves the construction of a building for ANELTA, where we will have various offices dealing with different aspects of TEFL. Unfortunately we haven’t implemented it yet, but we hope in ten years time we will establish the basis for this project.

Also, at the 2010 TESOL Convention in Boston, I spoke to some professors in order to look for ways to implement masters programs in Angola. We will keep studying to figure out how to materialize the idea.

b. Regarding the professional status of the EFL teachers in Angola, what are the most emerging issues?
Mr. Sadraque: A few teachers in Angola have a bachelor’s degree in English Language Teaching. It means that those who don’t have a bachelor’s degree in English Language Teaching – the majority of EFL teachers in the country- need a certificate and certification in EFL. And those graduated in EFL still need to know what current best teaching practices are. The level of spoken English spoken is not high enough for both graduated and non graduated teachers in the field. Teaching is mostly based on grammar.In Luanda province, the capital of Angola, besides the Faculdade de Letras, Universidade Agostinho Neto,where students learn linguistics, including English linguistics, we only have one institution where people can study TEFL in high school in ELT.

In order to overcome these barriers, I strongly believe that not only sharing best practices with Angolan teachers, but also exchanging teaching ideas and having professional development opportunities, such as workshops from institutions like CELTA and DELTA, conferences, seminars, training courses on an ongoing basis, would be of a great help.

Ana Wu: Thank you for this interesting interview!

Lisya Seloni

NNEST of the Month
May 2010

lisyaseloni [at] gmail [dot] com


Ana Wu: Could you tell us your background and why you decided to be an educator?

Dr. Seloni:I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Growing up in Istanbul, I was surrounded by various languages: Turkish, my native language, and Ladino and Hebrew, my heritage languages. Due to my ethnic background, I was exposed to, and acquired some receptive knowledge of Ladino (Ladino is a Romance language used among the Sephardic Jews in the Balkans and Turkey), also called Judeo-Spanish (djudeoespanyol), while I was growing up in Istanbul. It is mostly the elderly members of families who spoke Ladino, and my generation was usually kept distance from this language due to various political and sociocultural reasons. During my primary and secondary education, I learned some Hebrew at school. And, of course, while I was growing up, there was always this dominant narrative that English was the language that one needs to master to be able to get ahead in life. So, I attended an English language institute on weekends while I was in high school. Being a member of various overlapping communities, one of the things that I vividly remember was the variety and richness of the kinds of literacy practices that my peers and I were carrying out within and beyond the school contexts. Although I lost most of my heritage languages due to not being able to use them on a daily basis, being part of a minority group raised my awareness on various social, political and linguistic issues that became much more significant in my adult life later on. And, what I now find interesting is that I didn’t realize the richness and importance of my heritage languages while growing up in a multilingual context In Istanbul until I pursued my graduate studies where I grew a deep interest in how people use spoken and written language to create communities and certain identity categories. My current scholarship and teaching always bring back these early literacy experiences. .

As the first generation college graduate student in my family, reading and writing has always been a central part of me growing up. Although my parents did not receive college education, they have always emphasized the importance of reading and writing by sharing with me various anecdotes and stories during my childhood. Sharing and interacting with people to construct knowledge and experiences have always excited me, so striving to become and be an educator has been my life passion. Due to having come to a decision about pursuing language education, I majored in English language education as an undergraduate in Istanbul University where I specialized in sociolinguistics and teaching English using drama.

Before moving to the United States in late 2001 to pursue my graduate degree, I worked in various capacities in Turkey teaching English as a foreign language. I was especially passionate about working with the economically disadvantaged population in Istanbul. My most memorable experiences include teaching in a small language institute for more than 3 years where I taught English to kids from shantytowns. I recall having students from various age levels, and sociocultural backgrounds, and this always made my classes so very interesting. While I was in Turkey, I was also a part of an organization called Cagdas Yasami Destekleme Dernegi (CYDD). CYDD, which is a nonprofit association in support of contemporary living, is one of the largest organizations in Turkey that harbors various educational projects aiming to promote equality in education in Turkey. There, I taught reading, writing and speaking in English to adult medical students from different parts of Turkey who did not have the economic and material access to English education in their colleges.

I came to the US at the end of 2001 to pursue my graduate degree. I remember how tough it was to get acclimated in a new culture and a new institution while the country was in turmoil. Having completed my MA degree in TESOL at University of Central Missouri in 2003, I moved to Columbus, Ohio to pursue my doctoral degree at the Ohio State University and completed my degree in August, 2008. During my doctoral education and beyond, I have been very fortunate to have had an opportunity to interact with so many inspirational scholars such as Alan Hivela, Keiko Samimy, David Bloome, Shelly Wong who did make a big impact on how I view schooling, learning and teaching.

After completing my degree at the OSU, I was hired to as a tenure-track faculty in the graduate studies in Composition & TESOL at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I feel fortunate to be able to do what I love doing: teaching and writing. It’s a true privilege to get paid for thinking and creating scholarly work.

Ana Wu: With Marcia Farr and Juyoung Song, you co-edited the book Ethnolinguistic Diversity and Education Language, Literacy and Culture, first published in 2009. 

a. Tell us about the making of this book. Why is this topic important to you? Where did the idea come from? How long did you work on it? How was the experience of working with 18 renowned authors?
Dr. Seloni: With this book, our primary goal was to explore crucial issues that emerge at the intersection of language diversity and literacy education in the United Sates. I am very excited about this book mainly because the collection of articles not only provides a very recent overview on sociolinguistic research but this collection also discusses important pedagogical application on how we should fight against the monolingual ideology and standardization movements in many educational contexts. In this project, my main responsibilities were to collect the manuscripts, edit the chapters with Marcia and Juyoung, and co-author an introductory chapter. I am delighted and extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to work with some stellar scholars such as Marcia Far, Walt Wolfram, Samy Alim, Ofelia Garcia , Alan Hirvela, Teresa McCarty and Terence Wiley. I believe that this book will be a great contribution to our understanding of ethnolinguisitic diversity in the 21st century throughout the U.S. educational contexts.

The idea of this book derived from the New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) conference that we hosted in 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. Marcia Farr, with whom I was working at that time, suggested that we work on an edited collection where we collect manuscript that specifically explores the dominant language ideologies and how these enact in different educational contexts in the U.S. We invited the presenters of NWAV conference, worked on the proposal of the book and began collecting manuscripts. So, it took about 3 years to compile the manuscripts, revise the drafts and publish the whole book. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Marcia, her vast publishing experience in the areas of sociolinguistics and teaching of writing really helped me to expand my knowledge base on what goes on in compiling and editing a book. As an emerging scholar, I learned a great deal about the process of editing the book. The process was a long and arduous one, but my overall experience was a very positive one, especially since Marcia and Juyoung were extremely easy to work with. Because of these reasons, editing process was easier than I had imagined.

b. What advice would you give to our members who want to publish a book or edit an anthology? How does one start?
Dr. Seloni: I’m still learning the practices that go in editing or publishing a book. In my opinion, it is important to read widely and identify areas in which one wants to make a contribution. One’s knowledge in the field is an important asset and factor when it is time to write about the focus of the collection and the audience the volume aims to address. Finding contributors who have important things to say regarding the topic in question is crucial. You want to make sure that the sections of the book are consistent in terms of their quality, and length; and of course, choosing the right publisher is another important step. The book proposal you submit to the publishers receives feedback from external reviewers, and you need to make sure that you sufficiently address their feedback. As far as I remember, modifying our proposal was the part that took the longest. We worked hard to thoroughly address the publisher’s questions about the potential contribution of this book and the questions that were raised by the reviewers. Editing a book can take a long time, but it’s a very good learning experience especially for the emerging scholars. 

Ana Wu: You have been the NNEST IS editorial assistant since the end of 2005.

 a. In this position, what are the challenges and what do you enjoy the most?
Dr. Seloni: My work as an editorial assistant was one of the most fruitful international service during my graduate school. As a member of the editorial team, I had the opportunity to work with Sandra Zappa Hollman and Kyung-Hee Bae. The collegiality and the vast writing experiences of my co-editors brought with them certainly helped raise the quality of our work. Reading the manuscripts and taking an important role in proving feedback have been most enjoyable aspects of this position. There is something very empowering in reading contributors’ first drafts, negotiating and working as a team to improve a manuscript. One can learn so much through such interactions. I also witnessed how professionals can get to know one another in the digital environments, and do quality work via online interactions.

To me, the hardest part as an editor, was handling the feedback process. Asking the contributors to make substantial revisions in their manuscript, whether the revisions are related to stylistic issues or issues of organization, is not an easy task. I have been too conscious about not changing the authors’ authentic voice, but I also could not help but ask myself “what does changing one’s voice mean in the context of editing?” Does asking the contributors to change their lexicon choices or the way they write organize the paper mean that I am interfering with their voice and their writerly identity? When we offer substantial changes to the manuscript, I try hard to be faithful to the gist of the paper, but again this is not an easy thing to do. I think this was the question that popped up quite often in our discussions in the editorial team. I am still struggling with this question as I respond to my students writing, or serve as a manuscript reviewer for multiple journals. 

b. What would you say to our members who are interested in applying for an editor or editor assistant position, but do not have enough self-confidence or experience?
Dr. Seloni: This is certainly a great place to gain experience with editing and revising scholarly work in the field. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. No one is born as a confident teacher, scholar or an editor, you become one. I believe that such roles require performative actions that we learn by doing and by interacting with more experienced peers, and by being engaged in various discourse communities. So, my advice would be, to go for it and take a leadership role and not wait too long to be a part of an academic community. Graduate school teaches us many important skills to navigate our way in academia, but I do believe it’s not the only place. Since I became a member of TESOL in 2005, I have been learning so much regarding what it takes to be a contributing scholar by attending the meetings, interacting fellow educators in conferences, and participating the NNEST newsletter work.

Ana Wu: As an assistant professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, your research areas include Social Justice issues in Language Education, among Second Language Literacy, Educational Ethnography, and Applied Linguistics. In terms of educational inequalities (class, race, gender, etc) in the TESOL field,

a) what do you think ESL/EFL instructors can do to make schooling more effective to minority students and to those who speak vernacular varieties of English?
Dr. Seloni: We need to remember that with the movements of globalization, the field of TESOL has gone through various methodological and theoretical shifts in terms of its conceptualization of language, culture, literacy, learning, and identity. I am glad to witness that the field is gradually gaining a more interdisciplinary nature, opening itself to various sociocultural, political, and institutional issues, and more importantly, it is orienting itself to students’ various needs and expectations and taking into account their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Today, it is almost impossible to have totally homogeneous classrooms wherever we teach.I think even the work homogeneous does not reflect the make-up of any class in any society today.

If we are talking about teaching minority students in the US, one of the things that I learnt from my reading and research experience is to make sure that we not only understand the ethnolinguisitc richness they bring but legitimize those by incorporating the rich “funds of knowledge” (Pratt, 1991) students bring into the classroom discourse. Critical Pedagogy teaches us the importance of student participation and incorporating their backgrounds meaningfully. For instance, Ira Shor (1992) says “ the goals of [critical] pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change” (p. 15). To create an optimum space for democratic and dialogic community for minority students, we need to start with participatory classrooms. In other words, it is important to go beyond the banking concept of education (Freire, 1970) and create collaborative and participatory classroom activities that will legitimize and recognize non-standard variations, whether it is linguistic, social or cultural. It is also important to establish a community in the classroom where there is multiple spaces for socialization and wide range of ways of doings. To create this community, just like many scholars in our field emphasize, we need to start from the student and what they bring to the classroom. Hence, we need to carefully analyze how our classroom practices (activities we promote, languages we use, texts we bring for students to read, constructing the seating arrangement etc.) marginalize, promote, affirm students who come from nondominant cultures and languages. Our students’ identities and lives, just like ours, are constantly in flux and changing in relation to their context. Therefore, we need to redefine and reconceptualize how we view schooling, learning and teaching. It is my firm belief that if we, as language educators, do spend considerable amount of time on multiplicity of voices that students bring in to class and strive to create alternative spaces for them to express themselves and, meanwhile teach them, as Lisa Delpit always says “the culture of power”, we will be closer to creating a democratic society in which each individual is valued and seen as a contributing member of their personal, academic and cultural lives.

b. which seminal paper(s) inspired you? Which ones would you recommend our graduate students in applied linguistics or TESOL programs read?
Dr. Seloni:There are so many scholarship areas that have inspired and continue to inspire me that it’s really hard to pick a few to recommend. The scholarship and teaching of my own mentors that I mentioned above have certainly influenced how I view language teaching. Since my interests have mostly lied in the intersection of second language literacy, critical pedagogy, discourse analysis and educational ethnography, there are various important scholars who inspire me. Alastair Pennycook, Suresh Canagarajah, Ryoko Kubota, Ulla Connor, B. Kumaravadivelu, Cynthia Nelson, Brain Morgan and many more in the field of TESOL and Applied Linguistics. I recently taught a course on Intro to TESOL and my text choice was Kumaravadivelu’s Cultural Globalization and Language Education. I also used parts of his Beyond Methods and Canagarajah’s Resisting Linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching. I think both of these texts aim to move the TESOL field beyond the transmission model of education and promote localized and context sensitive by carefully problematizing some of the standard ideologies that permeate in the field.

Ana Wu: Congratulations on being the symposium organizer of the Academic Literacies Symposium in February, 2010. Being so involved and committed in your teaching career, how do you balance work with family? What do you do to avoid being burned-out?
Dr. Seloni: Thank you, Ana. The conference was a wonderful experience. It was great to be able to talk about various issues related to academic Literacies with so many wonderful scholars.

Balancing work and family is, as many will agree, never an easy thing. While juggling so many balls, learning how to prioritize is something that I, as a multilingual junior faculty, am striving to learn. One thing that I have been observing is that many graduate students and junior faculty members have the fear of being criticized and compared to, which, I think one of the many reasons people in the academy, especially women scholars, are burned-out. We live in a society where we always compare ourselves with the “other” whether it is the other junior colleague or a seasoned teacher in the field. This is an exhausting feeling if it takes you in. It becomes all about how you perceive yourself as a scholar and how you think you are being positioned by others. To avoid being burnt-out, I am trying to teach myself that as long as I strive for progress (not for perfection, as the saying goes) and do what I do because I am passionate about it, not because of some tenure requirement, I will establish a healthy relationship with my colleagues, with my work and stop fighting with my different “selves” who do not always collaborate with one another. I know it is an idealistic outlook, but the feeling of making a contribution to the field instead of my tenure box is what keeps me going.

It is also important to recognize that many scholars, especially international scholars, have nomadic lives. It’s the same in my situation. I am always on the go, traveling to various places to participate in academic and social communities, especially in the lives of my family. As a multilingual woman scholar who is trying to carve her own space in academia, it has never been easy to build and maintain a community in which one can grow as a scholar. People have segmented lives and once you are out of graduate school you are pretty much by yourself in terms of building that community. This is another type of a burn-out for me (i.e, trying to build a community), and one of the best ways to deal with this has been going to conferences and engaging in discussions with mentors and peers who have been going through the same challenges.

Traveling between states and even countries to see my family has been tough. However, as odd as it may sound, there is always something refreshing in not belonging to anywhere, living in between various cultures and worlds. Traveling to see my family in Istanbul is a way for me to travel throughout time and history. In one year, many things change. People change; history changes. As a returning person, you are never totally at the center of this change nor are you at the periphery. Oddly enough, this middle space gives you some sort of privilege to claim a “learner” identity who can act critically. It is also funny but I get a lot of writing done when I travel by plane or train. I wish I can always travel so that I can produce more. I think traveling and passing through and interacting with so many lives and spaces have a magical power that inspires me to reflect critically and write more passionately.

Ana Wu: Thank you for this inspiring interview and good luck in your next project!


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum. (M.B. Rabos, Trans.)

Pratt, L. (1992) Arts of the contact zone. Profession 91.(p.33-40).

Shor, I. (1992). Empowering education. Critical Teaching for social change. The University of Chicago Press.

Ali Shehadeh

NNEST of the Month
September 2009

Ali Shehadeh

li [dot] shehadeh [at] uaeu [dot] ac [dot] ae

Ana Wu: Could you tell us about your background and why you decided to be an educator?

Dr. Shehadeh: I developed an interest in languages, especially English, when I was 13 years old in the middle school. In my country, Syria, English is taught as a foreign language. Several of my middle and high school teachers inspired me to like the language. As soon as I graduated from high school, I enrolled in the Department of English at Aleppo University, Syria, in 1977. Even at the age of 17, when I was still a first year student at university, I excelled in my English studies, started to give private English lessons and short courses at private institutions. On graduation from university in 1981, I was one of the honour students who were offered Graduate-Assistant positions at the university to teach English to university students majoring in English.

How I became an educator was a peculiar story, but a rewarding one. One day, a group of the middle school students I was teaching -when I was still a student at university- came to me and said: “We really like you as a caring and enthusiastic teacher. We also like the way you deal with us and treat us, but sometimes your language goes over our heads! We need more accessible and simple language which we can easily understand.” Ever since, I was convinced that incomprehensible input or output is of less value no matter how important it is or the message it carries, unless it is understood by your audience. Since that time too, I would give equal weight, importance and planning to How to teach, or the methodology I use in my teaching, as much as to What to teach (It comes no surprise therefore that my doctoral dissertation (1991) was on comprehensible output!).

This reconsideration of the teaching method paid off. On several occasions, both when I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in Syria or my graduate degrees in the UK, my classmates would ask me to assist them in their lessons, to re-explain lessons for them, or to give them my own notes. Some of my classmates and professors would describe me as ‘born to be a teacher?” This is how I became an educator.

Ana Wu: You have given workshops and extensively published in the second language acquisition field, especially about the task-based learning approach. Also, you got the 2006 TESOL Award for a Teacher as a Classroom Action Researcher. What advice would you give to NNES novice teachers who are just starting their career?

Dr. Shehadeh:My advice to NNES novice teachers is to always aim at and maintain a high level of dedication and commitment to their teaching, learning, research and professionalism. This can be achieved in at least two ways: First, NNESTs should know that what matters for real success is not ‘who you are’ (native or non-native), but rather ‘what you know’ (your competence and your knowledge). Second, I would encourage these NNES novice teachers, when something goes wrong in their teaching or classroom, to move away from ‘Why don’t they understand me?!’ to ‘How can I make myself understood?’

Ana Wu: You were once a member of the NNEST Caucus and the 2008-2009 chair of the Applied Linguistic Interest Section at TESOL. What other leadership positions have you taken? Why is taking a leadership position important to you? Would you encourage young professionals to take a leadership position? Why or why not?

Dr. Shehadeh:Actually I’m still a member of the NNEST Interest Section and I am on the NNEST IS email list.

On leadership positions, besides the Applied Linguistic Interest Section leadership role, I have served or have been serving TESOL and TESOL Arabia, my regional TESOL affiliate, in a number of other ways too: Member of TESOL’s Awards and Grants Standing Committee, Coordinator of TESOL’s Ruth Crymes Academy Fellowship Awards, Member of TESOL’s Publications Standing Committee, Member of TESOL’s Research Standing Committee, Member of TESOL Arabia Research Grants Committee, and Member of TESOL Arabia Travel Grants Committee. I have also been serving on TESOL Quarterly’s Editorial Board for a number of years now, initially as a manuscript reviewer and evaluator, and now as a major section co-editor, Brief Reports and Summaries.

It is very important for NNESTs to take leadership roles in TESOL for a number of reasons: 1) NNESTs outnumber NESTs in the world. Actually they make more than two-thirds of all English language teachers worldwide (Crystal, 2003). 2) Being ex-learners who went through the same journey of L2 learning which their students are taking, NNESTs are in a better position to understand and appreciate the difficulties their students face; they are more sensitive to their students’ needs and wants; and they are better positioned to assist their students in the L2 learning journey. 3) NNESTs bring a sense of multiculturalism and multilingualism to the profession of TESOL. Unlike NESTs, every NNEST comes to the TESOL profession with at least two languages, his and the English language, and two cultures, his and the English culture. It is imperative therefore that NNESTs take active and leading roles in TESOL if their voices were to be represented and heard, and if TESOL were to be a truly international, multilingual and multicultural association.

Ana Wu: As someone who has taught at universities and academic institutions in many countries, what do you think the NNEST IS or TESOL can do to fight against hiring discrimination and discrimination in the workplace?

Dr. Shehadeh: I think that TESOL and the NNEST IS can do a lot to fight against hiring discrimination and discrimination in the workplace. The most important thing to do is to change the baseless, but popular assumption that the teachers most acceptable are native speakers. For instance, in the last 3-4 years I gave a number of presentations, keynote speeches, featured sessions, and discussion groups on the topic, both individually and in collaboration with other NEST and NNEST professionals, in regional and international conferences, symposiums, and workshops. Research shows, I would report to my audience, that the popular assumption by administrators, recruiting agencies/personnel, the public, students, and even some teachers that the target language is best taught by the native speakers of that language is not accurate and therefore it is changing.

Concerned people are now more aware that what matters most is no more ‘who you are’ but rather ‘what you know,’ and ‘what you can do.’ I would report to my audience that studies of what makes a good teacher (administered to students, teacher trainees, and school administrators) have specified several attributes of what makes a good teacher, including caring, committed, confident, creative, culturally aware, decisive, disciplined, energetic, enthusiastic, flexible, funny/humorous, knowledgeable (language and SLA), knowledgeable (methods), open-minded, organized, patient, punctual, reflective, respectful, self-aware, and well-planned (for a review of studies, see Thompson, 2007). None was cited as being a NEST or NNEST. TESOL as a global profession, the NNEST IS, and even individual professionals and members can all play an active role too in fighting against hiring discrimination and discrimination in the workplace by falsifying such baseless assumptions.

5. What advice would you give graduate students or novice teachers who may not conform to the native speaker image in appearance and language?

Dr. Shehadeh: The advice I would give graduate students or novice teachers is to prove to all stakeholders (mainly students, administrators, and parents), in deeds not words, that what matters most -more than anything else- is genuine professionalism, namely: 1) teacher’s competence, 2) teacher’s expertise, 3) whether and to what degree the teacher achieves learning and teaching goals, and 4) whether and to what degree the teacher possesses the qualities of a good teacher mentioned above.

Ana Wu: Thank you very much for this interesting interview!


Crystal, D. (2003). English as a Global Language (2nd Edition). Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Shehadeh, A. (1991). Comprehension and Performance in Second Language Acquisition: A Study of Second Language Learners’ Production of Modified Comprehensible Output. Department of English Language and Linguistics, University of Durham , UK .

Thompson, S. (2007) What Makes a ‘Good Teacher’ in a Communicative Class-centered EFL Classroom? MA Dissertation. Centre for English Language Studies, Department of English, University of Birmingham , UK .

Davi S. Reis

NNEST of the Month

July 2009


dsr158 [at] psu [dot] edu

Ana Wu: Could you tell us your background and why you decided to become an educator?

Davi Reis: I was born in the mountainous, Brazilian state of Minas Gerais and lived there until I was 22 years old. Portuguese was the only language I knew and spoke until my EFL instruction in the public school system began, in middle school. While in high school and on a vocational track to become an Electronics Technician, I was peer-pressured into learning English, as many of the textbooks in that field were written in English. Although EFL was a required component of my high school curriculum, the general consensus at the time was that to ‘really’ learn English one needed to attend private EFL language schools. So, after much financial scrambling, I enrolled in the locally well-known and established ‘Instituto Cultural Brazil-Estados Unidos’ (ICBEU). Despite my instrumental motivations for enrolling, I started to almost immediately think of myself as a member of an imaginary English-speaking community (Norton, 1995). So from day one, I thoroughly enjoyed each of my classes at ICBEU and always looked forward to them.

With each new semester, the desire to become more and more involved with English grew stronger. After much thinking about just how I could make it happen, the thought of becoming an EFL teacher occurred to me. At first, I didn’t wholeheartedly embrace the idea. After all, I was enrolled in the Business Administration program (a highly profitable career path in Brazil at the time) and certainly did not want to follow in my mother’s footsteps (an educator herself) after watching her spend hours and hours planning lessons and grading student work for very little compensation. However, in early 1997, I could no longer ignore my desire to make English a bigger part of my life and the idea of becoming an EFL teacher had considerably grown on me. So despite much protest from my family members and friends, I decided to switch my college major to Letters and Literature in order to become a credentialed EFL teacher. Concurrently, I had decided to take the teacher training course at ICBEU, a two-semester program for those interested in a career path in TESOL. I was now thoroughly enjoying what I was doing and even got hired as an EFL teacher by a few schools despite my lack of both experience and expertise.

Flash forward a year and a half, and I found myself packing my bags. As chance would have it, soon after changing majors, I had the opportunity to apply for a college scholarship in the US and was able to complete my BA in TESOL at the University of Northern Iowa. Later, I completed the Teacher Education program at that same university (along with a Master’s degree in Educational Technology) and became a certified K-12 ESL teacher in that state. My next job took me to Colorado, where I taught middle school ELLs (English Language Learners) both sheltered instruction and ESL classes for a year. After this admittedly challenging experience, I moved back to Brazil in hopes of a new beginning as a now-qualified EFL teacher. To my surprise, however, my professional qualifications and experiences were said to make me overqualified for most EFL teacher positions, yet underqualified to become a university professor at most institutions. Though I did find a couple of jobs for the year, this situation prompted me to apply for a doctoral program. Since 2005, I have been a PhD candidate at Penn State University with the Department of Applied Linguistics. After finishing my dissertation, I hope to become an ESOL teacher educator and researcher, and to help empower my students to live more intentional and meaningful lives.

Ana Wu: You said that with your degree in TESOL and teaching experience, you were considered overqualified to teach EFL in Brazil. Do you think those schools didn’t hire you because they couldn’t pay you fairly or do you think that they were threatened by your qualifications and experience? Do you think that the same schools would have hired less qualified native speakers?

Davi Reis: Regarding your first question, it really is hard to tell. In some cases, the schools where I applied for a job may well have been concerned with how much they were willing to pay me or with whether or not I would be content working for their relatively low wages. In other cases, it may have been that I was unfortunately perceived as a potential threat to their business and pedagogical practices. In several job interviews, the interviewer turned out to be the school’s coordinator or owner. Given the competitive nature of EFL in Brazil and the somewhat provincial nature of many EFL schools in my state, these coordinators and school owners might have felt intimidated by my professional experiences and qualifications. In other words, I may have been perceived as a possible risk to the status quo or at least as an annoying reminder that these schools were not as isolated or autonomous as they wish they were. In addition, back in 2004, my situation was somewhat unusual in that particular context and therefore raised some suspicion (despite my attempts at easing their concerns and being open to the interviewers’ questions). Was I an exchange student returning home? Was I trying to make a buck while working on more ‘ambitious,’ unrelated professional projects? These are the sorts of questions that the schools may have asked themselves in an attempt to place me in one of these existing categories. Teaching EFL for a living, as a qualified professional, was not quite on the radar for many of the schools where I was looking to get a job, unfortunately.

Now, would these same schools have hired less or (un)qualified native speakers? Unfortunately, many of them did, though thankfully not all. The bottom line is that many of these private schools prefer to hire instructors (qualified or otherwise) who will attract students, accept less-than-ideal working conditions without rocking the boat, and be happy with relatively low wages. As we all know, many native speakers of English (though certainly not all) would fit this ‘job description’ if it meant that they would get to experience another country and its culture. In addition, I believe that many school coordinators and owners actually prefer less experienced teachers (especially if they happen to be native speakers), as this allows them (the school administrators) to keep themselves in a position of unchallenged authority.

Ana Wu: From your experience as an EFL teacher, did you feel that Brazilian teachers had a second-class status when working with native speaking teachers (qualified or less qualified)?

Davi Reis: To the best of my knowledge, despite the fact that there were many more NNESTs than NESTs where I was working (Belo Horizonte), the latter group was often exoticized and assigned a higher status than the former. Regardless of their professional qualifications, NESTs were viewed not only as native speakers of English, but also as ‘chic imports’ from inner-circle countries (Kachru, 1981) such as England and the US. It’s almost as if by having a NEST as a teacher students were actually gaining membership to a higher social class. Sadly enough, many Brazilians associate being ‘hip,’ ‘trendy,’ and ‘fashionable’ or ‘wealthy’ with being intrinsically ‘better.’ This cultural assumption permeates many aspects of Brazilian society, including foreign language teaching, and gives NESTs an unfair and dubious advantage. Therefore, as far back as I can remember, NESTs were assigned more prestige and were often perceived as more ‘authentic’ or ‘capable’ than even the most hard-working, experienced, and motivated local teacher. To make matters worse, many of these NESTs did not seem to mind the higher status they were assigned, choosing instead to bask in their perceived superiority rather than attempting to challenge stereotypes and empower the local teachers.

With that said, however, I must also say that a handful of the native speakers teaching in the same schools where I taught were well-qualified, experienced, committed, and extremely helpful. Many of the local teachers were able to work alongside these qualified NESTs, allowing the local teachers to both motivate their students to keep learning English and to become familiar with other English-speaking contexts and cultures. I remember, for example, how a colleague from England was always happy to engage with the local teachers whenever we had any comments or questions about his views of certain cultural tidbits we were working with in a given unit of instruction. I consider these qualified NESTs as strong allies who can help us all, as a field, to weaken the native speaker myth and the NS/NNS dichotomy.

Ana Wu: As an EFL instructor, did you have to integrate American or British culture in your teaching? Did your students demand knowledge in those cultures? Did you think it was necessary (or important) to teach language with reference to the socio-cultural norms and values of an English-speaking country?

Davi Reis: For the most part, yes, I did have to teach cultural aspects of both American and British English. Usually, the schools where I worked did not really have a clear policy on this matter. However, in most schools where I worked the textbooks were selected for my courses without my input, so the textbook’s content ended up dictating how much ‘culture’ I had to teach, whether American or British. More often than not, these textbooks portrayed native speakers of either variety as ideal target models and there was little inclusion of non-native, bilingual, or World English speakers. But I do hope this situation is improving now. When I last taught EFL in Brazil (2004/2005), the popular TV shows ‘Friends’ and ‘The Cosby Show,’ for example, were almost a curricular staple in this one school. I felt as if teachers who were not at least peripherally familiar with these shows were at a serious disadvantage. So whether we liked it or not, when teaching those lessons we had to elaborate on the cultural dimensions brought up in those shows.

In regards to your second question, I believe there is a mismatch between what EFL learners in Brazil (especially school-aged children and young adults) expect from their EFL learning experiences and what they usually end up needing English for. In other words, although most students and parents would concede that English is a lingua franca indispensable for international communication, what they are frequently after is the cultural capital of inner-circle English-speaking cultures as a symbol of higher status. This situation compromises students’ chances of succeeding at learning and using English for intercultural communication, as school administrators often struggle between providing what students want versus what they believe students need in order to succeed in the world.

As to your last question, I did think it was necessary to ‘choose’ either American or British English as a beginning EFL teacher. In my mind, these were the only two desirable options.

I considered English as the language spoken in the US and Great Britain, rather than a language for international communication. In addition, this was also how schools advertised themselves (i.e., as either American English, British English, or both, but rarely as English for international communication). So when I first started teaching EFL, back in 1997, I blindly accepted this dichotomy and ended up trying to emulate both accents depending on the school, probably failing miserably at both. I wish I had been exposed to the notion of World Englishes then, but better late than never!

Ana Wu: Some language centers offer in-house training. How accessible are professional development opportunities for EFL teachers in Brazil? What kind of support do instructors need? Do you think there is a recognizable need for TESOL, Inc. to step in and help close the gap?

Davi Reis: From my experience, professional development opportunities are relatively plentiful in Brazil (at least in Belo Horizonte). However, quantity does not necessarily imply quality in this case, as the nature of these opportunities is many times a reason for concern. More often than not, private schools try to cram a language teacher education program into one or two weeks’ worth of a ‘workshop’ or ‘refresher course.’ These workshops are usually mandatory for all teachers, both old-timers and those new to the school (regardless of their level of expertise or prior experience). Beginning teachers, however, may find themselves overwhelmed by potentially-biased information which the school wants them to accept. As such, these opportunities for professional development often end up training (rather than developing) its teachers on the school’s preferred pedagogical practices and principles, regardless of their pedagogical soundness. In addition, many of these training sessions focused too much on the experiential and practical side of teaching and too little on research, rather than attempting to strike a healthy balance between the two. While working as an EFL teacher in Brazil, I had to attend several of these workshops. Because I was fortunate enough to work for many different institutions, I was exposed to conflicting views on EFL teaching and thus tended to always take in the information with a grain of salt. But the picture is not all grim. A handful of pedagogically-responsible schools (i.e., those which try to strike a balance between the capitalist enterprise that is teaching EFL and their educational goals) offer training sessions that are both requested by their teachers and well-attended. These schools try to ‘think outside the classroom’ and invite the participation of teachers, school administrators, and researchers into their decision making and daily-functioning.

On the whole, however, I believe that more in-depth, ongoing, and transformative types of professional development opportunities are still absent from the private-school, EFL scene in Brazil. Although peer-mentoring and classroom observations are common, the overarching goal of these activities leans more toward evaluation than support. In addition, perhaps due to Brazil’s history, higher authority figures (e.g., teacher supervisor, school coordinator, level chair, etc.) are not necessarily the most prepared, knowledgeable, or helpful, but rather the most influential (often-times wealthy, well-connected, and white individuals).

In this light, I do feel that EFL instructors in Brazil need a lot of support, especially the less experienced ones. Although I believe that TESOL, Inc. has a lot to offer in this context, the Internet may be improving this situation by encouraging local EFL teachers to become more and better connected with other schools and peers, as well as finding relevant information online. In a way, the Internet has made the English-speaking world that many private EFL schools once claimed ownership of, more accessible to all teachers. I should note, however, that Brazil is a country of contrasts and paradoxes. So I would not be surprised if other EFL teachers in Brazil, regardless of native speaker status, may have had very different experiences and diverse views on these issues.

Ana Wu: Teaching middle school in the USA must have been a very rich experience for you, somebody who completed his formal education abroad, a NNEST, and a new immigrant. What were your most vivid memories? What advice would you give to foreign-born graduate students in applied linguistics or TESOL programs who plan to be a K-12 teacher in the USA?

Davi Reis: Professionally-speaking, teaching middle school to at-risk ESL students in Colorado was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although I had been teaching English for over six years, teaching full-time at a public school was a completely new businessto me. Thankfully, my internship experiences and student teaching had all been in public schools in the U.S. This helped me tremendously in assessing what I was up against and how I could try to make a difference. There were days when I thought about quitting. But there were also days when I felt like a hero in the classroom! I had a self-contained classroom of over 20 students (mostly from Mexico, but a handful from countries such as Sudan, S. Korea, and the Dominican Republic). The job was physically exhausting because I had to be on my feet from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Given my students’ behavioral difficulties and high energy, sitting down was not an option! Although there were breaks during the day (e.g., lunch and afternoon recess), there was always so much on my plate that I barely had time to plan my lessons! From making photocopies in the library, participating in school-wide activities, or making home visits, there was never a dull moment. In addition, I always had to deal with emergencies such as student fights, calls from concerned parents, and truant students getting caught shoplifting at Wal-Mart! Mentally, as a new public-school teacher, it was extremely draining to try to get used to a new school district, a new school building, and all of the other contextual factors that played a part in my classroom’s day-to-day routine. And finally, the most challenging part by far was the emotional toll of working with at-risk youth and trying to change their lives for the better. It honestly felt like swimming against a strong tide. I remember a mother once who came to me in tears because she simply did not know how else to help her son (one of my most challenging students). Despite our combined efforts (including the principal and the school counselor), “Victor” (a pseudonym) just did not seem to respond to my teaching. But looking back at these experiences, I am happy that my students had someone on their side while I was their teacher – someone they could look up to as a role model. At the end of the year, most of them had come to appreciate our time together and had learned valuable lifelong skills in addition to English.

If your future plans involve working in the public school system, I commend you for taking such a noble step. Whether you are an international student in TESOL or Applied Linguistics, an experienced NNEST, or a new immigrant, the public school system has much to gain from you. But I do have a piece of advice, though I am only able to say this in hindsight myself. I would encourage you to think of ‘difference’ as a source of growth, not deficit. Unfortunately, the native speaker myth and the idealized notion of a native speaker are still quite strong and prevalent in many social and professional contexts in the US. So do expect to be questioned, challenged, or even attacked by others during your college years and/or professional career. But while this is sometimes the case, I have found that in most cases people are in fact open to learning about the issue and considering a different perspective. So we can all become agents of change by helping others to understand why we chose this profession and why we think others can benefit from our professional expertise and insight. If we choose to avoid this topic, perhaps because we understandably tend to feel somewhat otherized or exoticized as individuals and as professionals, we are in fact denying both ourselves and those we interact with a chance to engage in meaningful dialogue that can lead to changes in what we all think, say, and do. And if ever you feel embarrassed because you simply do not (and cannot) know everything, just ask! Although there will always be those who think you should know everything, there are many more who are happy to teach us what they know and even happier to learn something from us, who come from other countries and cultures.

Finally, as a word of caution, I believe it’s crucial that you first identify your long-term career goals and reflect on your strengths as a teacher before committing to an ESL position with the public schools. Unfortunately, though I believe that public schools both deserve and are desperate for ESL teachers (especially those who can teach other content areas as well), it is not for everyone. So try to find out as much as possible about the school district where you are applying in order to make sure that you will be a good fit. For example, find out what kind of ESL instruction the district provides. Is it pull-in, pull-out, or sheltered? How many other ESL teachers/specialists are there in the district? What kinds of resources would be available to you if you got the position? Figuring out the answer to these questions before accepting the job offer will help not only you, but the students you will eventually have in your classroom. Also, as a word of encouragement, despite the hard work, stress, and low pay involved with ‘working in the trenches,’ I believe that TESOL professionals in general, and NNESTs in particular have a tremendous amount of experience and expertise that, sadly enough, doesn’t usually make its way to the public school context. So if you’re up to the challenge, the better you’ll be for taking it, and the more enriched your students’ lives will be.

Ana Wu: As a foreign-born NNES master degree candidate with extensive teaching experience and a second degree in another field, what challenges did you have during your graduate studies and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to people with similar background as yours who are considering studying in the USA?

Davi Reis: Graduate school did present a series of challenges. First of all, I was also going through my teacher education program. Although this allowed me to add a K-12 ESL teaching certification to my BA in TESOL, it made for a more labor-intensive graduate school experience. Secondly, although Educational Technology is a major strand in the general field of education, it took me a while to figure out how I would converge my interests in TESOL with those in Educational Technology. Third, becoming comfortable presenting in front of others did not come naturally to me, so I had to work at it. Finally, learning the genre of academic writing well enough to write my master’s thesis wasn’t easy. Up to that point, my writing skills were extremely weak and I just could not envision myself as someone who would eventually be able to finish it. In trying to overcome all of these challenges, I found it absolutely essential to identify role models whom I could try to emulate. I was fortunate enough to have more capable peers and professors who helped me to become more comfortable in my skin and a better writer. So learning from and collaborating with peers and professors is a must. But the most difficult challenge during that period was trying to cope with the stress from attempting to balance my graduate classes and my work as a graduate assistant. After a few unproductive all-nighters, I realized that having an established routine and ways to consistently release stress (e.g., spending time with your family, going for a walk, or playing with your pet) worked much better for me than short-term solutions. My thinking goes something like this: if we must make time every day to sleep, shower, and eat, we can also make time for taking healthy breaks and enjoying life. Tending to all aspects of your life will likely have a positive impact on your professional life as well. If even Barack Obama finds time for his daily gym routine, so can we!

In terms of advice for those considering study in the US, it is important to keep in mind that it can be a challenging and taxing experience, filled with unexpected twists and turns. At some point, no matter how well you might be doing academically, you are likely to feel homesick and may start wondering why you chose to do it. During those times, remember that these are understandable feelings and yes, you CAN get through it. All in all, studying in the US can be a very worthwhile, mind-broadening experience that may change how you see the world. So embrace the opportunity! On a practical level, my advice is that you try to identify your short- and long-term career and personal goals before committing to such a big step. Think about what you feel strongly motivated to do or pursue. It should see you through.

Ana Wu: I learned a lot from the wisdom and knowledge you acquired through your experience. Thank you for such inspiring and insightful interview!

Davi Reis: Thank you, Ana, for the opportunity to share some of my personal and professional experiences with the NNEST community. I feel truly honored. I hope my narrative can both encourage and inspire other teachers to pursue the transformative world of teaching and learning, regardless of their background.



Kachru, B. (1981). Models for non-native Englishes. In B. Kachru (Ed.). The other tongue: English across cultures (pp. 31–57). Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Norton-Peirce, B. (1995). Social identity, investment, and language learning. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 9-31.

Andy Curtis

NNEST of the Month
June 2009
Andy Curtis, Ph.D.
andycurtis [at] cuhk [dot] edu [dot] hk

Ana Wu: Would you tell us your background and why you decided to become an educator?

Dr. Curtis: Originally, I was scheduled to become a medical doctor, not an English teacher! This was partly because my parents – who left Guyana and went to England in the 1950s as part of what I call “the colonially choreographed migration”, when the Great British Empire was moving its subjects around as needed – had the typical aspirations of so many new immigrants at that time (and possibly today as well). They wanted their children to “do well”, which meant obtaining high-income jobs and occupying prestigious positions in society. My dad worked in a chemical plant and my mum in the local hospital, so adding all those factors together, myself, my brother and my sister were all funneled towards the Sciences. But we all left the Sciences eventually. Needless to say, my parents, who had dreams of being able one day to say “my son the doctor” were understandably very upset when I gave up a generous medical scholarship to become – of all things – a teacher?! One reason I left the Sciences was a growing suspicion of the “objectivity” of the Western Scientific Method, and one of the reasons I went into Education was because teaching and learning are not objective and not scientific, whatever some proponents of the scientific approach to language teaching-learning may still claim. But because of my traditional scientific upbringing, I did initially think that teaching and learning were primarily head-level, cognitive, intellectual events. After some time, I realized that teaching and learning – especially language teaching and learning – are, for me at least, primarily heart-level, affective, emotional events. As for language teaching rather than science teaching, which would’ve been more in-line with my background and educational upbringing, one of my professors pointed out that my assignments and papers were becoming more and more focused on the language of science rather than the methods. This came about because I noticed that there appeared to be an interesting and important analogy between a patient and a doctor communicating, and a native speaker of a target language and a non-native speaker communicating. I know that probably sounds odd to many ears, but I believe that a situation in which a patient is trying to understand what is happening to them and what the doctor is saying has many similarities to a communicative event between a native and a non-native speaker, especially if the doctor is using a lot of technical language, not understood by the patient, though they are both using “the same language”. So, although it certainly was not a typical career path – entering the field of TESOL via Medicine – it made sense to me, if not to many others, including my family and friends at the time.

Ana Wu: You were a TESOL Leadership Mentoring Program Award recipient. How important was this recognition? How did it help you in your career?

Dr. Curtis: I think I was one of the first TESOL Leadership Mentoring Program Award recipients, and it had an extremely important influence on my career in TESOL. In fact, looking back, I would say I did not really realize how important it was at the time, and only later fully realized the great difference that receiving that award made. I must, though, confess that I failed the first time. My initial application to the LMP program, put forward in 1998, was turned down, and I remember being very disappointed. But I was extremely fortunate to have Kathleen Bailey, a TESOL Past President, as the person supporting my application. So, much as I wanted to just forget about the LMP award after being rejected, Kathi would not let me give up, and insisted that I apply again the following year. So, that was one of the first of a great many life-changing lessons I have learned from her over the ten years since 1999 when I received the LMP award.

If it had not been for Kathi and for the LMP award, I might have left the TESOL, Inc. not because of my disappointment at being unsuccessful my first time around , but more because, having been born and raised in England, the IATEFL association seemed like a more natural or logical choice. But the TESOL LMP award, which I think was started during David Nunan’s term as TESOL President, helped me stop and think about my role in TESOL – the field and the association. Kathi, David and I went on to write a book on professional development together, called Pursuing Professional Development: The self as source (Heinle, 2001) and to collaborate on many projects over the years. I am extremely grateful to both of them for their encouragement and support over the years, and I appreciate this opportunity, in this interview, to share with your readers just how grateful I am to both of them, as well as to other TESOL Past Presidents from that time, including MaryAnn Christison and Denise Murray, who have recently co-edited a book titled Leadership in Language Education (Routledge, 2009) to which I contributed a chapter on Leading from the Periphery. This idea, of leading from the edge, has become an important part of my work in the area of leadership and management in language education, which I now realize started with the LMP award.

Ana Wu: In the beginning of your career, you taught academic writing in Hong Kong. In your book Colour, Race and English Language Teaching: Shades of Meaning (2006), you describe the expectations and attitude of some of your students on the first day of class.

a. How did those incidents affect you in lesson planning?

b. What advice would you give new teachers who may be in the same situation as you were, not conforming to the native speaker image in language and appearance?

Dr. Curtis: There was not really a one-to-one correlation between the incidents I describe in my Dark Matter chapter in Colour, Race and English Language Teaching: Shades of Meaning (Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006) which I co-edited with Mary Romney, and my lesson planning. But the experience of some students being so surprised to find that their English teacher was not a white, male Englishman certainly did have an impact on me, as it helped me realize the power of the images that still exist in some countries about what it means to be an English teacher. Although we have come a long way since the incidents I describe in Hong Kong more than a decade ago, we still have some way to go in this area to fully move past what I call the Aryan Super Race Model of ELT.

The Aryan Super Race Model of ELT is a fairly controversial term, and as such it has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. But one of the reasons I left Medicine and became an language teacher and learner was because of my awareness of the power of words, and a phrase like The Aryan Super Race Model of ELT certainly does get people’s attention and provokes thought and discussion of questions such as: Why is it that in some places still all you need to be an English teacher is to be tall, blonde-haired and blue-eyed and you’re in? And how much longer will we need to wait before the Native Speaker Myth finally dies its long-overdue and inevitable death?

So, over the years, I have learned to make use of my experiences of not being what people expect, to help them challenge the stereotypes, distorted images and colorful expectation they have of who is a Native Speaker of English and who should be a Teacher of English. One of the ways I have been doing this is to deliberately use material in my language teaching that highlight the fact that the majority of users of English in the world today are not native speakers of the language, and the fact that the majority of teachers of English today are not native speakers of the language either. So, native speakers of English are, by definition, a minority, making the linguistic norms for English, then, logically, non-native.

It is difficult to give to new teachers who may be in the same situation as I was, not conforming to the native speaker image in language and appearance, without lapsing into clichés. But I do strongly encourage teachers in that situation not to fall into the trap of trying to be someone else to meet the expectations of others. If you are not a native speaker of English and you are not white-skinned, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, there is no need to apologize for not being those things! We are not the ones who need to change in those situations – it is the expectations of the others that need to change.

Ana Wu: Besides being the director of the Language Teaching Unit (ELTU) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, a consultant working with Prof. Kathleen Bailey, and a workshop facilitator, you have written books and served on many committees. In your career, is there any unfulfilled dream? How do you balance your career with family?

Dr. Curtis: I recently asked some local colleagues in Hong Kong if there is a Cantonese expression for “work-life balance”. Not surprisingly, we found there is no such phrase, because here Work Is Life, so the notion of balance makes no sense! Consequently, one of my difficulties with balancing career and family is the nature of work in Hong Kong – but it’s not fair to blame it all on Hong Kong. As one of my friends here pointed out sometime ago “It’s not Hong Kong, Andy. It’s you!” Like most people I know who have achieved some degree of professional success over time, including the TESOL Past Presidents I thanked above, professional success can sometimes come at the price of success in our personal lives, if we always prioritize our work-life over all the other aspects of our life. So, I am now trying to learn how to be better at balancing work life and real life, the professional and the personal, which really means working less and living more. Spending a little less time at the computer, working on texts, and a little more time talking with family and friends. It’s been noted by many others that nobody on their death-bed says: “If only I’d spent more time in the office”. But many people do say the opposite, “If only I’d spent more time with family and friends”.

This brings me to the other part of your question about whether or not there are any unfulfilled dreams in my career. The short answer is that I have, at this point, barely scratched the surface of what I had hoped to achieve in my career! In terms of quantity, I recently saw my one hundredth publication come out, a chapter in another book on leadership in our field (edited by Neil Anderson, Mary Lou McCloskey, also TESOL Past Presidents, and Christine Coombe and Lauren Stephenson) published last year (2008) by Michigan University Press. Although 100 hundred of anything is a fairly arbitrary number, it represented a milestone for me. But it also made me stop and think about quantity versus quality and the impact of the work that we do. Most of us became educators because wanted to have a positive impact on the world, to help make things better, in the case of language teachers, by enabling better communication between people from different places, using different languages and drawing on different cultures. But I believe that my most important work may still be ahead of me, as there is still so much that I would like to do as a language educator, to help make a real difference in what appears to be an increasingly fractured and divided world. I’ve been told that I’m over-optimistic to the point of romantic naïveté, but I still believe that language teachers do more to improve the quantity and quality of communication globally than so-called world leaders or multinational corporations.

Ana Wu: You have worked with thousands of language teaching professionals in dozens of countries and territories, and given hundreds of presentations worldwide. Would you share some of your most vivid experiences, positive or negative? As a Brazilian I needed to ask this question: What was your impression of Brazil and the TESOL professionals?

Dr. Curtis: My most recent experience was presenting in Penang, Malaysia at the local TESOL PELLTA affiliate conference, and it was a very positive experience of coming full circle (if you’ll forgive the cliché!) in the sense that the conference was attended by fewer than 200 participants and presenters, but representing nearly 20 countries, which is the kind of relatively small conference that I used to attend when I first became active as a presenter. But with the big annual TESOL Association Convention in the US, attended by thousands and thousands of people, and some of the big conferences here in this part of the world, such as Cambodia TESOL, which now attracts around a 1,000 people each year, it’s hard to find conferences of a couple of hundred. So in Penang, I was reminded of how much I enjoy that, and how much easier it is to get to know the participants and presenters with these relatively small numbers. I should also add that the reputation for Malaysian hospitality and great food were both absolutely true in my experience of being there, so I was grateful to the TESOL Executive Committee for asking me to go to the conference, to represent the TESOL Association.

But many of my most positive experiences as a presenter have been in South and Central America. Maybe it’s because my parents come from that part of the world, so I have some special affection for the languages, cultures and peoples in that part of the world. Plus, because of my skin (color), I am usually mistaken for a local person at some point during my time in Brazil, Peru, Mexico, etc. And interestingly, if I am not all dressed up as a conference presenter or participant, and if I am mistaken for a local person, the assumption is usually that I am a local worker, probably working outdoors, on the land and in the fields, because in most of those countries – and in my experience, in most countries of the world – the darker the skin, the poorer the person, as dark skin is associated with physical work outdoors, laboring under the sun, whereas fair skin is often associated with more professional work indoors, in offices, etc. But I am always happy to be taken for a local, as I believe that that is an important part of experiencing another language and culture.

And as for your question about my impressions of Brazil and the TESOL professionals there, I am going to risk upsetting some people in some other countries and say that Brazil is one of my favourite countries of all that I’ve spent time in! I have not been there recently, as it takes up to 40 hours to get there from here in Hong Kong, but I have many very fond memories of working with enthusiastic, energetic and interactive TESOL professionals at different Brazil TESOL conventions and others conferences there. So, I hope to be heading back that way again this year, if possible!

Ana Wu: Thank you for this delightful interview!