|Shibboleth shibboleth shibboleth!|
Photo from here
Yeah, I know, that will shock exactly no one, except maybe those who were under the impression that teaching English could never qualify as an actual career (and I know a few folks who think this way). There are enough people on both sides to fuel many debates on LinkedIn, expat forums and TEFL forums, and yet nobody's written a truly thoughtful article or blog post on the subject. I found a few basic posts (like this one) that I don't think fully addressed the issue, and nothing that was comprehensive. I've written about it before, but I hadn't really found my voice on the subject yet.
My stance on it is basically this: teaching is a profession. It's as hard - or harder - than law or business and at times can feel like you work similar hours to those working in law, medicine or the higher echelons of business (all that talk about how teachers get their evenings and summers off? Bullshit. Plenty of teachers not teaching children in school systems don't get that time off, and those who do usually use it to do all of the spillover work which can't be finished during the school day, even with free periods. Continuing education, thoughtful marking of in-depth student work that goes beyond basic testing as well as planning good syllabi and classes all take time). It's a profession that requires a degree and certification as well as continuing education.
First tangent: a lot of people who don't fully understand the role race, class and gender play in our lives and what lives are on offer to us will often say "the reason women tend to earn less than men is because they choose less-well-remunerated careers such as teaching over well-paid ones like law". First of all, this is not true. Secondly, even if it were, the underlying assumption is that teachers are not well-paid because of something intrinsic to the profession. Perhaps that it is "not that difficult" (except it is), or that people who are passionate about it are more likely to do it despite the low pay (which is true - how often do you hear "I'm so passionate about law, I'd be a lawyer even if lawyers didn't earn a lot of money"?). But what I suspect is really going on is that it's not that women often become teachers despite the low pay; rather, teachers are poorly paid because they tend to be women. Gender discrimination at work (pun INTENDED). The teacher-and-nurse effect.
I just made "the teacher-and-nurse effect" up but it really needs to become a thing.
Most people would expect this of a math teacher, a history teacher, a Civics teacher, a French teacher, a Chemistry teacher, even an art teacher. They would never stand for "well I don't have any experience but I'm pretty good at chemistry and the school gave me a quick training session so let's go!". They would never accept a teacher for themselves or their children who was not trained, and they would want a teacher who was not only engaging and fun, but also had long-term course plans and class learning goals, and knew how to take concrete steps to achieve them. "Well, I'm being paid $15 an hour, I don't know a lot about history but I'll learn it and then teach it" or "I don't have a degree in Calculus but let's just figure this out together" would not fly. Not in a public school, not in a university, not in a center of continuing education.
Even if you took a foreign language - the sort of class that (obviously) most resembles a TEFL classroom - you wouldn't be okay with "I'm a native Spanish speaker, I have no teaching experience but I have this book, let's go through this together". Maybe that would be okay for a language exchange partner, but not a teacher. You'd want someone who actually knew what they were doing, someone who had training in pedagogy and methodology and knew how to impart knowledge of and fluency in Spanish unto you. Merely knowing something doesn't translate (pun intended) into knowing how to impart knowledge of something.
Basically, we expect our teachers in any other subject to be professional. We don't always treat them like professionals - we pay them too little and give them few resources and often even less respect, which is why some great potential talents in teaching don't go into the field - but we expect professionalism.
So why is it that we don't expect professionalism from English teachers? Why is this the one area of teaching - a profession - where it's not treated professionally? What is so different about teaching English as a foreign language that any inexperienced rando can get hired to do it, as compared to science, math, Civics or French?
I honestly can't think of anything. In terms of pedagogy, the methods used in language teaching don't differ that much from methods used in any other subject, including the difficult subjects such as Chemistry. In terms of content, I don't see how it's all that different from French class in my high school - the language has changed, but the ways of teaching it are more or less the same. There is really nothing special or different about TEFL/TESOL/ELT etc. as compared to any other subject you may wish to learn.
Before I go any further: I know that English is not the only foreign language to suffer the scourge of untrained, nonprofessional "teachers". Certainly the vast majority of Chinese teachers are awful, or at least wholly untrained. There are good ones, but pedagogy in Chinese and Taiwanese TCFL (Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language - I just made that acronym up) certification/diploma programs, if it is taught at all, tends to be taught very poorly, not relying on the mounds of applicable research available, not taking advantage of current practices in LT methodology, and generally outdated. In TEFL there is a (wrong) assumption that a native speaker just spending time with students will cause them to learn English (well, not entirely wrong: they will pick up some English, but not in any easily measurable way). There seems to be a different (also wrong) assumption that if you are a native speaker of Chinese, that telling the students all about the target grammar - all about it, even aspects they don't need to learn when first introduced to a concept - and then plugging in vocabulary, will cause them to magically learn Chinese with minimal practice required (certainly at Shi-da we didn't get nearly enough practice and fluency did suffer as a result). And again, that's not entirely wrong: if you attend a class like this, you will learn some Chinese. It just isn't the most efficient way to do so. Certainly language schools aimed at tourists in various countries employ untrained native speakers who have taken a quick introductory course.
All of those fall under basically the same rubric of the TEFL model that I'm criticizing. My attempt here is to compare TEFL to teaching as it is professionally considered, and to language classes done that way, by trained, talented and knowledgeable teachers.
So yes, quite clearly, TEFL is a real job. It's a real career. It's teaching; teaching is a professional occupation. It's no different from teaching Biology or Geography (which, I wish Geography classes would get an overhaul too. There's so much interesting discussion and learning fodder there, of the Guns, Germs and Steel variety, although maybe not so much the End of History or Clash of Civilizations variety, and yet it's so often reduced to memorizing capitals and main exports. Now that I'm gaining more knowledge of the various elements of good teaching, and being knowledgeable about Geography, someone should put me in charge of a Geography class - we'd have so much fun, ohmigod).
I do wonder if the lack of respect for pedagogy/proper methodology and what it can do for one's teaching is something more ingrained: public and primary/secondary school teachers are expected to have this training, but professors and other academics, mostly, are not. I think in four years of college classes that I had maybe three professors who actually knew how to teach. They were all very knowledgeable, some were quite well-known in their fields. But they didn't know how to effectively impart their knowledge: it was all lectures, Powerpoints, multiple choice and the occasional essay question. Part of that is, of course, huge class sizes especially at the lower levels, but part of it seems to be this pernicious idea that if you know something, then you know how to teach it. Professors know their subject, therefore they can teach it, apparently. Except they can't. Most of my professors would have benefited a lot from some training sessions, not in improving their own knowledge, but in how to get that knowledge to us in an interesting, motivating and relevant way.
If you do go ahead and get yourself educated - a Master's or at least a string of reputable certifications (no online weekend courses), or even better, both - and learn how to teach, it will show in your work. The difference between you - a professional - and an untrained 22-year old (or even an untrained 42-year-old) will be apparent. You will be able to lift yourself out of the Expat English Teacher Gutter pretty quickly. Anyone with a shred of sense or acumen will see the difference. It is absolutely worth it, and that's why I'm currently pursuing a Delta, and after that, hopefully a Master's (we'll see: I can't afford a Master's, won't take out more loans, scholarships and fellowships are hard to get for students not intending to enter a PhD program, and for American students tuition is preposterous - and foreign schools charge us international student tuition which is also preposterous. I could cash out my IRA for it, but that would be stupid. I could retire for a few months on that! WOO! PARTY WHEN I'M 90!!1! So...let's see if the winds of life blow me that way, or if they just blow).
So why don't people treat TEFL as teaching in a professional capacity? If there is nothing to differentiate it from any other kind of teaching, why does it get the shaft?
Three groups of people are affected by this: owners/bosses, teachers/"teachers", and parents/students (depending on the students' age).
From the boss' or school owner's point of view, this is obvious. They can pay an unskilled, untrained "teacher" far less than a real teacher would expect, and treat them like unskilled labor (something a real teacher would never accept). These folks - often twentysomethings with little life experience, though not always - will feel they've gotten a lot if you give them a slapdash bullshit training session made up of a mishmash of cribbed notes from teaching textbooks, strung together with vague platitudes about "keeping it fun" and "engaging the student", hoping that the interesting foreign-ness of the worker, with a smidge of charisma from that worker, plus a few textbooks thrown their way for material, will keep up the illusion that the students are getting a professional service - all for cut-rate prices (for the boss - the students or their parents pay a premium of course).
Some owners, I presume, know that they're peddling shoddy product. Others don't know the first thing about real teaching or what it takes to be a professional educator, and truly do think that all it takes to teach something - including English - is to know a lot about that thing. And who better to know about English than a native English speaker? Nevermind if they don't actually know all that much about the grammar or underlying structures or history of their own language, and therefore can't teach it. Nevermind that they are unaware of the latest practices or past research on teaching methods so they can't employ them in the classroom. Nevermind that they haven't heard of even the most basic concepts in English, Linguistics or pedagogy and therefore can't refer to them. If you've never learned, or heard of, IPA, you can't use it when it would be effective (and it isn't always). If you've never heard of a "student-centered classroom", you can't work towards creating one. If you don't know the difference between PPP, TTT, TBL, Dogme, TPR, Audiolingualism, Grammar-Translation or the Communicative Approach, you can't learn about, and practice, how to use them in your classroom at the times when they'd have the most effect, or when to avoid them. If you haven't read up on research into the best way to introduce new language, you won't be able to consider it when you plan a class, and your approach may be substandard (or it may just be different, if you are extremely talented. Most people are not). You may base some of your teaching methods on inaccurate or misguided assumptions about language learning, or not really know at all why you are doing what you're doing - which is rarely effective.
The first type of owner recognizes the shibboleths that distinguish teachers from "teachers"; the second doesn't. In both cases, they don't care.
From the newbie "teacher"'s point of view, it's a relatively well-paid job - for the country it's in at least - that they can get right out of school, no experience necessary, and they get to live abroad. Makes sense, even if from a professional standpoint it doesn't seem very ethical: I'm going to go and pretend to be something I'm not so some school owner can charge people rates for my work under the illusion that I have the credentials! But since when have ethics ever played a big part in prosperous business models?
In fact I'd go so far as to say that a lot of those twentysomething unskilled workers fancy themselves teachers: intellectually they know that a professional teacher must have training and experience that they don't have, but there's a bit of cognitive dissonance going on, fueled by not a small touch of defensiveness: they are teaching, and they want to style themselves as education professionals; they know they aren't, so they tell the voice in their head that whispers "you need more credentials, you need more training, you need more experience" to shut up, and they gas on about how they are real teachers, how they're just as good, how their bosses are lucky to have them. They don't seem to realize that the reason their bosses chose them was because they lacked credentials, and therefore the ability to seriously negotiate compensation and treatment, not in spite of their credentials in the face of their massive - often delusion-based - "talent". They're college grads, they're used to believing that no matter what they do they'll be professionals, they'll be skilled, they'll be worth something. They're used to having that belief reinforced. I don't blame them for wanting to believe that they are more than they are.
I am definitely guilty of this. I was guilty of it before I had training or experience, I was guilty of it before starting the Delta, and I might still be a tad guilty of it up until I enroll in a Master's program. Until I realized how bad I was, I thought I was pretty good. Then I got to be pretty good, and all I want to be is better. But that process took awhile. So, I know of what I speak.
I want to stop here and note a few things before I get back on track.
First, that I am somewhat grateful to the TEFL industry for being what it is. I don't think I would have gone into teaching otherwise, and I wasn't doing very well at the bottom rung of the office ladder. I need to write a longer blog post about this at some point, but this is one way in which the USA screws over its youth. I didn't know teaching was right for me when I went to college, and so I didn't major in it. I "wisely" majored in the subject I'd enjoyed most in high school: I chose International Affairs because it was close to Social Studies. Social Studies + history + travel + language? Sign me up! By the time I knew I not only wanted to teach, but would be very good at it with the proper training and guidance, I couldn't afford a Master's program. I still can't: the deal was that my folks would help me with college, but I was on my own for grad school, and I shouldn't go until I'd worked awhile and knew what I wanted. By the time I knew what I wanted, I didn't have the money because, well, wage stagnation and wealth inequality are real things. Now, I bet they actually would help me if I asked, but tuition at an American school is far higher than any of us can take on and international tuition is not much better.
So, TEFL allowed me a path into teaching that didn't require that I go get a Master's I couldn't afford, for a job that wouldn't pay me enough to pay it off in any reasonable amount of time. I am sure many very good teachers have taken this route, and the educational landscape is richer for it. I wholeheartedly support having this sort of route into teaching, although I'd like to see the model change (maybe a future blog post on that too - what a 'path into teaching, but not TEFL as it is now' might look like). I wouldn't be doing what I love today, with at least a shred of professional dignity, without that start as a twentysomething hack. I'd probably still be at some crap office job that I never got promoted out of, because I hated it enough to not be in a mental state to do well. It would have been a waste of a life.
Second, that as above, many good teachers do come out of this cesspit. The ones with a spark of natural talent that leads them to seek training and experience, to be better and to do better.
Third, that many schools, especially in rural or underprivileged areas, can't afford more than an unskilled twentysomething. There are professional teachers who would be willing to take a job like that, in rural China or a small Bolivian town or what-have-you, or even rural Taiwan, for low pay. A lot of them join the Peace Corps and do something like that. But not enough to meet the demand for English class among those with a bit of money in those places. Plenty of others would love the experience, but would expect a higher standard of pay and benefits that the school just wouldn't be able to offer.
In those cases, a twentysomething hack with a local teacher in tandem is still better than nothing, in terms of offering some sort of foreign language education to those who who want it and can afford it.
So, all that aside, back on track - what about the final group? Why do parents support this awful, unprofessional system? Unless they are paying markedly lower tuition (as may be the case with rural schools or schools in impoverished areas), they may simply be unaware. People without a background in education don't always understand what being an education professional is. That goes for students, school owners, parents and obnoxious people at parties who think they can tell you how to do your job. They may hear the teachers' and boss' "blah blah blah professional blah blah highly-trained teachers blah America blah" and believe them when they say that their words are "shibboleth shibboleth shibboleth", because they don't know better. They may just be lied to by the owner. They may know that the teacher is not a professional, but not realize that that matters and feel it's acceptable to pay high rates just to be in proximity to a native speaker.
And of course, if they think it doesn't actually take that much training, talent, experience or knowledge for a native speaker to teach their language effectively, and that anyone who speaks English can do it, they'll feel more confident in trying to tell the teacher what to do (I will accept this from adult students in terms of what they want to learn, and will at least consider what they say when they express how they want to learn it. I don't teach children, but if I did, parents of children telling me what to do would get straight-up ignored unless their child was problematic and it was advice on how to deal with managing the behavior problem). It gives them a handy sense of superiority. Seems like a small thing to pay inflated tuition rates over, but what can I say?
That's really the crux of the problem, too: it's that school owners, often shrewd to the point of immorality, rake in huge sums of money by glossing over or entirely misrepresenting either teacher qualifications or the need for them. I suppose all's fair in business&war, and if someone is aching to pay too much money to get talked at by some white kid (because hiring practices really are racist), then they should be allowed to pay that money. If I want to pay a million dollars to snort cocaine cut with diamond powder, I should be allowed to do that (note: I don't want to do that). If a school advertises "look, we've got foreigners!" and folks line up to pay, then okay. If they advertise with "qualified, experienced native speaker professional teachers will help you gain fluency quickly and with ease", they're lying. Even f the "teachers" are qualified, experienced and talented, students still won't gain fluency quickly and easily.
Presumably most parents and students want a good teacher for their money; a qualified and experienced one. Misrepresenting the teachers you are actually offering as worth the money - as more than they are - and then paying those "teachers" far less than you'd pay real teachers so that you can $$PROFIT$$, is thoroughly reprehensible.
It also contributes to that same pernicious myth that it is not hard to teach well, that anyone can do it - and that for language teaching all you need is to speak the language, you don't need any knowledge of underlying structure, grammar, history or etymology. By hiring people who don't have that knowledge or ability (at least not yet), and paying them fairly well by local standards (although not well by international teaching professional standards), you're spreading the idea that this is all a teacher needs to be - that anything more is unnecessary, possibly even unwanted as it comes with demands for higher pay and better treatment. (That it also comes with better measurable outcomes for students is often ignored - I still don't understand why nobody, at least the students or parents, seems to care about this).
That contributes to the norms of hiring cheaper inexperienced people, which makes it harder for the good people to get jobs. Quality goes down and fewer people bother to get qualified. Schools treat "teachers" badly, because these "teachers" are basically unskilled laborers, no matter how they're advertised. When qualified teachers want to get jobs, they often don't go into TEFL because they know it's a labor dispute minefield and their credentials likely won't be respected as they would in any other field of teaching.
That's a loss to us all. I suppose you could make the Libertarian argument that if quality goes down and nobody complains, then the quality was too high to begin with and if the market runs in that direction, then it should go down according to what people want. I reject this: those students still want to learn English. Whether or not you believe your "teacher" is a real teacher won't change the outcome of whether you've learned English to a satisfactory degree or not. It's like the market for medicine. Even if people are willing to buy your snake oil, the outcome will still be that patients won't be cured. In medicine (although not in homoeopathy) we have laws against this: if you are going to sell a product, it has to work. Learning a language is a lot more like medicine: you need a measurable outcome. It's not homoeopathy.
What's the solution for this? How do we get more people on the road to training, qualification and a professional career path and in the process raise the level of respect for TEFL as a career, as well as improve working conditions for those already in the field? How do we do that while also making it possible to become a teacher through a process of hard work and experience, without having to go back and get a degree that many can't afford, and when they were in school, didn't know they wanted?
I don't know. I suppose that really is the subject for another blog post.
I've gotten a lot of pushback on my stance on this issue in other discussion forums, so I'll just address some of the more common backwash here:
But certifications like CELTA and Delta won't make you a better teacher! If you are talented and have experience you can be a very good teacher!
I just don't believe this. If you are talented and have experience, you still need training to be a truly good teacher. It would be the rare prodigy who could do well without it. I don't care much where that teaching came from but I prefer reputable programs to "a teacher trainer at School X told me". Certainly it is possible to go that route and do well, but reputable programs are more likely to have measurable outcomes.
The actual piece of paper you get for CELTA and Delta don't mean as much as what you learn in the process of getting it. It bothers me when people denigrate what you learn on these courses without having taken them, or worse, assuming that they are more than they are meant to be. While a piece of paper won't make you a better teacher, what you learn in order to get that piece of paper will.
The only real pushback to this I've heard is "no it won't" and that's too ridiculous to bother replying to.
CELTA and Delta are nothing - real teachers need Master's degrees or a teaching license after their bachelor's degrees, like a PGCE.
I'm a fan of a two-pronged approach: a Master's is great for theoretical knowledge related to the English language and to teaching. I would like one someday and am currently deciding which kidney would garner the best payoff with which to pay for it. But from what I've seen during my time in the field, a Master's doesn't provide a lot of great on-the-ground practical teaching advice. I've noticed it in ivory-tower comments on LinkedIn full of advice that would make no sense in most real classrooms, and noticed it in watching other teachers who certainly had the qualifications but weren't very good with flexibility or trying different, more student-centered approaches.
So, in order to get that practical knowledge, I believe it would be smart for most would-be professional English teachers to also have a CELTA or even a Delta. The CELTA is thoroughly practical, and the Delta starts delving into the theoretical. After that, a Master's is the next logical move, to expand your theoretical knowledge base.
It's not that I think Master's are worthless, or that CELTA and Delta are the gold standard, but that they focus on two entirely different things, which are both valuable if you want to be a true education professional.
Pfffff! But CELTA promises to make you a great teacher, as though it can stand in for a real teaching degree. It can't!
That's true, it can't.
But that's also not what CELTA advertises. They advertise an introductory course that will help you to become basically competent in the classroom without making a right fool of yourself. If you pass, which most people do, you'll still need a lot of training at your first place of employment. The CELTA grading rubric spells this out. If you get a B, you'll need some training, but not as much. If you get an A, you'll be fine without training (but everyone can benefit from receiving it). Almost nobody gets an A - around 2-5%. I got one, but I'm just special like that. (Actually, I'm not. I had good training before I did CELTA).
A lot of people seem to think the CELTA advertises as a teaching certification on par with a degree - it doesn't. Or they think what the CELTA claims it offers is more like what the Delta offers - it's not. If you're going to criticize CELTA, do it on its own merits.
The reason schools hire those inexperienced teachers is that the "qualified" teachers don't want to pitch in and always demand more. They won't go outside and hand out fliers for the school, they want more money - it's no wonder schools go for the inexperienced ones.
This is technically true, but that doesn't make it right. A teacher is a skilled worker - it doesn't make sense, in terms of resource allocation, to have your skilled worker stand on the streetcorner with a signboard passing out fliers (also it makes your school look ridiculous, but that's a PR issue, not a teaching one). If you had a college intern, and an experienced logistics professional, who would you send outside wearing a sandwich board? Who is worth more in the office, creating something great?
And of course they ask for more money - they have embarked on a professional career path. They have paid - often out the nose - for education. Business, legal, medical and other professionals all expect to be paid accordingly - why wouldn't teachers? You get a quality outcome.
But you don't get a quality outcome! I've seen as many bad qualified teachers as I've seen good un-certified ones!
Something tells me that line of thinking comes from anecdata. Of course there are bad qualified teachers - there are also terrible lawyers and shitty speech pathologists and horrible doctors. But on average, not just along the lines of some anecdote about a bad teacher you knew once, but as a statistically significant group, teachers who are qualified do provide better outcomes than those who are not. I wish I could quote a study on this, but I can't. Someone should do a study. Especially as I'm putting on scientific airs I can't easily back.
And those un-certified talented teachers? Probably got their training unofficially in one or more of their previous jobs. And that's great - I'm not saying they don't exist. I'm not saying they shouldn't be recognized (some sort of reputable program that could certify such teachers after a survey of their work would be great, but is not likely to come about and might not be trusted). But these are not Fresh Off the Plane kids we're talking about here.
What a teacher does is not measurable, therefore it can't be jammed into a certification or degree program.
First, all sorts of professions do things that are not measurable - social and political scientists comment and analyze non-measurable outcomes. They are still considered professions. (I know a lot of hard science types would like to think they're not, but I'd actually argue the soft sciences are more challenging as you're dealing with squishy unknowns - analyzing something immeasurable without as much access to clear data is much harder than analyzing based on hard results).
Secondly, I would say that what teachers do is measurable, or at least it can be. The state of the global testing industry is pathetic, and I don't believe the tests given today consistently measure student ability or learning. But good testing is possible - tests with construct and content validity, integrative, direct tests...you could do a lot better than the way students are tested in most schools today and get a truly measurable outcome.
In my own work, I feel that what I do is measurable. My IELTS students come in, and when they go out their mock test scores are higher than when they came in, and they score higher on the real IELTS than they would have without my class. My long-term students show measurable improvements in systematic errors - if I wanted to, I could in fact graph their improvements in past tense consistency, correct usage of perfect aspect, correct usage of prepositions in various circumstances and more. I could measure how many sentences per speech block were correct at the beginning vs. the end of the class. I could do identical beginning- and end-of-course role plays that could be analyzed for language learned.
But these certification programs all force students to adopt one kind of teaching style which may not be the best. And degree programs teach young teachers to stifle creative lesson planning.
Spoken like a person who has never been through a certification program (I can't speak for degree programs, but at least in my observation that's not the case). CELTA and Delta don't actually push one teaching style on you, and in my courses they've been pretty open to any style that's effective, and any style that reflects the teacher's personality. They're not trying to create clones or automatons. Sure, CELTA advocates the communicative approach, but what else would you advocate? There's nothing new on the horizon, or at least nothing so new that it's unseated the communicative approach, and it's arguably the best of the lot that we have, although it's okay to let ghosts of teaching methods past inform your lessons. And a truly innovative new idea, while unlikely from an inexperienced teaching student (few if any of us are nascent Steve Jobses of teaching), if effective, would probably be embraced or at least allowed to pass.
"Theyre all 'student-centered classroom, less teacher talking, the activity must be communicative'! No creativity! It's mind control!"
First, having been at the weird end of cult recruiters in my neighborhood (and it appears I'm not the only one - there's a new blog out exposing these people, but I won't publish the link until I vet it further and talk to some people), I have an idea about what mind control is, and teaching degree/certification programs ain't it.
So what would be better - a teacher-centered classroom? More teacher talking (note: this can at times be okay - and in my CELTA and Delta courses it was seen as potentially okay, depending on what the teacher was talking about and why)? Activities that don't urge the students to communicate or speak? Huh?
Creativity is usually enhanced by training and experience, not diminished by same. The most creative lawyers can be creative because they know the law and can pick it apart. The most creative doctors can be creative because they know enough to know where a new experimental treatment may come from. The most creative businesspeople can see opportunities because they know the market and have experience in watching it change. The most creative person on your team is probably not your intern (and if it is, then training that intern will make them more creative, not less). It's no different with teachers.
But small schools in poor countries or rural areas can't afford these fancy spoiled foreign teachers!
That's actually true, and it's one of the few times in which I'd say hiring an inexperienced native speaker is better than not hiring anyone at all. This isn't a black-white thing.
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Anyway, this has been a very long blog post, but one I hope people will read to the end. I've enjoyed writing it - I hope you enjoy reading it!