by barbara hoskins sakamoto
That was our question when we sat down to write the iTDi Principles more than three years ago. While teachers should matter equally, we know that in reality many teachers have been excluded from existing professional development opportunities because they can’t pay, don’t speak English well, or don’t have good Internet access.
What would happen if we tried to run International Teacher Development Institute as if all teachers mattered equally? Is it possible for a for-profit institute like iTDi to do well while still doing good? Putting this belief into practice has been a journey in equal parts challenging and rewarding.
Every teacher matters.
Think about all of the contexts where English is taught, and all of the people who are tasked with teaching English around the world. The teachers who show up at conferences and workshops, webinars and courses are easy to reach, and have a wealth of professional development choices, both free and paid. They tend to be confident English speakers who are already networking with other teachers online, they take high speed Internet for granted, and possess credit cards that can be used to pay for things online. Criteria that teachers reading this blog post may take for granted.
What does it mean to include all teachers – including those who are lack confidence in their English, may live in a part of the world where high, speed, and Internet are simply three words in the dictionary, and live with currency restrictions or no credit card?
For iTDi, it means providing excellent teacher training that isn’t difficult to understand. (Since one of our faculty includes authors also responsible for the Celta Course, A Course in English Language Teaching, and Teach English, we know that quality training and accessible English are not mutually exclusive.) It means providing a safe place for teachers (no spam!) that can be accessed from Internet cafes and computers still living in an XP world. It means making sure that teachers who need some help finding their way around online get mentored. It means looking for new ways for teachers to pay and offering scholarships when teachers are unable to pay.
While we’ve provided scholarships to hundreds of teachers since our launch in 2011, we only started keeping data about scholarship recipients for our Advanced Teaching Skills courses in 2014. Since then, we’ve awarded over 200 scholarships to teachers in more than 30 countries. We know that the average monthly income of these teachers is about $500. This amount is actually a bit skewed because some of our teachers make $1000 – $1700 a month, but live in countries with a high cost of living or currency restrictions. Seventy percent of the teachers receiving scholarships earn less than $500 a month and thirty percent earn $200 or less.
Every teacher matters.
What qualifies someone to be an English teacher? Is it completing a one-month course? Earning a college degree in TESOL? Acquiring a teaching license? Being fluent in English? Being hired by a language school? Deciding to start teaching neighborhood children?
If all teachers matter, then we need to accept that there are many paths that lead to teaching English and embrace teachers no matter how they come into the profession. The reality is that the standards for language teachers vary widely around the world, depending on the teaching context, teacher nationality, and availability of trained teachers.
What matters isn’t where you start. What matters is where you want to go in your professional development. All teachers have something to learn, and all teachers have something to share. That’s why all of our courses are social and collaborative — because we learn best when we learn together.
iTDi prices courses so that most teachers can afford to participate. However, the reality is that while $59 for an intensive course might be a bargain for teachers in many countries, it’s a challenge for the teachers who apply for one of our scholarships.
If teachers who can pay, do, then we can afford to include all teachers.
Every teacher matters.
If ongoing professional development is a kind of conversation teachers share, then more voices in the conversation means we all grow, and our profession becomes stronger. Teachers who receive mentoring become mentors. Teachers who commit to becoming better teachers also become leaders in their own schools and teacher communities. They teach other teachers what they’ve learned, attend and present at conferences, and ultimately raise the level of the language teaching profession.
If, like us, you believe that every teacher matters, and deserves an equal chance to improve, what can you do?
- Enroll in one of iTDi’s Advanced Teaching Skills courses, or one of our TESOL / TEFL certification programs. Every paying teacher means we can afford to include more teachers who can’t pay.
- Become an iTDi Patron by making a donation to our scholarship fund. 100% of all money donated goes toward including an ever-increasing number of teachers applying for scholarships.
- Share information about what iTDi offers, what we believe, and what we’re trying to do in order to make sure that every teacher has an equal chance to improve. Our Share the Care page includes ecards that promote our principles and other things we believe about teaching and learning, perfect for sharing in your social networks.
When every teacher matters, we all win.