How to be a confident NNEST

Many things have already been written and said about the topic of NNEST equality in ELT. However, what can we do as NNESTs to improve our self-confidence and how students and employers see us?

Last week I read this excellent post by Elly Setterfield, which got me thinking about how I see myself as a non-native English speaking teacher. In her post, Elly debunks the myth that students prefer native teachers, adding some excellent advice on how to build your confidence as a NNEST.

I would like to pick up this last part of her post and expand on it by adding my own suggestions.

  • be prepared: this tip applies to all teachers, but I would say it applies to us NNESTs even more. If you plan your lesson well enough, and anticipate learner’s problems and questions, you will be less likely to find yourself in that awkward situation we all dread: a question to which you don’t know the answer.
  • Of course, you will sooner or later find yourself in that situation. When that happens, don’t panic. It happens to anybody, including NESTs. Be honest and tell your students you will get back to them on that — when you do give them a comprehensive and well-researched answer next time, they will value your opinion and your openness even more than your knowledge of the language.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues or friends (or Google for that matter) when you are unsure about a language point or nuance. It happens even in your native language sometimes. As you would do then, just ask someone else for their gut feeling — if it’s the same as yours it’s probably right.
  • Give your students examples from your personal experience as language learner (again this applies to all teachers really). I’ve noticed students really value your opinion when they see you as a model, someone who studied English — or any other language — successfully and is thus ‘qualified’ to give them advice on the best way to learn.
  • This tip is similar to one of Elly’s: be curious about the language and never stop learning! I find this the most enjoyable part of being a NNEST.
  • Believe in yourself: you are better than you think, and your students can and will see your value as a competent professional.

These are all tips based on my own daily experience as a NNEST. I do occasionally lack confidence, and I doubt myself more than I should at times. However I found that sticking to these little ‘rules’ helps me be the best NNEST I can be. ☺️

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