Professional Development in ELT through Daily Reflective Prompts

Learning is a never ending process. As teachers and educators, reflective practice about what we do in the classrooms, and why we do the things we do, is something that needs to be addressed more frequently and effectively.

This can be done in so many different ways. Specifically we do them in teacher training sessions after an observed lesson, but I am not aware this continues once we are out of the classroom as learners, going into a classroom as teachers.

You might think CPD occurs through a more informal medium like a friendly chat with a colleague, and you would be right, it does happen in rather informal settings. However, I am now starting to think this process which we often disregard and leave out the one easy chore we feel we can always get around to doing, should really come first and get our undivided and intentional attention.

Even with the busiest of schedules, I’ve decided to commit to a 30-Day challenge to be more intentional on reflective practices for English teachers and I’m starting TODAY, the 1st of May 2023, and taking you on this journey with me!

I’m sending out a reflection prompt to those who have opted in for the challenge through e-mail – the most direct way I’ve found to reach people – and to practice what I preach, I am also taking part in the challenge and wonder what some of my own take-aways might be.

Having said that, I have some nuggets hidden here and there to challenge and dispell common myths in English language teaching and learning, so some prompts will not be as effective for me as they might be for you discovering these prompts day after day.

If you’re already a subscriber you can update your profile preferences here so that you too may receive your daily prompt straight inside your inbox! Make sure I’m not in your spam folder please.

I also think that all this can be used as extra/bonus material for educational related content creators who are experiencing burnout and might want to fuel their ideas and creativity by recording their answers and sharing them with the world as part of the content creation strategy. Kill two birds with one stone, as they say… or the more compassionate replacemente I just discovered writing this cross two hurdles with one leap.

I will choose one of the 7 prompts and write or record my own reflections every Friday, so stay tuned for that also. Let’s not be afraid to share and support reflective practices and those who generously create them for us.

Native Speakerism Personal Teacher Talk

I have a dream…(NN)EST

My journey teaching English as a non-native English speaking teacher.

When my parents named me they wrote my name in Armenian, as they are Armenians at birth themselves and so am I.

The Armenian language is very complex and ancient. It has 39 letters and it is really hard to learn. I personally never learned how to write Armenian, but that’s another story.

My name was spelled “մէրի” (mēri)… and it is pronounced like the English “Mary” name. However, since our documents had to be translated into a more international and known language, my name was suddenly spelled M-E-R-I.

The way my name was spelled soon brought on to many misconceptions as to who I really was. Spelling errors which could have been easily avoided, bureaucratic problems and mistrust, a bunch of lost opportunities in ELT and, well…funny stories too.

I will not get into now.

Instead, I will tell you how I got my first students.

Flash forward to when I came to live in Parma, Italy.

I began working in Italy as an English teacher, I quickly realised it was a better idea to write “Mary” on public ads to get a callback and say I was a mother tongue speaker instead of saying I was an English teacher with this or that qualification. It always worked. It was easier to start a conversation by saying that rather than have no conversation at all. Soon enough I had my first private students and a year’s contract.

I concluded I would first teach a lesson to later speak about who I actually was. Once I had earned my students’ trust, I could come clean and explain my position, as I am doing right now here in writing. I still feel like a fraud when I spell my name M-A-R-Y in public ads, btw.

My son running around in Piazza Duomo, Parma (Italy) – May 2021

I needed to make a living and I was being penalised for a spelling mistake, and even more so for being Armenian (the unknown country that would scare pupils away).

On paper, I had no business teaching English in Italy, and unless I somehow had a chance to speak to a recruiter directly in English they would never hire me based on my CV alone. This still continues today.

My conclusions:

People are afraid of the unknown. The old fight or flight response has seen generations after generations make the same mistakes in judgement, that is categorising people based on their origin, name, colour, accent, etc.

Somehow it is easier to make sense of the world by sticking labels onto things so as to keep everything well organised, in specific slots. If you give “it” a name, “it” will seem more friendly and less unknown.

I do think this reasoning might have made more sense in the past when one was born and raised in a given town or city, had spent their entire life in their hometown, and never as much as laid foot in another territory. Maybe their general traits could be more easily identified or guessed based on their environment. Yet, I also realise we could argue that we would not be able to define and categorise a person in that circumstance much like any other human being. We can be complex that way.

So what is the dream I have?

I dream for English teachers not to be categorised into Native vs. Non Native speaking teachers. It is not a competition as much as it is a desire to have equal opportunities in the job market.

I wish I never have to explain WHY I can speak English as someone who was born in a Non English Speaking Country ( or whose name is spelled Meri) to anyone who is pondering whether to hire me as their English teacher – in my experience, no one expects Armenians to know English well, and frankly, not many know what “Armenia” is. What people do know is that Armenia is not the UK, and definitely not the US, and that is just enough to blow any deal as of today.

The long and winding road of TEFL/ TESL. The_Non_Native_Speaker.

Native Speakerism

The impact of Native Speaker ads in ELT

Students often do not know what is good for them.

I will say it again, this time more clearly:
New English students don’t really know anything about teacher qualifications, what native speakerism is, the struggles that non native speakers face, or how good their teachers are. 

The message for the longest time has been, native speaker teachers are good (meaning non native teachers are bad).

Hence, we find ourselves having to justify WHY we are English teachers at all, being born in so and so place, not speaking like Her Majesty.

The narrative has become counterproductive for students because they find themselves in a room with a native speaker and not a native or non-native TEACHER

The problems that arise with that are many, because speakers who are not teachers:

  1. Can’t speak in a clear, comprehensible way so that ANY level learner can understand them (grading language and local accent come to mind)
  2. They speak too fast because they just speak – meanwhile when a teacher speaks he or she is actually listening to him/herself through the students’ mind and adapting lexical choices just enough for them to understand, yet be challenged at the same time (comprehensible input +1)
  3. The use of unfamiliar and inadequate expressions simply comes from not knowing which elements are relevant to be taught and which are not as important. 

“…native-speakerism needs to be addressed at the level of the prejudices embedded in everyday practice, and dominant professional discourses must be put aside if the meanings and realities of students and colleagues from outside the English-speaking West are to be understood.”

Holliday, 2005. The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

There is a lot you can teach, but will it be useful to that particular student or group?

Experienced teachers almost always know what the next hurdle is, and they know how to guide you to overcome that specific hurdle eithout overwhelming you with unnecessary information in that moment.

The reason students find themselves in this condition – with NON-teachers teaching and unemployed teachers rolling their eyes – is because the truth has been concealed from them. 

Potential language learners have been brainwashed by ads telling them a NATIVE TEACHER is all they need, but a native SPEAKER is all they get.

They have been told they can SOUND native if they have a NATIVE TEACHER.

They have been told that if their teacher was born in a non English speaking country, then he or she cannot be a teacher.

I don’t know about you, but I’m only glad doctors don’t face the same discrimination. 

We – qualified teachers, native or not – are professionals and should be treated as such. Please share this blog post to raise awareness of discriminatory practices being fed to the public.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


We have all seen those discriminatory ads, where most schools either promote their services by using mother tongue speakers as their ‘unique’ strategy for getting new clients, or search for teachers who are solely English speakers, rather than actual trained teachers. 

Let’s agree though that no matter the negative emotions we might still get from seeing the NNEST (Non-native English Speaking Teachers) category pushed around and bullied, we can still build our careers and have a competitive edge over our ‘native rivals’. 



In Italy, job interviews are conducted in Italian, as most recruiters prefer to speak in their L1. I would highly suggest you pretend English is the only language you speak. At the risk of making THEM feel uncomfortable, you really want to show off your skills the minute you step into that office, or receive that call. 


People often use stereotypes to identify others, especially if you are a foreigner, and most likely you do it too. So instead of acting like a victim and saying ‘this is not fair’, talk more about yourself and let people in. The more you speak about your background, your passion for teaching and experience in the field of education, the more you are likely to get a callback and set any preconceptions and misconceptions aside. 

Personally, when I speak Italian, recruiters compliment me. Regardless of the fact that I have been living in Italy for the past 20 years. I then quickly remind them I am not a ‘native speaker’ of Italian either, but I consider myself bilingual in the two languages that are NOT my actual ‘mother tongue’. In fact, I still do not read or write in my actual mother tongue (Armenian)…LABEL THAT! 


The fact that you are a NON native teacher, means you speak MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE, which means that you are either bilingual or you have studied a language successfully and had the experience of being a language learner yourself (or even both those things). What is the advantage here? As a Non native teacher you are more likely to understand the daily struggles students face when learning English as their L2. In fact, you might even say that you have become an expert at learning languages and believe you can help your students succeed, just like you have.

4. BUILD YOURSELF UP: TWO is better than ONE. 

Less is NOT more when it comes to skills and competences. Rather than feeling like an impostor, because the ‘system’ often make you feel unwanted, remind yourself that language is a means of communication and you have the power to reach more people, build relations and trust with those around you, but most importantly with yourself. YES, I SAID IT! Give yourself credit and others will follow.


You might feel insecure and fed up with having to prove your worth, but not everyone’s out to get you. There are plenty of recruiters and job ads looking for professionals like YOU. When called for an interview, never speak from a distorted perspective, they might not want to ask the same daft questions you have become accustomed to answer. 

Believe it or not, there are like-minded people who know exactly what your qualifications mean and how hard they are to get and, most importantly, they are willing to bond, interact and get to know you. Whatever you do, do not automatically assume they are critical of you. Don’t start off on the wrong foot. 

Photo Credit @Annalightpro