Over the last two weeks we have grown from a moment to a movement; a grassroots uprising of English teachers (NEST and NNEST) willing to question the status quo, wanting to talk about working conditions and wider issues of power and equality.

We have suffered criticism, personal attacks and ridicule — but we have WON! As someone commented on Scott Thornbury’s blog, this “genie is not going back in the bottle”.

Just bringing this issue out into the open is a victory, whatever happens next.

So I want to say a special thank you to our resident meme-ologists TEFLninja, Adam Beale and Mura Nava, and to all the bloggers who have spread the word about TaWSIG, including Scott Thornbury and Geoff Jordan (if I’ve forgotten anyone – apologies!).

Also a massive thanks to Rose Bard for starting the Google+ group. And to Nicola Prentis for being there from the start.

There are a lot of #myths flying around about TaWSIG so let’s quash three of them now:

1) TaWSIG doesn’t appreciate the work of IATEFL. This is untrue – many of us, including myself, are fully paid-up members, and we greatly appreciate the valuable work that it does.

But to constantly accuse people of denigrating the work of a big organisation  by raising valid criticisms is lazy argumentation.

Hopefully, we can leave this point behind.

2) We are unreasonable, not worthy of respect–just a load of LOL cat memes.

Calling outsider voices “hysterical” or “unreasonable” has a long and ignoble history. We are a group of (often precariously employed) working teachers who have little time to spare. We don’t have time to read academic journals and construct well-organised academic arguments–we have classes to teach.

So memes are maybe all we have time for.

And that’s fine.

For the ELT Grassroots 2015-04-30 16-25-08

This also raises the following questions: who has the right to create knowledge? Is it just a narrow elite?

And what is knowledge? There seems to be a preference for officially-sanctioned sources of hierarchical knowledge: the meeting, the statute, the academic paper.

Are memes or blog posts knowledge – why or why not? Who gets to decide?

As a group, we are open to dialogue with anyone who wants to see a more equitable, fairer industry. I’d like to note here Tessa Woodward’s comment on Scott’s post ‘P is for Power‘, the most magnanimous quote I’ve seen throughout this debate:

“So some reward success, some hector (without biting!), some use jokes, some name and shame. We can learn a lot from the tactics of parallel groups.

We are all trying to work for a more inclusive, fairer, professional community.”

But TaWSIG asks for a little respect from our opponents, as we didn’t create this issue–we merely amplified what teachers already felt and knew.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

3) TaWSIG is political; a seething hotbed of Marxist revolutionaries.

I am not a member of any political party–especially not a Marxist one! Nor has the issue of political parties come up during discussions on the Google+ site.

If we are political then we are political in Paulo Freire’s sense–with the aim of moving people from objects (with no critical awareness, no assertion of rights) to subjects (with critical awareness of their environment, asserting their rights as citizens and human beings).

And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

The future

None of us have any idea what will happen in the future – we’re only 2 weeks old as a grassroots organisation!

But we are committed to the issue of working conditions and issues of power and equality.


The rest is for the group to decide.

So again, thanks to all our supporters Рwell done for putting TaWSIG on the map! 

How will we deal with the “complicated” issue of working conditions?

As Hannibal said: “We will find a way, or make a way”.

Finally, happy May 1st to all teachers out there – International Workers Day!







***Thanks to TEFLninja for the magical memes in this post!

6 thoughts on “Finding our way

  1. Hi Paul.
    Great post and I’d like to highlight the first myth you debunked: if we didn’t appreciate the work of IATEFL, why would we even bother for this SIG to be part of IATEFL? It wouldn’t make sense.

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