Teaching English Online as a Black Person
Racism is an unfortunate reality in the ESL teaching field so it is natural that many black people might want to know which online ESL companies hire black teachers.
Sadly, there are many posts on reddit attesting to racism in the ESL industry.
Race is a social construct with no basis in biology, but, unfortunately, it still has meaning in our daily life due to how racial thinking has been used to manifest power imbalances. From the nature of identifying a teacher as a ‘native speaker’ to the socioeconomic stereotypes that pigeonhole black teachers as uneducated or poor, it would be naive to pretend racism didn’t affect black people who want to teach English online.
To learn more about the way racism has been used as a political tool, I really recommend watching “The myth of race” here.
Racism in the ESL industry appears differently: hiring, booking, and rude classroom comments.
This will leave you wondering which online ESL companies hire and support black teachers. My suggestion is to look at each company separately. Find out how they fight racism in booking, classes, and feedback.
Here are some examples of companies with good policies around booking, class comments, and feedback. The companies below minimize the effects of this kind of racism.
Inclusive companies happy to hire black teachers
Consider applying to European companies, such as Learnlight. European companies tend to be more sensitive to teachers experiencing racism on their platforms. They may place more value on righting inequity than Asian-based companies.
Try applying to Cambly because Cambly has repeatedly reiterated its support for fighting discrimination on its platform’s Code of Conduct. If you experience intolerance, discrimination, or harassment on Cambly, the company wants you to report it. They will ban and block students who make discriminatory comments to teachers. Also, Cambly supports teachers’ emotional well-being by allowing a paid break to teachers who experience this kind of assault.
There are three major ways racism can affect an online English teacher: hiring, booking, and racist experiences in class.
ESL Racism in Hiring
First, it might be hard to get hired by some companies. For example, companies that teach students in China are known for being wary of hiring black teachers. Before the regulations that limited most online English teaching in China, there had been a real push by Chinese companies to diversify, though. VIPKid, for example, had just jumpstarted a diversity campaign. Still, some ESL companies overlook black candidates because they know Chinese parents are more likely to book classes with white teachers. This brings us to the second issue.
Racism in ESL Bookings
Even if a black person is hired by an ESL company, students from Asia – a major student audience – may not book them. There is no point in being hired if you can’t get booked for lessons.
Racism during Lessons
From rude comments to poor ratings, racism comes up in lessons in many forms. A common experience is children calling a black character in the lesson plan “ugly” because they are black. This behavior needs to be immediately brought up, challenged, and corrected. Work for a company that supports teachers of color by showcasing positive black role models in their lesson plans and by deleting discriminatory comments or ratings from your teaching record.
Why is it important to confront racism in the ESL industry?
Everyone must confront anti-blackness but educators doubly so. As educators and role models, all English teachers have a responsibility to confront racism and correct racist attitudes in society.
It is unfair and another racist burden to expect black teachers to shoulder the responsibility of eradicating racism and educating students about black history.
Educators must grapple with social issues and help students confront discrimination and prejudice. A good English teacher gives students a window into other cultures and new ways of thinking. Sharing the vibrant history of blackness will educate your students.
Black teachers should not carry the burden of undoing racism; this burden falls on all of us. A good ESL educator utilizes lesson plans that promote diversity and pride in the many colors of humans (along with ageism, sexism, and disability awareness).
How can I be more inclusive as an ESL teacher?
To combat racism as an English teacher, you must employ strategies to be actively anti-racist as part of a larger anti-bias. It is not enough to not promote racist, discriminatory lesson plans.
- show diverse races in your lesson plans
- teach black history month
- teach historical lessons on slavery and segregation
- talk about race, racism, and equity, and open up conversations with your students to talk about their own experiences or thoughts about racism
Is teaching English online a viable career path for a black teacher?
Yes, absolutely. There are a lot of online ESL companies that hire black people. But, remember, the problem often lies with the parents, not the company. Companies are responding to parent demand. Just because a company hires black teachers doesn’t guarantee that black teachers on the platform will get students. To sidestep this, black teachers can apply to companies that do not allow parents to choose their teachers.
You can thrive as a black educator online. To maximize immediate chances of success, you can apply to companies known to value diversity or companies that assign teachers to students, or you can overlook any initial setbacks and persevere at any online teaching company by just continuing and accruing a student base as the awesome teacher you are.
Teaching English Online as a Black Person
There are many successful black online ESL teachers
Black teachers definitely experience racism and sometimes must work for a longer time to build a regular student base, but many black teachers are extremely successful.
Teachers also sometimes get comments on other aspects of their appearance, like “needing makeup” or being “too fat”! Sometimes parents will even rate a teacher poorly because of these things.
Thankfully, if you receive a poor rating for something like this, you can submit it for review at most ESL companies and get it removed.
Tips for Teaching ESL Online as a Black Teacher
First, find a company that values diversity. Then, ensure the company will support you if you experience racism. Ask current teachers who work for the company what happens if they receive an unfair discriminatory comment or rating from a student. This doesn’t have to be racist comments: teachers confront all kinds of discrimination online. For example, if a teacher receives a comment that she is fat or ugly, how does the company respond? Some companies immediately remove comments and ratings influenced by prejudice. Be sure you work for a company that values its teachers- all of its teachers.
To learn more about succeeding as a black teacher, I suggest reading Four ESL Teaching Tips for Black Teachers
I was also very moved and impressed by this account of a teacher from Cameroon who persevered in the face of discrimination and became a role model for others.
You can also teach English abroad successfully as a black teacher.
Many online ESL companies are pro-black and will support diverse teachers.
It is all of our responsibility as educators to confront racism and eradicate the ignorance that makes it hard for black teachers to get hired to begin with.
Work for a company that values its teachers by removing discriminatory comments and accompanying student ratings. If you want to experience less racism amongst the students themselves, sidestep companies with a student base in Asia and consider teaching European students.
Related Keywords: discrimination, racial prejudice, bigotry, xenophobia, implicit bias, intolerance, anti-racist, racial equity, ally-ship, critical race theory, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), fair, inclusive, microaggression, unconscious bias, White Fragility
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