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Accent Discrimination??

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by wakeyjo, Oct 21, 2019.

  1. wakeyjo

    wakeyjo New commenter

    Help please.

    I have just learnt that a parent has complained to our headoffice (private sector) as they find me hard to understand and I dont sound as polished as what they would expect.

    Originally from New Zealand, I have lived and worked as a teacher in London for 12 years. English is my first language and I haven't had any complaints before.

    I feel humiliated that they havent spoken to me directly but also incredibly hurt that now this is something we need to have a formal meeting about.

    It feels wrong and a bit discriminatory?

    Had anyone had anything similar or any advice?

    Thank you
  2. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Parents, unfortunately, are allowed to make complaint they so wish and schools are duty bound to follow the complaints policy in responding to them.

    Your governing board and headteacher presumably heard you speak before they appointed you. Therefore they will be supportive. Go to the meeting, have a lovely chat with head honcho/whoever and worry not at all.
  3. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Discriminatory? No, in my view. You could claim it's xenophobic as you are a New Zealander, but I suspect these parents would be whining if you had a strong Northern English accent, or Scottish accent, or West country accent., or London accent...anything that isn't BBC Pronounciation.

    But it is very rude. Perhaps you could make a polite comment to your HT that they may think your accent isn't polished, but neither are their manners. Talk to your HT.
    pepper5 likes this.
  4. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    CWadd - I disagree. It could be discriminatory. It may not necessarily be racist - although if this was aimed at a teacher from India or the Caribbean, I'd more likely suspect it would be.

    First instinct - is this a kid who is not performing well, or who the parents think is not performing well? Sounds like a pretty feeble attempt at a pre-emptive strike should the inevitable failure happen ("well, little Jimmy would have done SO much better, but he just couldn't understand the teacher's accent. Even when I complained.....")

    Being Scottish and teaching internationally, I'm quite aware my accent can be difficult to understand especially for kids who haven't come across it before or been taught by me before. What I do in the first week or two of term is consciously slow down my speech and almost over enunciate, so they are comfortable first with my voice. As they get more used to it, I can change back to my normal voice (which I use with the classes who already know me.) It might be worth just trying that with the student - it's possible that he/she is a little uncomfortable in admitting they don't understand you and just need a bit of reassurance.

    I'm a bit worried about the Head's reaction. Frankly, he should have just brushed off the parent with three sentences. "Well, I interviewed wakeyjo and had no problem understanding, and neither did any of the interview panel. If we had problems, we wouldn't have appointed. Any other questions?" I don't understand the need for a formal meeting - all the Head needs to do is drop into your classroom, and say "little Jimmy's mum says he doesn't understand you, maybe you just want to make sure you're clear when you talk to him?" It's something which can be sorted informally.
  5. sidekick125

    sidekick125 New commenter

    Also teaching with an accent, I have found the opposite actually. Pupils need to concentrate more to understand me, so generally behaviour is better. But that has just been my experience.
  6. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    that is ridiculous. Of all the things that students should be worrying about it the lesson, can they understand what the teacher is saying should not even come in to it. If understanding the teacher is something that requires extra effort and concentration from students, that teacher should not have been employed.

    I'm not referring to the OP in that, as its obviously a different thing, just one person, and anyone could get one or even two or three,person claiming not to understand their voice, just for malicious reasons,
  7. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    On that basis no teacher who comes from Ireland, Wales, Scotland, northern England, the West Midlands, the West Country, the West Indies, mainland Europe or the Indian subcontinent should be employed in the SE of England... ;)

    Absolute nonsense. I started work in Kent in 1981 with another new teacher who came from Hull. She had a strong regional accent, and had to work hard to make the pupils accept her - which, in time, they did. But when parents are making spurious complaints as well this would be even harder.

    The OP's school should invite the parents to look elsewhere for their child's education...or to shut up.
  8. wakeyjo

    wakeyjo New commenter

    Thank you all for your responses.

    I forgot to say I am not the class teacher. I just greet dad on the gate!

    I will talk to HT today.

    Have a lovely day.
    pepper5 likes this.
  9. Barry's twin

    Barry's twin New commenter

    I have had a mum complain that her daughter could not understand my because of my strong (Irish) accent, so of course she did not answer any of the questions on the test, even the multiple choice. We swapped her out of my group, to teacher with local accent, and surprisingly she is doing no better. Teaching for over 10 years, and never had a problem before.
    pepper5, jlishman2158 and Educ84Math like this.
  10. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Don't greet him in future, I suggest!
    jlishman2158 and mothorchid like this.
  11. mm71

    mm71 Occasional commenter

    20ish years ago while training to be a teacher, I was told to get rid of my accent if I wanted to get on in teaching. Strangely enough, many of the kids in the same area couldn't tell where I was from...

    People are stupid, arrogant, self-centered and full of their own self-importance. By all means, speak to the HT if you think that it will help.
    pepper5 and Educ84Math like this.
  12. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    You only greet Dad on the gate?

    Then the parent has too much time on their hands.
  13. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    If those people can't make themselves easily understood, then they shouldn't be employed, no.

    Coming from any of those places mentioned is in no way an indicator that someone can't speak clearly. If they can't, then its ridiculously unfair on children to employ them

    I'm from rural Yorkshire, but am quite capable of speaking clearly.
  14. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    I had the exact opposite experience when i started working for ILEA, over forty years ago. I went to a grammar school in Slough, where RP was the norm. I did not think that I 'talked posh' until my mentor at my first school advised me to 'tone it down a bit', as 'the kids will resent it'.
    annascience2012, mm71 and FrankWolley like this.
  15. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Sorry but b0ll0x. Total & utter b0ll0x.

    The colleague I referred to was extremely clear to understand, but had an accent that was different and that was what made pupils pretend that they didn't understand her.

    Your middle paragraph is a defence of discrimination. Of course people from the places I listed (& others) can speak clearly but they may have an accent which some ignorant people pretend not to understand. One might expect that from pupils, but from parents it's unacceptable and should be treated as discrimination bordering on a hate crime.
  16. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    Have you never met someone you couldn't understand? Why should such a person be the person who teaches you? An accent is no reason to be incomprehensible.
  17. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I don't understand many of the people who post on the TES forums, but it is nothing to do with accent. ;)

    And if I don't understand something someone has said, I ask them politely to repeat. I don't tell them they shouldn't have a job in this country.
  18. Educ84Math

    Educ84Math New commenter

    'Don't sound as polished...'. Sounds like the parent has raised their kid in a fluffy duffy world where everyone is expected to speak the Queen's English, and anyone who doesn't fit this insular, closed-minded criterion is to be viewed as 'not good enough'. What do they expect - everyone to teach in the same robotic accent ? I say it is discrimination - discriminating against your accent. You've never had complaints before, so it's the parent who is at fault.

    Perhaps if Lady Penelope let her kid out of the house to mingle with 'others', the kid might actually appreciate the rich diversity of cultures/accents that exist in the world, or just in their locale (before anyone suggests otherwise, I don't have anything against the real Lady Penelope lol).

    Private sector to me sounds like 'private doings' as well. They'll want to keep this quiet. But, yes, they should have spoken to you directly. The Head of the school shouldn't even let it get to the stage where you have to deal with this. They should've told the parent that you're fully qualified and never had complaints before. The problem is ultimately with the parent (but we must never dare say this in public, let alone to their face, as it might hurt their 'polished' feelings...).

    Wonder what they're going to ask you in this meeting. Change your accent ? You haven't done anything wrong - don't worry. Stand your ground.
    ms honey and agathamorse like this.
  19. Educ84Math

    Educ84Math New commenter

    Worked in a school where we had several new, young Irish teachers. Yes, they had very strong Irish accents, but I had no problem understanding them. As we know, most kids in a classroom will look for anything on a teacher that gets them out of doing work (most kids don't want to be there - they'd rather be outside the school getting up to no good) : height, glasses, beard, accent, skin colour, clothing etc... . Some situations with these teachers got way out of hand, with kids clearly saying racist things about them. The tragedy is that the schools generally won't hammer the kids (or their parents for raising racist brats), especially when it's racism directed towards Caucasians ('less obvious racism' in their minds...smh). Racism is racism, regardless of skin colour.
    annascience2012 and agathamorse like this.
  20. install

    install Star commenter

    I am sorry you are going through this..A few questions..

    1 Do 'they' find you hard to understand or their children (your students)?

    2 Who has passed on the complaint to you?

    3 Have they used the word 'polished' or someone else?

    4 What is the subject you teach ?

    5 Are they English and born in the uk ?

    6 Did they go to your school themselves at some time?

    7 Are they governors?

    8 Have you recently disciplined or graded their child's work?

    9 Have you ever met them or spoke to them?.

    10 Have they complained before?.

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