Who am I? Well, as you would expect, I am a teacher. I am an EAL Coordinator. I was born in Poland and moved to England 10 years ago. Am I Polish? I don't think so. Am I British? I never will be.
One reason I moved to live in the UK was my undying love of the English language. The other was the resentment of antisemitism, racism and homophobia that seemed to surround me in Poland. I did not fit in, did not feel "Polish" at all. Being an occasional drinker and an atheist added to it. My hope that children would be given more of a voice in schools would often give me a "he's young and naive" reputation with many of my fellow teachers.
I've been teaching and coordinating EAL across Britain for 10 years now. I moved from knowing very little about EAL and confusing it with EFL to being a consultant, adviser and voice that many teachers and educationalists seem to want to listen.
Will I ever be British? Certainly, I don't expect to be seen as one despite the fact that in many respects I fully agree with the fundamental British values, which are more respected here (though there are, clearly, problems) than in my country of birth. Does the fact that I am never going to be British worry me since I do consider Britain to be my home? Not at all: I'm not Polish. I'm not British. I'm diverse. My identity is composed of many aspects, not just any one of them. I am a beautiful mixture of cultures, languages (Polish, English, Kashubian [Polish dialect], Londonish, Fife-ish and Hull - with a lot of French and Latin thrown in). That's what makes me unique and distinct.
When I lived in Scotland, in 2010, I was fired from a job on what now I recognise as racist grounds. Wasn't a school, but an English language preparatory course provision under university auspices - for adults. Should've seen it coming - at the interview I was asked if I thought it was a problem teaching English in Scotland without being Scottish. The question poser was actually Welsh...
Clearly, it's been barely 7 years and I am now a successful EAL Coordinator, consultant/trainer, NALDIC executive and an NUT rep. How did I overcome such barriers - and stereotyping that I face often at work (Polish = Catholics and drinkers???) Research, research, research. Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. Know your Bourdieu, know your Critical Race Theory, know your Freire, know your Equality Act 2010. My MEd course that I took in Scotland - covering leadership, dyslexia, autism, equality of race and gender and theory of inclusive practice - opened my eyes.
Without knowledge, I'd have been classed as "EAL" (for many = "the other"). I have questioned, disseminated and spread this knowledge. Challenged folk pedagogies, challenged institutional racism, challenged hidden racism. Challenged "othering".
Teach that being outside a single language or nationality is the actual reality of the world.