Not Polish. Not British. Middle-ground.


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.

Author Profile

Kamil Trzebiatowski

Kamil Trzebiatowski

EAL Coordinator. EAL blogger. EAL writer and speaker. @pedagoo Curator.

21 stories


Hannah Wilson Hannah Wilson @misswilsey 6 months ago
Kamil - I remember meeting you 4 years ago when you came down for our EAL teachmeet in Morden. You have contributed so much to the Twittersphere and to the system when it comes to EAL. I love your advice to be armed with knowledge and research. Powerful ammunition.
Kamil Trzebiatowski Kamil Trzebiatowski @ktlangspec 6 months ago
Thank you, Hannah.
Yes, this was when I was starting out proper on this path. Well, yes, indeed, it is powerful ammunition. Of this sort:
1 - that whilst the pupil premium vs non pupil premium attainment gap tends to be around/over 20%, it regularly drops to less than 5% when you compare EAL PP vs EAL non-PP (King's College report)
2 - that people's definition of "racism" is decidedly too narrow to capture bias - but this changes once one is aware of CRT (Critical Race Theory)
3 - that literacy in L1 and maintaining L1 helps with the development of L2 (Cummins)
4 - that the language teachers speak can be powerfully confusing the the children speaking the seemingly same language ("Way with Words" by Brice)
5 - that, actually, grabbing a bilingual TA and getting them to work with bilingual learners, without providing them without any training, is a romantic and unprofessional notion! ("What's in a word?" by McWilliam)

I could go on, of course, you get the idea. :) Knowledge/research also allows one to have a measured/non-arguing discussion - just dole out the facts in a quiet manner!
Anoara Mughal Anoara Mughal @ano 6 months ago
A very powerful blog, using knowledge and research to combat bias. Thank you.
Allana Gay Allana Gay @allanag13 6 months ago
Kamil you speak the truth. There is a fluidity of identity that does not fit into either- or situations.
A timely piece of writing. Definitely magpie the ending for my teacher training and for #BAMEed. Very important reminder
Martha Da Costa-Sherwood Martha Da Costa-Sherwood @dacosmeconsult 6 months ago
Kamil I read your post and had an overwhelming feeling of respect for you - don't have words to describe it, but the sentiment is true. Thank you for your post it has made me want to ensure I research more to further develop my knowledge.
Pran  Patel Pran Patel @mrpatel 6 months ago
Knowledge and tangible advice! Great blog
Parm  Plummer Parm Plummer @parmplum 6 months ago
Are we British? No, we are diverse. Beautifully explained, Kamil.
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