Meenakshi Sood has been teaching for 18 years and is in the EAL /ASN Specialist Team at Battlefield Primary, Glasgow.
I entered into teaching partly because it was and is still considered as a ‘family- friendly’ profession for females in the Asian community and partly because I had always wanted to teach. I studied for my PGCE Jordanhill College of Education as a mature student. It was extremely challenging to get back into full time studies at a speed of 100 miles an hour but I was fortunate that I had lots of support, both at university and at home, which pulled me through.
Over and above the normal worries that one might have at the beginning of any new venture, I think my biggest fear was that I would pronounce words wrong in English! One of the biggest reasons, I feel, holds a lot of BAME-qualified people back, is our resignation to accepting English as the ‘Superior’ language and the need to succumb to ‘Assimilating’ into the culture and society we now feel we have to belong to. Accent and pronunciation, or in other words, the face value seems to be more significant, even to ourselves, than the content!
I had lived in Glasgow for nearly 16 years, and had already worked in three different occupations by the time I started my PGCE. But still, teaching a class full of monolingual children, fluently in a language that still seemed somewhat ‘second’ especially when speaking it, without hesitations or reservations, seemed to be a completely different ball game to writing in a second language.
The other challenge I had was establishing a place for myself as the only Asian teacher in most of the schools I was placed in during my placements and during my Probation year. It was daunting, with lots of uncomfortable moments as EAL teaching and learning was not the norm then. But now, after some years of experience as an EAL teacher, I take pride in knowing and telling my pupils, their parents and my colleagues, that an EAL teacher brings all the necessary attributes and more, in the way of a whole new culture, to the teaching and learning of all children.
Young BAME people aspiring to enter the profession must bear in mind that they are no different to young people from monolingual backgrounds. As a BAME person, you have a whole different cultural perspective that you could bring to a pupil’s teaching and learning; use the positives to your advantage in bringing additional and unique qualities to your profession.