I apologise for the rant that follows, but sometimes I just need to get things out of my chest, and this is one of those times.
Despite the best efforts of the institution I work for to actively promote equality, we still get loads of requests for madrelingua (native speakers). And do you know where these requests come from most of the times? From other NNESTs. This is so disheartening.
We often do something called ‘lettorato’, which means we teach in class during school time (with the class teacher present), to provide a communicative component to classroom teaching. We do this in all types of schools, from primary to high schools, and we generally get very positive feedback.
However, I also often get the oh-so-you-are-Italian look from the class teacher, especially in higher-level schools such as high schools. The students themselves generally ask me if I’m from London, from the USA or from England (Australia, South Africa, Ireland or Scotland are not in their mental map of English-speaking countries, apparently). But then when I tell them I’m Italian, they just accept the fact and get on with things.
But teachers look bitterly disappointed. They sometimes go as far as to tell me not to mention this to the students — why exactly is not clear. We even had schools complain and require us to change teachers because some of us were not madrelingua. This starts to feel a lot like Uncle Ruckus in the Boondocks, really.
I also have positive stories of students requesting madrelingua, and then being happy with me and seeing the progress. But again, what hurts the most are those I regard as colleagues believing I am not capable of doing my job just because I was born in the same place where they were born.
I don’t know who or what taught them to think like this. I just hope one day they will change their mind. Otherwise the war is already lost.