Javier, Eljee (MA and PhD alumna)

IMG_0433My name is Eljee Javier and I completed my PhD (thesis, viva and corrections) in February 2015. You can say that I’m living proof that you can finish a PhD. For my doctorate I was on the 1+3 PhD programme as GTRA Studentship Award. Prior to that I was a MA TESOL (2007) graduate from this very same LTE group. Currently, I teach at The University of Manchester on different postgraduate programmes.

My journey started in 2002.  I was fresh out of university, having graduated from 4 year education degree and yet was working long hours managing a coffee shop.  At the time I didn’t think it mattered that I wasn’t teaching. I was young,  independent, and making my own way in the world!  My “AH-HA” moment arrived around 5:30am while I was opening the coffee shop.  It was a dark, cold winter morning and I remember thinking – with great honesty and a degree of desperation – that I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life.

So I enrolled onto a one month, TESOL teacher training course as preparation to go overseas.  (Why it takes one month to qualify as an English language teacher vs. four years for to qualify as a teacher is another discussion).  After the course I applied for overseas teaching posts, eager to leave as soon as possible to start my new career as an English language teacher.  The waiting turned into a month…and then three months.  It would be this cycle of filling in applications, then gaining acceptance with a request for a photo, sending my photo and then being rejected.  I was wondering why I was being turned down for literally every EFL post. Clearly frustrated I finally asked one of the recruitment agencies why I wasn’t getting any job offers despite my qualifications?  I remember the answer as clear as day:

“Well, we don’t really hire Asian looking teachers. Sorry.”

And so began my journey to find out why this occurs and why it seems to be accepted in the TESOL profession. Eventually, I did get a teaching post in China and worked for a great school!  Several years later I enrolled onto the MA TESOL course in 2006.  During my MA studies, my main interests were focused on the identity of visible ethnic minority native English speaking teachers (or VEM-NEST for short).  I wanted to make sense of my own experiences as a native teacher of colour and see if others, with similar backgrounds like me, shared a common ground.

Recently I completed my thesis, titled “Narratively explored role identities of visible ethnic minority native English speaking teachers in TESOL” in which I continued to study this particular group of teachers and implications my study has on the TESOL profession.

For updates and further information please visit my blog http://eljeejavier.com or follow me on Twitter (@eljeejavier).


  • Eljee Javier

    Hi Helen,

    No worries on your online presence – I can only imagine how busy you are nowadays! That’s awesome that you’re on the final stretch. 🙂 I’d be happy to help and can send you a pdf copy of the chapter. Please email me at eljee.javier@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk and I’ll send it over.

    Best wishes,


  • helen lindman

    Hi Eljee. I haven’t contributed to either the blog or the reading group for sometime now because I’m trying to get my thesis written by the end of April. It’s proving very difficult. I would be interested in reading the chapter of a book you have written concerning the NEST/NNEST binary. Richard tells me it has been well received and I would really like to quote/summarise you (cited of course!) in my study.

    Can you direct me to it?

    Many thanks

  • Eljee Javier

    Hi Helen!

    It’s really fascinating meeting someone from the “opposite” view of the NNEST/NEST scope! I would imagine that we would share some common ground, particularly on how this whole area affects identity and professional development.

    With regards to “personal positions” may I ask where do you find yourself in your research? In a different thread on this blog I wrote about my progress (and struggles) to situate myself within the research as opposed to previously keeping myself out of the process.

  • Hi Eljee

    I think we share both a research interest and a ‘personal position’ in the NNEST/NEST binery. VEM-NESTS is an interesting area, I have several working on my programmes at the moment and it would be really interesting to see if they shared a common ground. I am probably what you might label an invisible NNEST in that I am not a native speaker but look and sometimes sound like one!

  • Richard Fay

    Congratulations Eljee on getting to a shortlisted interview for a Scholarship.
    All my digits are crossed for good news on Friday ….

    I’m sorry to hear that there’s going to be a further round in this process. They are doing this more painstakingly this year than I remember it in previous years ….

  • Hi Eljee,

    I was in some of your modules on the MSc in Educational Research last year.

    Having been persuaded by Magdalena De Stefani and Richard Fay to have a look at this site I find your comments about teachers of non-white backgrounds very interesting in light of having worked in South Korea and Japan.

    Interestingly, in the company that I now work for, INTO University of East Anglia, London some of our best teachers are of non-white backgrounds and colour/race/ethnicity is never an issue. I think this is a phenomenon that applies largely only to the Asian TEFL context. I at least hope that is the case.

    One teacher in particular in my workplace, a British Chinese lady, or is it vice versa, is absolutely fantastic in the classroom and has built up a great rapport with students regardless of their background. I don’t even think they notice her ethnicity after five minutes in the room with her which is exactly how it should be.

    One of the differences in the UK and Asian TEFL recruitment process is of course that we are not allowed to see someone’s photograph prior to recruitment. I think this is a standard request in Japan, Korea, and China. They especially love tall, blonde, blue eyed North Americans out there. Appearance naturally doesn’t come into the equation when we select teachers. We rarely know until we interview the person unless they call us up and describe who we should look out for on the way from the train station, when our candidates sometimes get confused with directions.

    Interestingly and controversially I would contend that in London and the Home Counties social class, more than colour, is the biggest impediment to getting jobs as an English teacher in the so called redbrick universities. That though is a whole other discussion.

    Paul Breen.

  • Richard Fay

    Welcome to the community 🙂

    Also, any sharable insights on the research training experience? (see Discussion threads).