Agents of change: teacher training for migrants & refugees

By Babel's Blessing

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We are a collective teaching English to migrants and refugees. But we want to go further: we want to train migrants and refugees themselves to become English teachers, and to be active agents of change through education.

About the class:

Many believe that native speakers of English are best placed to teach this language. But if you think about it, it’s actually multilingual students who have been through the process of studying English themselves who have an advantage. Skills such as understanding the situation that the students are facing and language they most urgently need to learn to navigate daily life are much more important than a BBC accent. We want to reach advanced ESOL (English as a Second Language) students who - because of this common misconception - might have not thought of themselves as potential English teachers, and give them the tools and the confidence to start a journey towards becoming the language teachers of the future.

The course will run for twelve weeks; after that, students will be invited to shadow our ESOL teachers for another term to get some hands-on experience, as well as to attend the teacher training sessions we organise for our teachers. The course will be completely free, and we will reimburse students’ travel expenses.

The course will both apply and teach the tools of participatory education, inspired by the ideas of radical educator Paulo Freire. Participatory education is political, challenging established hierarchies in the classroom and outside. Part of this will require deconstructing the imperial legacy of the English language and its consequent status in the global language market. As we believe in the value of teaching languages of the diaspora(s), the course will aim to prepare its students to teach also their native languages.

About the organisation:

Babel's Blessing is a radical grassroots language school project based in (mostly East & South) London. We run low-cost evening classes in diaspora languages, and use the income from this to fund free ESOL classes for refugees and migrants.

We see language learning as being about cultural exchange, community building, and a way for members of diasporic communities to reconnect with their/our heritage. We teach about politics, culture and history through language as it is spoken – valuing street language and varied accents rather than one ‘correct’ version.

We strive to apply critical pedagogy methods and principles across all our classes, and to run as a democratic community of learners, where students are actively involved in shaping the learning process. Our teachers are also our team members, administrators, fundraisers, event hosts, and blog writers. We are a non-hierarchical organisation and everyone is encouraged to take an active role in the direction of the project.


Where will your money go?

  • £450 will pay the teacher's salary - we pay London Living Wage for the 2h class + 1h lesson preparation + 1h admin / week
  • an additional £360 will reimburse students' travel expenses (= £1.50 bus ticket each way for 10 students)
  • another £125 will cover the cost of resources (printing, stationery, etc)
  • a final £36 would pay for the volunteer teaching assistant's travel expenses

Any further amount raised will be used towards our other ESOL classes (

NB: This is not an accredited teacher training course, although students will receive a certificate of attendance and Babel’s will provide references for them. We also recognise that twelve weeks of training + twelve weeks of teaching practice are only the start of a prospective teachers' journey, and will provide advice and support to our students who will decide to continue on an accredited course.

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Babel's Blessing