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Note from the CEO: Discrimination On italki

On Zero Discrimination Day 2018, here is a note from italki CEO and co-founder, Kevin—about italki's stance on this important matter.

Mar 1, 2018 12:00 AM
Comments · 65


March 1, 2018

In my view, the article is too general to be helpful. No teacher would disagree with the content but presumably there have been complaints against some teachers. We need some anonymous examples to understand Italki's thinking. 

Italki also needs to show some respect to teachers. I don't work Friday evening to Monday late afternoon weekends - my family time - and can't always comply with the requirement to accept lesson requests within 48 hours.  Italki have now started imposing sanctions on me, but I have had no complaints from students and Italki has not replied to three emails from me about the issue. So despite having taught almost 3,000 sessions on Italki, they have not learnt to have respect for me as a teacher and a business partner and are prepared to damage my livelihood. I'm pretty hacked off with Italki right now. 

March 1, 2018

A word of advice to italki...

Be careful when a student complains about a teacher. Your first instinct may be to believe the student's complaints, but the real cause of a teacher refusing service to a student may actually be to the student's benefit, as well as to italki's benefit and its reputation.

For example:

I know a teacher who had to refuse to provide service to a student because of the student's low level and the teacher's inability to provide the appropriate service to the student. The teacher made up a simple excuse for being unable to help the student. The teacher did not want to hurt the student's feelings by telling the student the real reason for declining service, that being the fact that the student's level was too low and that the teacher honestly did not feel qualified to teach at a basic grammar level, and did not have the necessary teaching materials to provide to the student. Accepting the student's payment for sub-standard service would not have been fair to the student and could have adversely affected italki's reputation.
Because the student was disappointed, he/she wrote an unfair discussion complaining about the un-named teacher. Furthermore, he/she may have complained to italki and may have made statements about the teacher (perhaps claiming discrimination) that were simply untrue.

italki must not make decisions based on only one side of the story.

Remember, there are always 3 sides to every story:  your side / my side / and the truth.

My thoughts and support for Michael, Mr Zhang, and Guyomar.

March 2, 2018

I agree with Guyomar. It’s a tricky matter. Another example: teachers aren’t allowed to refuse students based on age. So, if a teacher only feels qualified to teach adults, is he nevertheless obliged to teach toddlers, because it would be discriminatory to refuse? 

Are teachers not allowed to refuse total beginners („any other characteristic“), even though, they may only feel qualified to teach on intermediate level?

March 1, 2018

I can only comment from a personal perspective, so by no means am I assuming others have had the same experiences. Generally speaking, the Italki community is the friendliest that I've ever been a part of online. I haven't experienced any discrimination, and no one as far as I know has flagged me for anything that can be categorized as discrimination.

However, as with other teachers, I've had issues with Italki. Back in January, Italki blocked my messaging privileges (including notebook entries, corrections, etc.). When I contacted them, they claimed that others had flagged me for disrespectful language. I asked them to tell me who these people were, or if they couldn't release that information, at least what messages warranted such a flagging. They told me they didn't keep those records. When they restored my privileges, they informed me that another strike would result in the termination of my account. I'm sorry, but what kind of practice is this? My privileges were removed without notification (it took me contacting them before they made me aware of this), the site had no proof that I said anything (and I specifically notified Italki of this; I've never used disrespectful language in any manner), and then they declared that if anyone flags me again, I'm gone?

After multiple email exchanges, an Italki representative finally responded that the site needed better transparency when it comes to any strikes against their teachers. What that means is yet to be seen.

March 2, 2018
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