Who are you? Teacher Identity

This is a post that was meant as a sort of reply to Tyson’s brilliant one and equally brilliant ones by Matthew and Mark. You need to read those. Please. Now or later. 

So, who are you or what’s your professional identity
I’m the one with the chip on my shoulder about my background. Class-conscious but bleeding-hearted. The non-metropolitan. I was a freak at school and it made me feel self-conscious pretty much all the time and the only time I don’t feel like that is when I’m in the classroom.
I grew up the son of a coal miner in a Co. Durham town where ambition meant just living in a bigger house in the same town. My dad left mining after the miner’s strike and then tried a couple of other things before being an oil rigger. 
My dad is a man’s man and I am not. I don’t know when we both got to accept that but we didn’t always. Now we do. 
My mother would prefer me to live in England but accepts that Japan is home for me now. 
Other than this, I got over not being a famous experimental indie guitarist, poet, novelist or bon vivant. 
Wow. Sounds like Freud would have a field day.
So, what’s your teaching philosophy?
Crikey. Students should learn. Sometimes people can’t be bothered to learn so try and coax them into it. Try not to be an arse about it. I sometimes fail at this last point, if I’m honest with myself.
They say that you teach how you were taught. In that case I think Mrs. Hobley had the biggest impact on me. Constantly demanding us to do our best, being overly strict about it sometimes but being unapologetic and explaining that she got results. I think I do this sometimes with “Your way is not working for you. Try my way because it has worked for me.”
You always sound so nice elsewhere on your blog. 
Hmmm. I’m not sure whether I like nice. It seems a bit airy fairy. Like I said, I try not to be an arse. 
What are the things that have made you? 
Probably not having support as a newly qualified primary teacher and then losing my job made me more tenacious to prove myself. Fatherhood led me to get higher paid work, then freelancing, then getting competitive led me to my DipTESOL which I think was beneficial because it made me question myself and the industry. 
Ooh! Hark! 
Really. How SLA theory barely gets a nod and a wink in classrooms here. How listening and pronunciation are hard to teach so loads of institutions don’t encourage teachers to actually teach them. How teachers are not provided with development opportunities but institutions are keen as hell to take advantage of a developing teacher. How nobody really gets paid for what they work.My MA I’m studying makes me even more idealistic. 

Are you this negative all the time? 
No. I love that I help people with their hobby and/or real communicative needs. That I help people do things that they didn’t think they could do. That I have letters in my drawer from students who say I made them realise that they could get better at English and that it wasn’t impossible. 
Are you taking the credit for that? 
No. I’m taking the credit for helping these people see what they are capable of by using my knowledge and experience to point them in directions they might never have explored otherwise. 
Oh, OK. 
Look, I know it’s not earth-shattering but it’s what I think.
At least you’re honest. Any advice for other teachers?
Read. Ask questions. Listen to people who seem credible and have evidence as well as opinions. 

9 Replies to “Who are you? Teacher Identity”

  1. On a day when one of my identities–person who can write an interesting, cohesive proposal that gets accepted for a conference talk–is a little shaken, I’ve been rewarded with three insightful posts on teacher identity. Thank you! While a lot of what you’ve said interests me, one small little word struck me, one which I’ve made concerted efforts to use sparingly in reference to ELT: industry. A few years ago something I read (probably a blog post) made me question how I would use ‘industry’ to describe what I do over ‘profession’. For me, this reflection into my own terminology anchored one aspect of my identity. Maybe we can talk about it one day. 🙂

    1. Tyson, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry whichever conference you sent a proposal to decided not to go ahead with it. I’d say it’s their loss.
      Actually with the industry/profession dichotomy, I see the industry as the source of the stupid problems and largely coming from chain schools and multinational publishers and the profession as being the educators making decisions in classrooms and talking to learners. I don’t think these can be reconciled, either.
      As for talking about it, that would be marvellous, wouldn’t it?

      1. Good point. Maybe what only remains, rather than a reconciliation, is a choice as to which part of the industry or profession we belong and identify with. But yes, let’s talk.

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