Becoming an ESL Teacher: An Autoethnography
Master of Education
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In this thesis I studied the teacher identity development journey I underwent while completing my first term of teaching adult ESL learners at a post-secondary institute in Ontario. I addressed three questions. Firstly, I examined how my relationships with administration and colleagues impacted my second language (L2) teacher identity development. Secondly, I examined how sustained teaching experience influenced my L2 teacher identity development and pedagogical content knowledge. Thirdly, I examined the extent to which my L2 teacher identity was formed after my first teaching term. Autoethnography was the qualitative research method I used to answer my questions. In autoethnography, the experiences of the author undergo careful analysis with the aim of better apprehending cultural experiences (Ellis, 2004). This was the most suitable methodology to employ as it let me creatively examine my L2 teacher identity development from the perspective of both an outsider analyst and insider member (Reed- Danahay, 1997). The process of systematic sociological introspection (SSI) made the creation of the autoethnography possible. SSI (Ellis, 2008) involved four steps: (1) compiling relevant data (i.e., journal, communication records); (2) reading the data to determine pivotal events related to my L2 teacher identity development; (3) using the data and my memory to produce an narrative recreating these events; and, (4) revising the narrative until an aesthetically pleasing and logically plotted final draft was made. After the final draft of the autoethnography was completed, an analysis of my L2 teacher identity development was conducted using Bullough’s (2005) theoretical framework. Through the analysis, I concluded that my professional relationships had a very strong impact on my L2 teacher identity development. I found that even though supportive colleagues and supervisors within my community of practice freely offered me membership, I had a difficult time determining if I deserved or wanted it. In addition, the analysis showed me that sustained teaching time had overwhelmingly positive ramifications for my L2 teacher identity. With time, I gained more confidence and felt more legitimate in the classroom. As a result of this growth in confidence and legitimacy, I was able to transition from playing the role of an ESL teacher to actually being feeling like one. Further, sustained teaching time also had positive ramifications for my pedagogical content knowledge, as I acquired a greater understanding of classroom management strategies, ESL subject matter, and pedagogical strategies. Finally, the analysis revealed that while I had an initial teacher identity after the completion of four months in the classroom, I still had key issues I needed to address in order to become the teacher I truly wanted to be. I recognized that I had to tackle my monolingualism, as well as learn more about pedagogical content knowledge, inter-cultural mediation, and colleague collaboration.