The Light Cast by Someone Else's Lamp: Beginning ESOL Teachers
Motha, Mary Natasha Suhanthie
Price, Jeremy N.
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This study was an in-depth exploration of the year-long journey of four first-year ESOL teachers who were women. The researcher asked about meanings of knowledge, pedagogy, and identity in the context of becoming a language teacher and sought to understand how beginning teachers' ideologies interact with their contexts. The teachers' naming and shaping of their own transformative pedagogies were complicated by the ways in which power and privilege manifested themselves in their schools and the ways in which ESOL students, language learning, and pedagogy came to be institutionally constructed. The teachers chose to neither adhere rigidly to their liberatory ideologies nor to submit to socializing influences. Rather, an ethic of caring towards students compelled them to find ways to integrate their commitments to social justice with sustainable pedagogies that supported students' long-term needs. This study was a critical feminist ethnography. Data sources included transcriptions of afternoon tea gatherings held every two or three weeks over the school year, classroom observations, interviews, and school and student artifacts. Part I explores the development of the teachers' meanings of English language teaching in a world in which English dominates politically. The ways in which Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) has been interpreted are problematized, and the connections between grammar and social power are examined. Part II considers the teachers' negotiation of their roles in the shaping of their students' identities and positionalities, seeking to enrich understandings of how various dimensions of difference, particularly race, gender, and ethnicity, interact with a category that permeates all others in the realm of English language teaching, that is linguistic minority status. Part III examines the role the four teachers played in the discursive constructions of their professional identities and the ways in which they supported each others' critical consideration of socializing institutional forces. Two central constructs, becoming and belonging, underpinned the teachers' pedagogical processes and identity construction. These two constructs posed a challenge to traditionally accepted understandings of three intertwined themes: pedagogy, identity, and transformation. The theoretical implications of this dissertation include a need for a redefinition of the ways in which power, identity, and transformation are conceptualized.