Stories of Teacher Identity: A Narrative Inquiry into East Asian ESL Teachers' Lives

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2005-11-28

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This study is a narrative inquiry into how our experiences as non-native English speaking (NNES), English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers construct and reconstruct our identities as persons and as teachers. While the phrase "East Asian ESL teachers" in the title refers to Wen-Lin Huang, Kuriko Yayama, and Xuen Zhang, K-12 ESL teachers in east coast public schools, it is also refers to me. These descriptions are based on my personal journey as an English learner and graduate student, as well as intensive interviews with three NNES ESL teachers whose experiences I have to honor and give voice to by presenting them as I learned from them.

This study captures the NNES teachers' experiences of becoming and being ESL teachers in the United States. Particularly, this study emphasizes the meanings of our experiences as language learners, ESL teacher candidates, and ESL practitioners in relation to our identity construction and reconstruction, and highlights the effects of cultural, linguistic, social, personal and interpersonal elements on our professional identity transformation. This study also describes the multitude of obstacles NNES ESL teachers overcome in developing the power of their minds. It is as much a study about pain, frustration, struggle and challenges as it is about accomplishment and hope.

The contributions to the thought and practice of teacher education as a result of this study are three-fold. First, I hope the attention I give to the stories of teacher identity of the four NNES ESL teachers will highlight the need for TESOL teacher preparation programs to include and emphasize development opportunities for NNESs. Second, I hope the witness of the four NNES ESL teachers' teaching lives and the experiences of professional growth will open possibilities for NNES teacher candidates in the teaching profession. Finally, I hope the themes emerged from this study will provide an initial framework for future research in TESOL.

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