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Question Of Identity

Magali Arteaga on a thought-provoking volume
What’s Your Teaching Identity?
Helen Waldron, Academic Study Kit;
978-0-9956-7011-2

The term ‘identity’ is inescapably present in our EFL classes, but often we only look at our students’ identity as they take on a new one that corresponds to their emerging language. EFL teachers are encouraged to reflect on how they have performed after almost every lesson. However, very little has been said about EFL teachers’ reflections on what constitutes their own identity. Helen Waldron’s What’s Your Teaching Identity? encourages us to reflect on our place in EFL teaching and reminds us how a lot of EFL teachers still work under unreasonable conditions in a job which is considered 24/7, especially when your interlocutors discover that you are a native speaker.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each of which provides a description of the different situations that teachers may face in a professional setting. There is always a poignant quote that leads up to an often controversial topic. The chapter that resonated most with me was ‘The best of jobs, the worst of jobs’. It describes how EFL teaching can be an extremely enjoyable career since teachers can get close to their students and mentor them in several ways. At the same time, continuous professional development requires investment from the very same teachers to further their education. Not all institutions are willing to train their EFL teachers to update them in the most cutting-edge techniques, but they expect the use of such methodologies in class.

The last chapter encourages teachers to stay positive and recognise that being an EFL educator is a real profession that should not be looked down, even if you do it as a freelancer. The writer advises EFL teachers to search for an identity that they feel comfortable with since the creativity needed to achieve this is part and parcel of being an inspiring teacher. What’s Your Teaching Identity? is a thought-provoking concise volume that allows EFL teachers to think about their own identity and weigh up the conditions under which they work. It has been written from the native-speaker teacher’s perspective, but many of the observations will apply to non-native teachers as well. This is especially true for the author’s overall message that all of us should feel real ownership and be proud of being part of the EFL community.

Magali Arteaga is an EFL teacher at the Catholic University, Cuenca, Ecuador

AUTHENTIC WRITING TASK


In Ecuador, teachers’ language proficiency and classroom skills vary enormously. In remote villages there may not be qualified teachers at all, while in towns you have highly qualified dedicated language teachers and those struggling under too many contact hours with all the admin that go with them. There are hundreds of pre-service English teachers trained each year in Ecuador, some on British Council teacher training programmes. The Catholic University of Cuenca started three new MA programmes and I was asked to do the teacher training sessions for the Academic English component. Teachers in Ecuador usually write very little and publish even less, so I thought it would be useful if my colleagues not only taught academic writing but had a go at it too.

I had to set a realistic task: book reviews are considered to be a gentle way of introducing budding writers to publishing, so I asked my colleagues to approach various editors and offer to write book reviews. The course was a one-off, involving nine teachers (among them two of the administrators of the MA programme). It focused on how to teach English for Academic Purposes. The participants found the authentic writing task and the required micro-teaching the most useful components. As a team, we were asked to write a review about the EAP course books that the teachers will be using. And another colleague wrote a review about a recently published book: that is the one you can read above.

Erzsebet Bekes is a teacher and teacher trainer at the Catholic University, Cuenca, Ecuador

Pic courtesy: Amy reeves