Public Elementary School Teachers’ Stories about the Teaching of English

This study takes place in a public elementary school located in an underprivileged area called Ciudad Bolívar in the southern part of Bogotá, Colombia. Caro, Lulu, Otilia, and Yami are my companions in this journey; they accepted my invitation to share our stories about English Language Teaching (henceforth ELT) in our lives. From now on, I will use the pronoun WE in capital letters when referring to teachers and me. This is a biographical-narrative study (Bolivar, 2012) with some adaptations. Accordingly, WE are going to converse, write autobiographies, share our emotions, and reflect upon English language in our lives in order to acknowledge our stories as sources of knowledge about ELT in our school, to unveil our thoughts, ways of knowing, feelings, decisions, and actions regarding ELT. In other words, to know how WE have lived the teaching of English in Colombia, where elementary school teachers are not required to be licensed English language teachers, however they must teach this language because the Law of 1994 within its Article 23 (7) mandated the teaching of a foreign language and most schools chose English. We rarely talk about policies regarding ELT, or the ideas behind these policies in our schools because this is consider a taboo. If you talk about polices or challenge them, you probably will be pointed out as a communist. Even more, “the adoption of neoliberal models in education are here to stay. Day by day, those discourses and practices become more and more naturalized which makes it harder to problematize” (Guerrero-Nieto & Quintero, 2021, p.38). In other words, “neoliberalism has succeed in colonizing the habitus of many people, including those of educators and educationalists” (Van der Walt, 2017, p.6). These ideas make the other non-existent, schools and universities are teaching individuals to believe in progress and in the benefits of neoliberalism (Mignolo, 2014). Therefore, neoliberal educational programs in public schools as negation of the other, being familiar with coloniality of knowledge in ELT to decolonize/desubalternize our lives, and life-stories as sites of knowledge constitute the center in this study. I believe that “love educates because when we love we welcome the other; we let her/him appear, and we listen to what s/he says without denying the person with a prejudice, a supposition, or theory” (Maturana, 2017, 52’, my translation). However, voices from those who live ELT in public primary schools are seen as subaltern when “the subject does not occupy a discursive position from where s/he can speak or respond to” […] “Being silenced does not mean that s/he does not exist” (Spivak, 2003, p.298 – my translation). So, when WE share our stories “we talk of our own lives. Life storytelling gives us direction, validates our own experience, restores value to living, and strengthens community bonds” (Atkinson, 2002, p.122). Accordingly, WE are the first ones to know about the findings of this study (Rivas, 2014, p.53 -my interpretation) because WE are involved in our stories understanding, and WE decide what to share.