The Co-construction of English Language Teachers' Critical Identities through the Narrative Positioning

I have been teaching the English language for thirteen years in a public school located in Bogotá, Colombia. My classes have been focused on social issues, and, when I plan them, I have considered essential students’ backgrounds, views, individual characteristics, likes, dislikes, emotions, contexts, and needs, to favor the construction of critical, argumentative, and well-informed subjects. Nevertheless, there are power relationships within the education system, exercised by school directives and by policies from the Secretary of Education of Bogotá, that try to impose me a technician role, to make me teach the language with preestablished objectives, contents, and materials, and that position the students as agents that must obey and follow rules. Thus, I have tried to resist this system by designing materials to teach English with contents that students and I have considered relevant. These materials deal with social and controversial issues to favor reflexivity in relation to our social contexts. This resistance has brought me personal conflicts because my acts have generated tensions among my colleagues.

Consequently, I identify myself as a critical English language teacher because, in my attempts to achieve my objectives, I have confronted and resisted an education system that makes my voice and my students’ voices invisible, and that ignores the influence of socioeconomic, cultural, and political realities on the English Language Teaching (ELT). These acts are the ways I embody my critical identity (Butler, 1988), which is constituted by the particularities of my personal history. I used to think that the personal conflicts that I have experienced happened because other teachers were not critic and agreed with the impositions of the system. However, after observing some situations and having some conversations with my colleagues, I have noticed that there are also resistances in their practices inside and outside the classrooms, only that they are embodied differently, which suggests that critical identities are not monolithic as they take different shapes and textures and come from different histories.

Then, the understanding of Critical Identities requires a co-construction process that considers different English language teachers’ points of view and explores the stories within our histories. I want to pay attention to the influence of these histories on the different ways in which we identify and act from critical standings. After a profiling exercise, in which it was explored what has been researched in relation to English language teachers’ Critical Identities, the outcomes showed that the literature in this sense is scarce. Consequently, I propose a critical social research study, with a collaborative narrative positioning methodology that will allow us to go through our past, present, and future life histories to spot moments that have built up the way we embody our critical identities. The objective will be to explore our narratives in order to discuss and co-construct knowledge about the different shapes, textures, and expressions of our Critical Identities, and how they manifest through the dynamics of our practices inside and outside the classroom. It is expected to contribute with the understanding of ourselves as critic agents in the ELT field.