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Do EFL Teachers Have Careers?

Bill Johnston
TESOL Quarterly
Vol. 31, No. 4 (Winter, 1997), pp. 681-712
DOI: 10.2307/3587756
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3587756
Page Count: 32
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Do EFL Teachers Have Careers?
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Abstract

The terms career and profession are increasingly common in discussions of EFL/ESL teaching. Yet little is known about the working lives of teachers in this field. It is time to gather empirical data on teachers' lives in various contexts and to examine whether in fact these lives can best be conceptualized in terms of careers and profession or whether other theoretical approaches might be more fruitful. The present article describes a study based upon life history interviews with 17 EFL teachers in Poland. In light of a range of substantive and theoretical problems with applying existing teacher career models to an EFL context, the study employed an innovative analysis based on the theory of language of Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin describes language as heteroglossic, or comprising multiple, competing discourses that are in ongoing, dynamic dialogue with one another. In the present study, the interview transcripts are treated as discourse, and the central question is: What discourses do teachers draw on in discursively constructing their lives? The analysis reveals that in teachers' discursive presentations of their lives, teachers' life-story narratives do not appear to be present. Rather, teachers' stories reflect dynamic and nonunitary identities that interact discursively in complex ways with a range of other discourses from the social, economic, and political context. The implications of this situation for the field of EFL/ESL are considered.

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