Identity, in its many forms, is a very complex issue. Working in ELT, we are confronted with notions of cultural and linguistic identities on an almost daily basis; the mixed-national language classroom can bring its own issues of ethnic and national identities; an understanding of others’ religious identities frequently leads us to modify our lesson content. We are encouraged to reflect on such issues after every lesson we teach. Indeed, reflecting, defining and giving feedback are very often what we do best. Yet how often do we reflect on our own identities as teachers, especially given the myriad of situations we can find ourselves teaching in?
Moving from culture to culture is hugely enriching and often a prime motivation behind this choice of career. We develop a genuine interest in our students’ development, yet at the same time we need to be aware of our value and our limits within any learning situation. Awareness leads to the courage to be yourself, and this in turn is what drives change, in identity as in all other fields. Just think how the concept of gender identity has evolved.
From the ‘working man’ and ‘little woman’ of a
century ago, to the growing acceptance of same-sex
relationships, to questioning the whole concept of there
being fixed genders. Similarly, the greatest achievement
of the last few Paralympic Games has been the shift of
perception from how admirable these disabled people
are to attempt sports to what admirable sportspeople
they are. Seeing Paralympians fighting for the right to
compete in the regular Olympic games is a
demonstration of the shift in disability identity. So how
does all this relate to teaching? Find out.