Negotiating and producing teacher abroad identities : overseas teachers in an American school in China
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This dissertation is a critical ethnography of teachers working abroad in an American/International school (ASC/pseudonym) located in the People’s Republic of China. The study focuses on the teacher abroad identity process of EC-12 teachers who moved from their country of origin to work in the PRC from 2008 to 2011. The three-year study serves as a snapshot of the formation of the teacher abroad identity. The theoretical framework include theories of identity in figured worlds (Holland et al., 1998), symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 1991), and language as mediator that served to answer three questions: 1) How does a teacher’s biography relate to the experience of working in an American/International school in China? 2) How does a first-time teacher at ASC recreate and negotiate her/his personal and professional self understandings? 3) What role does language play in the making of the teacher abroad identity at ASC? The study follows an interpretivist approach to explain, understand, and unveil the figured world of teaching abroad from the perspective of the participants’ and data analysis by the researcher. Data includes participant observation, interviews, observations, and field notes collected while closely following four teachers who portrayed the making of the teacher abroad identity. The researcher became a teacher abroad at the same school to fully immerse herself in participant observation. The inclusion of document analysis, interviews, and field notes, serve as validation and triangulation of the process. A reflexive approach to data analysis was followed at all times for trustworthiness of the study. Findings suggest that teaching abroad is a complex figurative world. Teacher abroad identity is created at the intersection of the social, personal, emotional, professional, and linguistic spaces. A major finding reveals that individuals who are hired overseas and teach abroad for the first time have to learn new ways to cope with unexpected landscapes brought by living in new country, and by teaching students from a plurality of nationalities, languages, and races. Teachers experience mostly a transformation at the personal level, but the transcendence at the professional level in the classroom is limited.
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