Narratives of personal and professional identity construction of teachers of English in the multilingual context of Karachi, Pakistan
This research study aims at exploring narratives of experiences and practices of teachers of English in order to understand how these life stories shape and transform teachers’ personal and professional identities in the process of becoming teachers in the multilingual context of Karachi, Pakistan. Researching teachers’ personal and professional identity constructs is very crucial and significant in order to understand them as individuals and to see how they make sense of their experiences throughout their personal and professional lives and careers, which in turn guide their English language teaching and learning practices in their respective contexts. In order to understand the complex phenomenon of teachers’ identity construction, this study is conceptualized within a narrative framework, exploring teachers’ stories that develop over the passage of time, within their knowledge landscapes and contextual realities, shaping their storied identities of personal and professional selves.
To facilitate this in-depth exploration, the study undertook narrative inquiry as its research design. It explored identity construction of two teachers of English; Faiza and Danish from private and public school systems in Karachi, with a gender balance perspective. The field data was collected in nine-month period using a variety of narrative inquiry tools (i.e. observations, storytelling, in-depth interviews, field notes and document analysis) and art-based research tools (i.e. autobiographical storylines, drawings, metaphors and pictures) in order to assist the exploration of teachers’ stories in a creative narrative form that further helped to situate the study within the ‘three dimensional inquiry space’ (Clandinin & Connelly, 2006).
The research participants used autobiographical story-lines and metaphors to describe their identity construction. Faiza storied herself while running on her life’s race track and Danish un-revealed his multi-layered onion layered-self, describing his multiple roles wearing different hats. Through these storylines and metaphors, they presented their multiple identities that have developed with the passage of time, experience and situation, and shaped and evolved their personality into who they were, are and aspire to be. From the narratives of the two teachers, it was seen that the complexity of their identity construction lies in their creative portrayals of the way they perceive and represent themselves as persons and as professional teachers of English. This element of teachers’ creativity has facilitated in exploring the multifaceted phenomenon of teachers’ identities under study. Also, the metaphor of ‘creativeness’ has added value in characterizing and understanding the complexity of teachers’ identity construction in the existing literature.
The study highlights two significant and unique findings that have emerged from the analysis and comparison of the two teachers’ narratives of their identity construction. The first major finding highlights that both Faiza and Danish enjoy the freedom of speech and expression within their language choices according to different audiences, situations and contexts, shaping their monolingual, bilingual and trilingual identities within their multilingual gendered selves, living in the multilingual context in Karachi, Pakistan. The second important finding shows that both the teachers feel pride in carrying their professional identity as the ‘English teachers’ in their private and public schools respectively, and within the social communities of practices and the broader multilingual contexts that they live and teach in.
The study concludes by suggesting the implications of understanding who the teachers of English are, how they have become what they are and what their future aspirations are, highlighting new openings for future research and recommendations in the light of the research insights. This will further assist the identity construction of teachers of English in both public and private schooling systems, the teaching and learning processes of English language as well as the language teacher education programs, adding value to understand the role of language in constructing teachers’ identities and improving classroom practice, and in addressing language identity issues in the multilingual educational settings in Karachi, Pakistan.