When we decided to start our careers as teachers by working for someone else, we started to participate in a community of practice
and began to define who we are professionally –that is: we started building a professional identity
–. Maybe for some their profession is merely what they do to get money, for others it might be a quest for discovering how things work or just keep themselves busy, and for some more it could even be what gives meaning to their lives. Be that as it may, what we choose to do affects us.
I suppose we've all heard at least someone say 'Oh, no, my professional life doesn't affect my personal one. What happens at work, stays at work.' And yes, there are some people whose personality changes radically depending on the context they are in. But that does not mean that what they choose to do or what they have to do, each and every second of their lives, doesn't affect the way they see, understand and construct the world around them. Or how they construct themselves. According to some hypotheses, particularly that of social constructivism,
there is no way in which we can avoid being influenced, and thus changed, by our interaction with others and our participation in a system or community.
When we start a new job we inevitably start learning. We learn, among many other things, how the system in that school works and what our role will be in that system. By being part of a community we are somehow educated in its new culture and we necessarily define ourselves as part of the whole. But as English teachers who are not self-employed, are we just a cog in the machine of the language school we work for? It is not that we don't modify the system by participating in it, because of course our mere presence is a cause for change, but who is responsible for our professional trajectory and for who we become in that specific community?
I've always been intrigued by the process that makes people change the first person singular form to the plural one. Intrigued by what is actually necessary for us to stop saying 'Well, that's the way
There's no doubt that the language school itself has some responsibility on our trajectory since the conditions of our immersion in the community of practice are somehow defined by them and the fact that we are progressively acknowledged by the community to become core members plays an important part, but it is also up to us to settle or not. Just as our students are constantly negotiating meaning when trying to communicate, we are also constantly negotiating who we are and who we want to be. Professionally and personally. Simultaneously. Because who dares say that what each one
does and thinks about at least 35 hours a week doesn't affect what each one
So... Think about it. If you are dissatisfied with what you do in whichever teaching community you're part of, it might be 'them
' or 'us
', but also 'you
'. Maybe if all of us
were aware that constructing the world is actually co-constructing the world and that it is all our
responsibility, then maybe we would ask more to understand better and we would ask to be more involved in whichever community we were part of. In the end, participating is modifying, and little by little each of our
jobs might be a better reflection of what who each of us
wants to be. And then, maybe... work wouldn't have to stay at work.