Teaching English in Japan: Understanding Identity Development Through Teachers’ Stories
For this presentation for Kyoto JALT I will describe the results of my recent study that investigated the personal and professional identity development of English teachers in Japan who have chosen to reside here as permanent migrants. Most teachers come to Japan because of a desire for a temporary overseas adventure, but some decide to make Japan their permanent home and English language teaching their career. In particular, my research focused on foreign women who are married to Japanese men. These women must deal with the racially motivated employment constraints that affect all foreign EFL teachers in Japan, but unlike their male counterparts, they must also navigate gendered waters that primarily view women as wives and mothers. The participants of my larger study are women ranging in age from 25 to 64, and they have lived, worked, and taught in various contexts. I will introduce the twists and turns my participants experienced as they navigated their personal and professional lives as English language teachers in Japan. Using Gee’s (2000) theoretical lens, I will describe their resistance in accepting gendered and racial identity characteristics ascribed by others, and how they have resourcefully turned them into achieved identity characteristics of their own making. Attendees will hopefully become more aware that teachers’ personal and professional identity development is the result of interaction with numerous people, only students, colleagues, and school administrators, but also with families and members of the local community as well.
Diane Nagatomo has been living and teaching in Japan since 1979. She is an associate professor at Ochanomizu University and her research interests include teacher and learner beliefs, teachers’ professional identity. She has written many EFL textbooks for the Japanese market and her first book, Exploring Japanese English Teachers’ Professional Identity, was published in 2012 by Multilingual Matters. Her second book, Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan, was published by Multilingual Matters in April 2016.