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Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
Do efl teachers have careers
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Do efl teachers have careers

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How do EFL teachers view their careers?

How do EFL teachers view their careers?

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  1. Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Do EFL Teachers Have Careers? Author(s): Bill Johnston Reviewed work(s): Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Winter, 1997), pp. 681-712 Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3587756 . Accessed: 17/09/2012 05:18 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. . Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to TESOL Quarterly. http://www.jstor.org
  2. Do EFL TeachersHave Careers? BILL JOHNSTON UniversityofMinnesota The terms careerand professionare increasinglycommon in discussions of EFL/ESL teaching. Yet little is known about the working lives of teachers in this field. It is time to gather empirical data on teachers' livesin variouscontexts and to examine whether in fact these livescan best be conceptualized in terms of careersand profession or whether other theoretical approachesmight be more fruitful. The present article describes a studybased upon life historyinter- viewswith 17 EFLteachersin Poland. In light of a range of substantive and theoretical problemswith applyingexisting teacher careermodels to an EFLcontext, the studyemployed an innovativeanalysisbased on the theory of language of MikhailBakhtin.Bakhtindescribeslanguage as heteroglossic,or comprisingmultiple, competing discoursesthatare in ongoing, dynamicdialogue with one another.In the present study,the interviewtranscriptsare treated as discourse, and the central question is: What discourses do teachers draw on in discursivelyconstructing their lives? The analysisrevealsthatin teachers'discursivepresentationsof their lives,teachers'life-storynarrativesdo not appearto be present. Rather, teachers'storiesreflect dynamicand nonunitaryidentities thatinteract discursivelyin complex wayswith a range of other discoursesfrom the social, economic, and political context. The implications of this situa- tion for the field of EFL/ESLare considered. t has become common to speak of careers in EFL and ESL teaching and to encounter references to EFL/ESL as a profession. A recent informational brochure from TESOL, Inc. (1996), for example, de- scribes TESOL as a "professional association" and the field as a "profes- sion": "The teaching [of] English to speakers of other languages is a professional activity that requires specialized training" (n.p.). Other EFL/ESL organizations employ similar rhetoric, and advertisements in teachers' journals offer assistance in building a career in TESOL. The use of these terms-career and profession-thus far seems to have gone unchallenged. TESOLQUARTERLYVol.31, No.4, Winter1997 681
  3. The reality of teaching EFL/ESL,1 however, should at the very least give pause for thought. Teachers in many national contexts-some would say in most-tend to be underpaid and overworked, often operating in difficult physical and psychological conditions. The occupa- tion of EFL/ESL teaching as a whole lacks the status of the established professions such as medicine and law. Many teachers work without job security or benefits. In light of this situation, and given TESOL's claim to be an "interna- tional education association" (TESOL, 1996, n.p.), it seems important to examine more closely the notions of career and profession in ESL/EFL teaching. In fact, little is known about the lives of teachers who work in this field. It is time to gather empirical data about the working lives of actual teachers and to make these lives the focus of research. Can EFL/ ESL teachers be said to have careers? Do they regard themselves as professionals? Is ESL/EFL teaching a profession? Do teachers have a life story to tell? If not, how do they present their lives and their occupation? And finally, an important theoretical and methodological question: In what way or ways might these issues best be questioned? THE LIVES OF TEACHERS Teachers' Lives in Mainstream Education In mainstream education, the working lives of teachers have been the subject of a number of research projects over the past 15 years or so. There have been at least three major studies. Fessler and Christensen (1992) looked at 160 K-12 teachers in the U.S.; Huberman (1994) interviewed 160 secondary school teachers in Geneva and Vaud canton, Switzerland; and Sikes, Measor, and Woods (1985) examined the lives of 40 secondary school teachers of science and art in England. In each case, data consisted of multiple extended, semistructured interviews with the teachers. Each study offers a generic model of teachers' lives or careers based on a composite analysis of the data. For example, Fessler and Christensen (1992) devised the Teacher Career Cycle Model, in which a central Career Cycle circle is influenced by two sets of elements: Personal Environment and Organizational 1For the purposes of this discussion, I am lumping together EFL and ESL teaching. I acknowledge the fact that there are crucial differences between these two broad categories and that the categorization itself is problematic (Nayar, 1997). Nevertheless, I believe that questions of teacher life stories are equally relevant to EFL and ESL contexts, however different those contexts, and hence those life stories, may be. TESOL QUARTERLY682
  4. Environment. The Career Cycle itself comprises eight stages, though they are not necessarily conceived linearly: Preservice, Induction, Com- petency Building, Enthusiastic and Growing, Career Frustration, Career Stability, Career Wind-Down, and Career Exit. All these studies offer valuable insights and advance the field's knowledge of teachers' professional lives. However, they also evidence a number of significant methodological and theoretical problems that subsequent research has attempted to address. First, as Huberman (1994) himself points out, a trade-off is involved in developing a generalized model on the basis of large numbers of individual interviews: The resulting model may reflect general patterns in the data but not be an accurate portrayal of any one teacher's life. If, as Donmoyer (1990) suggests, the very point of educational research is to help provide specific solutions to particular problems, such a level of generalization will be unhelpful and even misleading. Thus, Tripp (1994), for instance, questions the generalizing purpose of such studies and suggests using teachers' life histories as tools for the professional development of the individual teachers concerned. Second, all the researchers mentioned above have assumed a transpar- ent and unproblematic relationship between "the word and the world" (Burman & Parker, 1993, p. 5), that is, between what they heard in the interviews and what the truth is. The language used by the interviewees was by and large taken as a direct account of what is. An alternative approach, grounded in postmodern theory, is to argue that language is in fact constitutive of reality and that it is through language that individuals constantly (re)create their world. Weiler (1992) and MacLure (1993) see teachers' life stories as discursively constructed, a notion utilized in the present study. To say that a life history is discursively constructed is to say that, rather than simply describing a preexisting reality-the life story-each telling of a life is created for the specific occasion of that telling, partly using "available forms of discourse" (Weiler, p. 41) but also in ways that are sensitive to the context and to the various interests at stake. As MacLure puts it, "Whatgets remembered in any given situation is an occasioned matter ... harnessed to the textual conventions for constructing stories" (p. 377). The third, related assumption is the very existence of stable and unitary concepts like career,profession,and further identity,ambitions,and so on. Again, recent work in postmodern frameworks has challenged this idea and has questioned the overall coherence of such notions. Peirce (1995), for instance, argues that identity is better conceived as being "multiple, a site of struggle, and changing over time" (p. 14), whereas Young and Tardif (1992) offer an alternative approach to life history research by focusing on the question of voicein the life history interview. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 683
  5. Teachers' Lives in EFL/ESL When one begins to look at the lives of teachers in EFL/ESL, these theoretical and methodological issues are compounded by important substantive problems. In the past decade, research in EFL/ESL has moved away from an almost exclusive concern with the learner and has come to focus on teachers and aspects of their work. Research in teacher education and teacher development has grown (e.g., Freeman &Richards, 1996; Richards & Nunan, 1990). Much of this work has focused on issues such as teachers' thinking or development over relatively short periods of time. Nevertheless, there are the beginnings of interest in larger scale, long-term matters of professional development. Bailey (1992) considers the conditions necessary for teacher development; Pennington (1995) presents a conceptual framework aimed at modeling teacher change; Freeman (1992) conceives of teachers' learning in terms of discourses drawn on by teachers in talking about their teaching; Pennington looks at teachers' work satisfaction in ESL (1991) and the status of ESL teachers (1992); and Edge (1996) explores the ethical component of the occupation of teaching. Finally, research specifically concerned with the professional lives of teachers has begun to appear. At least two studies have examined EFL/ ESL teachers' careers on the basis of empirical data. The Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) sponsored a study (1989) that analyzed two-page questionnaires elicited from 160 British CfBT teachers, about one half of whom were working in Brunei and the rest in various other locations. Other than informational questions about present and past teaching positions, the following questions were asked: * Why did you decide to work in TEFL/TESL? * What do you plan as the next step in your career? * What are your longer term career plans? * If you have left TEFL/TESL, or think you are likely to do so, what are the main reasons? The picture that emerges from the analysis of responses is not comforting: "It is hard not to be a little surprised at the vagueness of many teachers' plans and aspirations. A few frankly admit to having none at all" (CfBT, 1989, p. 25). A heavy attrition rate is implied: "Bythe age of 45, a very small proportion [of EFL teachers] are left in full-time EFL employment" (p. 29). The study suggests that a major reason for this is the lack of an institutionalized career structure: "For most teachers who have done their five or ten years at the coalface and have hopefully TESOL QUARTERLY684
  6. collected their qualifications, there is probably nowhere to go but sideways" (p. 17). McKnight (1992) examined 116 questionnaire responses from gradu- ates of a postgraduate diploma in TESOL from Victoria College, Melbourne, Australia. His findings for Australian ESL echo those of the CfBT study. He states that his study supports common assertions that "TESOL has no proper career structure and that ESL teachers suffer from low morale and low status, lack opportunities for study leave, have high rates of attrition from the field, frequently lack a power base within their institution, and may be treated as an underclass by colleagues and superiors" (p. 30). Such empirical findings are echoed elsewhere in the literature, for example in Maley's (1992) description of EFL/ESL teaching as permeable, meaning that it is an easy occupation to enter and to leave; and in Clayton's (1989) condemnation of "unreal" (p. 56) teachers in EFL (young, unqualified native speakers looking to spend a couple of years in English teaching to make money, gain overseas working experience, and so on). These findings add problems of a substantive nature to the theoretical and methodological problems with teacher career research outlined above. If EFL/ESL teaching is so easy to slip into and out of, if the field evidences such a high rate of attrition and so few older teachers, and if there is "nowhere to go but sideways," then it seems a pointless and indeed impossible task to try to shoehorn the working lives of large numbers of teachers into a model such as the Teacher Career Cycle, which is after all designed to describe a lifelong career (all three major models draw explicitly on the "age-and-stage" life history literature, e.g., Erikson, 1959; Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, & Chiriboga, 1978). Indeed, it can be argued that the assumption of coherence and of a straightforward conceptual base, as mentioned above, is related to the fact that the major studies have all been conducted in mainstream education and in relatively stable sociopolitical and economic contexts. In EFL/ESL teaching, which takes place in a broad range of national contexts, many of which are far from stable, such assumptions are misleading and in research terms may be counterproductive. Such substantive issues in turn create a theoretical problem of how to provide a conceptual framework that generates interesting insights about teachers' lives without the restrictions of inappropriate models- in other words, how to theorize the lives of EFL/ESL teachers in useful and appropriate ways. The following section describes an attempt to address this problem. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 685
  7. THEORIZING TEACHERS' LIVES: A BAKHTINIAN FRAMEWORK In this study, the interviews with teachers were analysed using a theoretical framework derived from the theory of language of Bakhtin (1981, 1986). Although Bakhtin's own research concentrated on litera- ture, and although his work has been used in innovative analyses in fields such as philosophy of science, anthropology, sociology, and more re- cently education (e.g., Freedman, 1995; Hall, 1995), his entire approach is grounded in a detailed theory of language and discourse and as such seems to offer fascinating possibilities for the analysis of data such as interview transcripts. The Bakhtinian concepts that are of special relevance to the analysis of life history interviews are those of heteroglossia,multipleand competing discourses,and dialogism.Bakhtin rejects the notion of a unitary language and instead proposes that language is heteroglossic, or multivoiced: composed of multiple discourses that belong to particular social groups, professional groups, genres, and so on. This much is familiar from the concepts of dialect,register(Cruse, 1986), genre(Swales, 1990), and so on. However, Bakhtin's novel contribution is to point out how these different discourses coexist and, further, are in constant competition within the speech of individuals. They are in dialogue with each other; this dialogue is never resolved but constitutes an endless dynamic. At any given moment of its historicalexistence, language is heteroglot from top to bottom: it represents the co-existence of social-ideologicalcontradic- tions between the present and the past, between different socio-ideological groups in the present, between tendencies, schools, circles and so forth, all given a bodily form. These "languages"of heteroglossia intersect each other in a varietyof ways,forming new socially typifying"languages."(Bakhtin, 1981, p. 291) (I have preferred the term discoursesto the use of languages in the preceding, which is of course a translation from Bakhtin's Russian.) Bakhtin sees language as something that is fundamentally in use (in this, he has been seen by Todorov, 1984, and others as the founder of pragmatics). But in Bakhtin's view, the meanings of words and phrases are determined by their previous use in specific circumstances, so all language is colored and marked by the situations in which it has already appeared. As Bakhtin (1981) puts it, There areno "neutral"wordsand forms-words and formsthatcan belong to "no one"; language has been completely taken over, shot through with intentions and accents.... Language,for the individualconsciousness,lies on TESOL QUARTERLY686
  8. the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else's. (p. 293) The discourses that enter into dialogue are, moreover, fundamentally ideological in nature: They are competing "verbal-ideological belief systems" (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 311), whereas language as a whole is in its very essence "ideologically saturated" (p. 271). Bakhtin's conception of multiple, opposing, ideological discourses is echoed in modern work on what are varyingly called discursivepractices (Candlin & Maley, 1995; Walkerdine, 1988), interpretativerepertoires(Pot- ter & Wetherell, 1987), or practicalideologies(Burman & Parker, 1993). It is also very similar to Foucault's (1972) notion of discursiveformationsand Gee's (1991) concept of Discourses"with a big 'D"' (p. 142). A Bakhtinian discourse analysis addresses many of the above-men- tioned theoretical and substantive problems of looking at teachers' lives in EFL/ESL. It is grounded resolutely in language itself and thus does not make assumptions about the world-word relationship, which in this case means that, rather than taking some normative, supposedly objec- tive notion of career as a reference point, it views the professional life story as being above all discursively constructed (MacLure, 1993). Second, it provides a way of conceptualizing this discursive construction as taking place amid competing discourses (Weiler, 1992) and thus allowing for the possibility of contradictions without a general descent into incoherence: Such contradictions can be read as indicating the presence of opposing discourses in the teachers' talk. Third, it recog- nizes the ideological, value-laden nature of discourses and acknowledges the need to understand social context in exploring the nature of the particular competing discourses in a given situation. Overall, this framework makes it possible to avoid imposing normative notions of career and instead to achieve a richer account of the data that countenances tension and conflict and allows one to say something interesting about them rather than trying to reduce them to a unitary yet misleading coherence. It leads one to treat the title of this article as playful in nature: Whether teachers have careers cannot be established; only how they talk about their life stories can be. THE STUDY The present article reports on a study (Johnston, 1995) that sought to gather and analyze empirical data on teachers' lives in a single context: that of post-1989 Poland. My aim has been to offer as full a picture as possible of this context and of the life stories that are told in it, and, in the tradition of qualitative research, to aim for transferability(Lincoln & DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 687
  9. Guba, 1985): to allow these stories to resonate with other contexts with which readers may be familiar and to leave largely to them the task of determining to what extent, if any, my findings may also apply elsewhere. Given the stress placed on the vital role of contextual features and on the diverse nature of EFL/ESL teaching, this goal seems preferable to that of generalizability, which in any case is highly problematic with a small sample in a single setting. The Context The interviews for this study were conducted in the autumn of 1994, 5 years after the fall of communism in Poland. Given the emphasis I have placed on the need to consider context in understanding teachers' lives, it is important to outline the complex and dynamic situation of Poland and Polish EFL in the years since 1989. To begin with, I should say a few words about why Polish EFL is of interest to me. There are two reasons. First, I worked in Poland for several years and acquired an extensive knowledge of Polish and of many aspects of the culture, especially education. I believed that in a study of the lives of teachers in which knowledge of context was vital, my own status as informed outsider would give me a head start in understanding emic contextual features as well as provide an easier point of entry into the world of Polish EFL in terms of making contacts and gathering information. Another, less personal reason, however, is the fact that among the countries of the former Soviet bloc Poland has led the way both in its general socioeconomic development and specifically in the expansion of EFL. Thus, though as mentioned above the issue of generalizability is an open one, whatever can be said about teachers in Polish EFL does seem to have considerable potential relevance for the situation of teachers in many other countries of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Poland of today looks hardly anything like the Poland of 10 years ago. Virtually every aspect of the society has changed, from the economy and the political system to the lifestyles of families and individuals. Although economists regard the economic changes as broadly successful (Slay, 1994), change at the societal level has led to more lasting social tensions and difficulties (Coenen-Huther & Synak, 1993). Before 1989, there was only a limited amount of activity in English teaching in Poland (Fisiak, 1994). As in other countries in the Soviet bloc, the primary foreign language was Russian. Teaching was hampered by restricted access to materials and technology (e.g., copiers, comput- ers) and by the difficulty of contact with Western countries. This situation changed radically with the end of communism in 1989. TESOL QUARTERLY688
  10. Western books and other publications can now be obtained without any problem, and there are bookstores specializing in EFL materials. Anyone can own and use a copier, a computer, or a fax machine. In addition, many Poles have satellite TV that carries English-language stations. Travel restrictions have been lifted. And above all, the sheer amount of English teaching has increased exponentially. At the same time, perhaps the most profound changes have occurred in the economy. Restrictions on trading and on imports and exports were virtually abolished; the result was an explosion of economic activity of immense variety. In EFL, this resulted in the burgeoning of private language schools throughout the country. While the private economy was booming, the public economy had inherited grotesque debts from the previous communist regime. Al- though some of this debt was canceled by Western creditors, the Polish public sector economy is still in deep water. As a result, public funding for fields such as education is hard to come by. Despite these difficulties, there have been important changes in the education system (Kuzma, 1994). One major reform has been the creation of 70 language teacher training colleges, which were intended among other things to provide up to 25,000 new teachers of English for the public schools, in line with plans to make foreign language instruc- tion available to all Polish children (Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowej, 1991, 1992). Data Collection Data for this study come from extended life history interviews with 17 EFL teachers in the Polish city of N., an important cultural and historical center. The interviews were conducted in the autumn of 1994. The decision to restrict the study to teachers in a single city was partly practical and partly theoretically motivated. While reducing claims to generalizability even within a single national context, it offers more opportunities to compare data across informants and to gain a fuller picture of the teaching context in what is admittedly not an ethno- graphic study. The relatively small number of informants was intentional. The aim was to collect richer data and have the opportunity to perform more sensitive analyses on it than in the case of studies with greater numbers of informants. This study is intended to provide in-depth data from a few cases in order to supplement survey research such as the two studies mentioned above and Tann's (1994) tracer study of language teacher training college graduates in Poland. It seemed particularly important to allow the voices of the teachers themselves to be heard and to explore in DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 689
  11. some detail their own perceptions of their working lives, something that is difficult to do in survey-based research. Within these restrictions, I decided to elicit interviews with as wide a range of teachers as possible. In accordance with the principle of maximum variation sampling (Patton, 1990), the 17 teachers selected represented a cross-section of the English teaching community of the city. Particular attention was given to certain salient variables: male versus female teachers, Polish versus expatriate teachers,2 age, employment in private versus public education, and length of teaching experience. The final set of 17 also roughly reflected the relative numbers of teachers in the city (and in Polish EFL generally): There were more women than men (11 versus 6), more Poles (8 females, 4 males) than native speakers of English (3 females, 2 males), and more younger teachers than older ones (10 teachers were in their 20s, 4 in their 30s, 1 in her 40s, and 2 in their 50s). Interviews were conducted according to the standard methods of qualitative interviewing (Kvale, 1996; Rubin & Rubin, 1995; Spradley, 1979). Each informant was interviewed once; interviews lasted 1-2 hours. The interviews were semistructured: They centered on an interview schedule (see Appendix A) containing core and peripheral questions based on the teacher career literature and on what is known about the situation of Polish EFL before and after 1989, but even core questions were not asked in any set order, and informants were free to introduce and explore any relevant topics. All Polish-speaking informants were given the choice of being inter- viewed in Polish or in English. Seven of the 12 elected to conduct the interview in Polish. Finally, to ensure confidentiality, each informant chose for her- or himself a first-name pseudonym to be used in the study. To the same end, the names of institutions and some minor details have been altered, and the city in question has not been identified. Several of the informants revealed certain information only on condition of anonymity. Data Analysis All the interviews were tape-recorded. They were subsequently tran- scribed in full, and the transcripts were returned to the informants for comments. The transcripts were then subjected to analysis. 2The relevance and validity of the distinction between native- and nonnative-speaking teachers has been questioned by many (e.g. Rampton, 1990), though others have found it useful (Medgyes, 1992). My own sympathies lie with the questioners. However, in terms of the working lives of EFL teachers, there would seem to be an important difference between those who are of Polish nationality and those whose principal country of residence is elsewhere. TESOL QUARTERLY690
  12. In a Bakhtinian analysis, the transcripts are treated as discourse. Instead of beginning with a normative notion of career, the central question is: What discourses do EFL teachers draw on in talking about their working lives? The focus is not on whether teachers' lives fit into generalized models but on how teachers themselves discursively con- struct and present these lives. Furthermore, a Bakhtinian approach suggests a careful, respectful reading of the transcripts akin to a literary analysis. Rather than relatively mechanical, quasi-quantitative methods such as content analysis, a more context-sensitive, holistic reading is required to identify competing discourses. Bearing in mind the fact that in such an analysis important questions might emerge in the course of the analysis itself, I asked the following preliminary questions of the data: 1. What discourses (professional, social, political, personal) do the teachers draw on in talking about their lives and work? 2. How do the teachers tell the story of their lives? Do they draw on a discourse of career? Is there a teacher life story (or more than one) that they seem to draw on? How else do they discursively organize their lives? DISCUSSION: TEACHERSTALKABOUT THEIR LIVES In considering the bare facts of the lives of the teachers in this study, I can make a few broad generalizations. Firstly, almost all the teachers had some form of training in language teaching methodology. Nearly all the Polish teachers had a university degree or teacher training college diploma in English, and even the least qualified native speakers had the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)/Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults (CTEFLA). Secondly, nearly all the teachers held down two jobs or even more, along with other work such as private lessons. Incidentally, many of the teachers worked for considerable hours in both the private and the public sector. Thus, the private/public distinction mentioned in the context of informant selection turned out not to be a relevant issue. Beyond these basic facts, however, other patterns emerged. The major findings of the study can be summarized as follows. 1. The teachers told their life stories within a complex discursive context in which many occupational, socioeconomic, and cultural discourses competed for dominance. 2. Teachers presented their entry into teaching as accidental or as a second choice and did not draw on notions of vocation. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 691
  13. 3. A lack of agency is also evident in the way movement from one job to another was portrayed; such moves may be shown to represent skillful adaptation to changing circumstances rather than progres- sion along a career path. 4. Leaving teaching was a possibility that was constantly present in the teachers' accounts. 5. Teachers often drew on alternative identities; nonnative speakers of English preferred the identity of expert speaker of English to that of teacher. 6. A discourse of professionalism was absent from the teachers' discur- sive construction of their working lives; altruism was in some cases ironized whereas commitment was seen only in day-to-day terms. The rest of this section provides evidence for each of these findings and discusses their significance in the Polish context. The Discursive Context Polish EFL teachers, like most other people in Poland, lead busy lives. Nearly all of those I interviewed held multiple jobs, not all connected with teaching. Low wages combined with a cost of living approaching that of a Western country means that teachers need to make more money than most single positions will give them. A typical example is Rafal,3 a graduate of the English department at the university in N., who was working at a prestigious high school. Along with his four classes in the high school, which were scheduled in the mornings, in the afternoons he taught at a private language school for which he also occasionally did translation work. Finally, 2 days a week in the early evening Rafal attended a postgraduate program in business studies at the university. Rafal himself described his time as "prettymuch filled up every day." Rafal's routine reflects some of the complexity of life in post-1989 Poland. Other teachers sometimes have three jobs; many give one-on- one private lessons, and some earn money outside of teaching, for example, by selling real estate or life insurance. In any case, in order to make enough money to get by, teachers can generally not restrict themselves to a single teaching position; and at the same time, like Rafal with his business studies program, they must keep an eye on the future and to act on a number of different fronts at once. 3Brief notes about each of the teachers mentioned in this paper can be found in Appen- dix B. TESOL QUARTERLY692
  14. The complexity of teachers' lifestyles finds its discursive analogue in the complexity of the discursive context in which Rafat and the other teachers in the study lead their lives. These lives are lived at the meeting point of multiple discourses, each with its own set of ideological values, and each in competition with others. Two examples will have to suffice. Firstly,there is a discursive opposition between the need to do a good job at teaching and the need to make money. Many of the teachers in the study described how the need to make money led them to take on extra work, often resulting in a long working day in which they may have had insufficient time for proper lesson preparation (see Joanna's statement below for a frank admission of this fact). The socioeconomic discourses of the broader society in this way impinged upon the educational context, showing that it is impossible to conceptualize teachers' lives and work without an understanding of the sociopolitical context in which they are lived. Secondly, in general language teachers can be said to work at the meeting point of at least two cultures and hence of what might be called macrodiscourses-in this case, Polish and Anglophone (in the Polish context this predominantly means British). In the situation of Polish EFL, this meeting point represents the encounter of a set of discourses (of education and, in particular, of language learning) rooted strongly in local realities and a range of often colonizing, predatory discourses of export-variety EFL (Pennycook, 1994; Phillipson, 1992), including those of communicative language teaching and British- or U.S.-based testing practices. The individual teacher constitutes the locus at which these discourses "fight it out" (Bakhtin, 1981, p. 360). An example of this clash is seen in attitudes toward the Cambridge exams. These exams, a suite of "communicatively based" tests developed and administered by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate in England, have become very popular in Poland; enrolment in the exams has increased several hundred percent since 1989, and many language programs concentrate on preparing students for the various levels. Jan, a British teacher of Polish origins who had worked in N. for several years, resisted the imperialistic implications of the Cam- bridge exams. Speaking of the latest revision of the exam format, which brings with it new sets of published exam preparation materials, he said,4 1. It's like a wonderful bacteriathat you can't destroy,a wonderful virus. You think you've discoveredthe antibodythat will get rid of it, so they 4Transcription conventions are as follows: [???] Inaudible material [...] Omitted material (tr) Interview originally conducted in Polish; passage has been translated Other interpolations are self-explanatory. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 693
  15. change, theychange it. It'slikeAIDS,it'sjustlike that;and it'scorrupted the whole of EFLin Poland. Cambridge,Cambridge.We'reall,we're all Cambridge-positive.And it's terminal. At the same time, though, in another context, Jan held these exams up as a model of achievement, with the assumption that getting one's students to pass the exams is an objective indication of teaching ability. In offering evidence for the high level of expertise of one of his colleagues, he said, 2. This teacher's results also have been incredible; a pass rate [in the exams] thatis, is almostperfect, I mean nearlya 100%passrateoverthe last 20 years. This aporia (Derrida, 1993), that is, apparent contradiction or incon- sistency, represents the presence of two competing discourses in Jan's speech: one rooted in the British macrodiscourse and the other in its Polish opposition. One discourse values the exams as objective measures; the other regards them as harmful to the practice of language teaching. Jan's talk constitutes the locus at which these ideologically opposed positions come into contact. Thus, rather than indicating overall discursive incoherence, the presence of competing discourses is an integral feature of the complex discursive context in which the teachers try to make sense of their lives. These discourses constitute the environment in which teachers set about telling their stories and, to a large extent, also the material from which the stories may be fashioned. Entry Into Teaching It is noteworthy that, in describing their entry into the occupation of teaching, none of the teachers spoke in terms of a vocation or claimed that it was their first choice of occupation. For some, like Szczesna, Jan, or Sarah (see below), it represented in fact a second career. For others, like Ewa, it arose naturally out of an interest in, and study of, English. Ewa studied English at the university but did not think about teaching till her final year, when a friend of hers suggested the idea to her. 3. And he said he, he'd got himself ajob at the Language Center,and he enjoyed it, and we were contemporariesat some point at the university, but then I think I think I draggeda little bit [laughs], and I graduated1 yearlater;so he'd alreadybeen teachingwhen, when I graduated.So he told me about thejob and uh, I knewDS [the Directorof the Language Center], who was our teacher at the university,he, he taught practical TESOL QUARTERLY694
  16. English in the 5th year I think; and Ijust approached him and said I thought it was a good job, do you think I could try; and he said I definitely could. So it was very easy; and um, some people wouldn't believe me that it wasso easy,it definitelywas,getting it. A little bit of good luck, a little bit of, I don't knowwhat;itjust happened. Ewa's account is interesting because it discursively presents her entry into teaching as depending partly on chance ("alittle bit of good luck"). The rest of the story belies this apparent lack of agency-after all, it was Ewa who approached her teacher to ask about work-but this presenta- tion remains. Ewa's appeal to luck is a discursive strategy: a use of rhetorical features of discourse that allows her to present the story in a particular light. To a greater or lesser extent, every teacher in the study talked about entering teaching in comparable terms. Szczecsna, for example, had a budding academic career as a biologist interrupted by serious illness. During her convalescence, she took up the study of English. Then one evening, walking her dog, she bumped into an acquaintance who suggested she teach English at his child's school, where there was currently a vacancy. Thus began her involvement in English teaching. No teacher made any discursive appeal to a "calling." Rather, entry into teaching was portrayed as a response to external circumstances; in this sense, the relative absence of agency noted above with regard to Ewa was found in every case. Movement Within Teaching A similar lack of agency can also be detected in many accounts of how, once in teaching, teachers moved from one job to another. Perhaps the most striking example of this comes from Sarah, an expatriate teacher who at the time of the study was in her 4th year of teaching in Poland. Sarah completed her RSA Certificate abroad and returned to England to look for work with the international chain of private schools with which she was affiliated. 4. By the time I returned to England it was quite late in the year, the academicyear,it wasAugust,I think,so when I looked at the vacancylist there wasn'tan awfullot to choose from [laughs],which is, I hate to say, probablythe reasonI came here. There wasRumania,Poland,Hungary; I, I don't reallyknow why I chose Poland at all; I mean, Ijust sort of thought, oh, that might be interesting; it was a bit sort of like eeny meeny minymoe, which one shallI choose. Um, and I did wantto work in Europe. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 695
  17. In this passage Sarah discursively portrays what might be considered an important life decision as virtually a whim ("eeny meeny miny moe"). Again, as with Ewa, some real sense of agency and motivation is also present ("I did want to work in Europe"), but it must coexist with a discursive version of the story in which agency is minimized. At first sight, then, the telling of these lives seems to lack a sense of a teacher life story, or of a career in the sense of a progression over which the individual had some control. Yet both Ewa and Sarah have remained in teaching for several years. It seems that whereas whim or chance might account for the decision to begin a particular job, it is hardly sufficient motivation to remain in it for long. It is likely that there is some other way in which teachers can appeal to notions of causality and continuity (Linde, 1993) in telling their life stories. One possibility arises in Danka's story of how she came to set up the private school she now runs. Previously, Danka had taught at the university Language Center (where she worked with Ewa). Yet at one point in the late 1980s she found herself facing something of a crisis. 5. Interviewer: Tell me about how you came to set this school up. Danka: Well [laughs]; it was 5 years ago; a little bit more than that;it wasright before the holidays;and I used to do a lot of translationsfor friends who workedwith the Civic Theaterin N.; and one dayI rememberJanusz[a theater manager] took me for a drink, and he said, Danka,we won't survive;we have to do something about our lives; and he saidartisnot reallythe areanow that,thatI mean you can afford to get involved in unless you are a very rich man; so he said why don't we open language courses?And I said no, no, no, I mean I workwith the university,I don't wantto get involvedin anythingelse;at that time I had private lessons, and that was my extra source of income. ButfinallyI agreed to teachwiththose coursesfor 6 weeks,before the holiday;and thisis how it all started. Here, like Ewa above, Danka presents a major decision profoundly affecting her working life as having its origins in forces beyond her control. Yet several years later she was still in this position and by her own account enjoyed her work, and her school was considered to be one of the best in the city. Thus, her discursive construction of this event in her life perhaps should be read not as evidence of a lack of agency but as a discursive strategy of a different kind. A typical Western career path, mapped out by the teacher herself, is not present; yet the story still recounts a successful way of dealing with emergent contextual factors. TESOL QUARTERLY696
  18. That this is a success story is confirmed by the immediate continuation of the extract cited above. 6. I mean all of a sudden I realized that it is possible to organize a place where you teach the waythat you reallybelieve you should teach, that you have a chance to use all the methods, techniques that you have learned before;thatit is possible to organizeteaching in such a waythat you havethe equipment thatyou need, the books, thatyou don't haveto strive for everything, to look for classrooms, that everything can be ready,waiting for teachers, that the atmosphere may be pleasant, and finallythat I mean you're paid decently. Danka's story, then, may represent an alternative approach to the discursive construction of the life story, one in which interaction with dynamically changing circumstances is prized over movement through a preestablished set of positions. In the context of postcommunist Poland, this approach seems as appropriate as any. Should I Stay or Should I Go? The absence of a binding teacher life story makes occupational flexibility easier in a situation like that of post-1989 Poland. Yet it also means that teachers are freer discursively to talk about leaving the field. Many of the teachers in the study talked about the idea of dropping out. Here I focus on two interesting cases: Bernadette and Rafal. Bernadette Bernadette, a British teacher, was the most "successful" of the native speakers in this study: She had an MA in applied linguistics and held a prestigious and responsible post with the British Council. She men- tioned the idea of studying for a PhD. Yet in speaking of her future plans, Bernadette also said the following. 7. Interviewer: What, what other thoughts have you had [???]if you don't do the doctorate? Bernadette: If don't do a doctorate? Well, I think it's; [laughs] this isn'tbeing flippant.It's,if I'vegot enough money to stop, I'll stop [laughs]. I'll go to artschool; or I'll;mymother has an art gallery; I'll go and work with her for a while; or I'll, I'll do something else. I, I want a break;this is very intense, sort of, this work. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 697
  19. Although it is perhaps not so surprising when a young teacher talks of leaving teaching, it is striking that one hears the same thing from someone who appears on the surface to be devoted long term to this occupation. The way Bernadette talks about her plans demonstrates an important fact about the discursive construction of life stories in EFL. The very fact that she can say "I'll stop" shows that she is drawing on a discourse in which such things can be said. In her interview and elsewhere in the study, EFL is discursively presented as an occupation that it is easy both to enter and to leave. It is indeed, in Maley's (1992) term, permeable.Although such permeability may have its advantages (Maley, for example, suggests that it renders the field more receptive to new blood and "brilliant 'naturals"' [p. 98]), it, like the discursive strategies mentioned above, militates against the possibility of a strong discourse of the teacher life story. As stated above, Bernadette was not the only teacher who talked of quitting. This is not exactly surprising, given that EFL/ESL is said to have high attrition rates (CfBT, 1989; McKnight, 1992). In the Polish context, estimates are that only between 60% (Drury, 1994) and 35% (Tann, 1994) of graduates of the new teacher training colleges go into public sector teaching even in the 1st year after graduation. Given that subsequent further attrition is more than likely and that one reason the colleges were set up in the first place was that hardly any graduates of university English departments were entering teaching, these figures would seem to be a matter for some concern. Rafat In this context, it is informative to look at the reasons Rafal gives for wanting to leave the field. Though it is not possible to establish objectively how likely teachers are to leave teaching, Rafal seemed fairly firmly committed to entering the field of business. He was already in the second year of his business studies diploma, and in the interview he went into his future plans in some detail. His explanation of his decision to quit teaching included the following statement. 8. Interviewer: So you're going to drop out of teaching? Rafal: I think so, because generally speaking the English lan- guage teaching market,the language teaching market,is predominantly female, because it's something women can afford to do who have let's sayhusbandswho make good money and who don't have to support themselves from what they earn. And personally I don't see any chance of leading anykindof normallife if I'm supposed TESOL QUARTERLY698
  20. to be a good teacher who devotes most of his time to teaching. Itjust isn't physicallypossible. (tr) For Rafal, then, the economic discourses of present-day Poland were too powerful and dominated the occupational discourses of English teaching. For him, as for other teachers in the study (many of whom, I learned on a recent return visit to N., have in fact since dropped out of teaching), the exigencies of the context were too great to allow him to continue to work as a teacher. That leaving teaching was Rafat's discur- sive presentation of his situation rather than an objective necessity is shown by the fact that other teachers, including men with families to support, do stay in teaching. Thus, Rafal's portrayal constitutes a discursive strategy-an interested presentation of his present and future life through language-rather than necessarily being a reflection of what is. Incidentally, though gender issues are not a focus of this article, it is hard not to respond to Rafal's claim that only women could afford to be teachers, for example, by suggesting that the logic he used might be turned on its head: The low levels of pay in teaching may be due precisely to the fact that teachers are predominantly women. This important matter deserves separate consideration elsewhere. The cases of Rafal and Bernadette reveal that the unavailability of a strong teacher life story, while giving teachers more room for maneuver, also makes it harder to justify discursively the choice to stay in this occupation. Alternative Identities Insofar as the teachers in this study had in most cases invested considerable time and resources in their education and training (in Poland a basic university program, for example, lasts 5 years, whereas a college diploma takes 3), it seems in some ways odd that they should have been so willing to abandon teaching and move into some other occupation. Yet, as was seen in the previous section, several of the teachers were consideringjust this; indeed, some, like Rafal, had already taken the first steps. From the point of view of a coherent life story as a teacher, such moves seem not to make sense. Yet as has already been seen, in the context of post-1989 Poland they seem much more understandable. In a context where teaching is poorly paid, it is entirely reasonable to be flexible and to consider utilizing the skills one has to enter a better-paid occupation. What, then, of causality and continuity, the discursive elements in what Linde (1993) calls the coherenceprinciplein telling the life story? If DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 699
  21. Polish EFL teachers do not draw on a teacher life story, what do they use to give their life stories at least partial coherence? An answer to this question may be discerned in the following passage. Wojtek, a final-year student of the teacher training college in N. who was already teaching part time both in a public high school and in a private school, talked of his future plans in this way. 9. Sometimes I have a feeling thatit'snot thatwhatI'm going to do, thatI want to have something, [laughs] again more ambitious, whatever,I know that it just, um; well, more ambitious for me; it doesn't mean Englishteaching is not ambitious.But on the other hand it'ssomething thatI'vebeen doing for a fewyearsand I'm, maybeI'm not verygood at it but stillI have some experience, and I can, I can improveit;so, um, if you, ifyou stickto it, in the sense thatyou,wellI can, I don't haveto stick to teaching English,I can translatethings,I can be an interpreter,I can, uh, evenworkin businessusingmyEnglish;um, so, but againit'sjust,it's just continuing something that I've started. To talk of a move into translation or business as "continuing some- thing I've started" suggests strongly that the identity Wojtek had chosen to lend discursive coherence to his potential decisions was not that of teacher but that of expert speaker of English. This identity makes it possible to see teaching, translating, and business as being united by the fact that they require a competent speaker of the language. As with the informants in Linde's (1993) research, it allows the (former) teacher to retain discursive coherence across a change of occupation. Other teachers also drew on this discursive strategy.Joanna, for example, said she had given up earlier plans to enter medicine or computing, but she was thinking about moving into translation; she talked about this by saying that she had "decided to stay in English." As above, such a discursive strategy is advantageous in the uncertain, rapidly changing context of Poland in the 1990s, lending the teacher greater flexibility. Yet it works against the likelihood of teachers remain- ing in their occupation over the long term. Furthermore, it constitutes another facet of the popular belief that native speakers (the ultimate "experts" in procedural terms) make the best teachers and that by definition nonnative-speaking teachers are "deficient users of English" (Medgyes, 1992, p. 345). This strategy has the effect of devaluing other crucial teacher attributes such as specialized knowledge, interpersonal skills, pedagogical skills, or experience; in this way, the teacher's identity as teacher is rendered vulnerable. Another interesting way in which alternative identities subverted or hampered the possibility of a teacher life story was the presence of alternative life stories in the interviews. Several of the teachers, the native speakers in particular, drew on past identities that made it more difficult TESOL QUARTERLY700
  22. for them to construct a coherent life story as a teacher. For example, whenJan was asked at the beginning of the interview to "tell the story of his life," he produced a lengthy narrative about how he had become an art critic and scholar. His original reason for accepting a teachingjob in Poland had been to allow him to stay in the country to conduct research for a graduate degree in art without paying exorbitant exchange rates. The first version of his life story begins and ends as follows. 10. I did my A-levelsin Barrowand decided that I was going to opt for a career in art and design, so I did a foundation course at Barrow Polytechnic.It'sa course that followsthe Bauhausmodel, I don't know whetheryou'refamiliarwiththe foundation coursewhichwasrun at the Bauhausin the 1920s,atWeimarthen afterwardsatDessau;well,the one at BarrowPolytechnicisveryverysimilarto the Bauhausone. Then Iwas offered ajob as artcritic [...] [...] I married one of the participants, and basically burned my bridges;wasunable to leave, mywifewasunable to leave, thiswas 1988, she wasunable to, theyrefused to giveher a passport.I wasn'tprepared to go backmyself,so we stayedan extrayear;bywhichtime itwastoo late to go back [...]. So I lost the grant;so I didn'tgo back,stayedin Poland; and here I am. The interesting thing here is that these final three words-"here I am"-collapse several years of Jan's life as an English teacher. Later on, perhaps as a result of his realizing that what I, the interviewer, was after was a teacher life story,Jan made an attempt at this, saying amongst other things the following. 11. [Teaching] requires a lot of hard work,and I've spent the last 7 years perfecting my techniques, and I think that as things are at the moment I'm, I'm good at what I'm doing, I'm respected. Myexam results, the exam resultsof myparticipantshavebeen extremelygood, the feedback has been verypositive. But the fact remains that his previous counternarrative of himself as art critic precedes, opposes, and undermines his account of his life as a teacher. In this case, competing discourses consist of competing life narratives. Sarah too had a former identity: Before entering teaching, she had worked in film production. At the time of the interview, she was still undecided whether to remain in teaching or to try and return to film work. At one point in the interview, I confronted her with these two options. 12. Interviewer: OK,let'scome backnow to yourplansfor the future.You said, you mentioned two things: One of them was the DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 701
  23. idea of going to Australia[to teach], and the other was the notion, if I understood rightly,of returning to work [...] in film and television and so on. How do those two relate? Sarah: They, they don't really relate at all; I think of it as two completely separatefields in my life. Here, Sarah is explicitly offered the opportunity to create discursive coherence. Yet she chooses not to and leaves this aporia in her life story. Once again, competing narratives create a complex and dynamic image of the life story that cannot meaningfully be reduced to a single schema. IS EFL TEACHING IN POLAND A PROFESSION? At the beginning of this article, I suggested that the matter of whether EFL/ESL teaching is a profession remains an open question. In the study described here, one of my aims was to take something of a phenomeno- logical approach to this issue: to find out whether the teachers in the study saw themselves as professionals and how they portrayed discursively the meaning of terms like professionand professionalism. It must be made clear from the outset that my interest in the question of professionalism is by no means tantamount to an assumption that EFL/ESL should be or become a profession. In mainstream education a number of persuasive voices (e.g., Burbules &Densmore, 1991; Popkewitz, 1994; Welker, 1992) have argued that teaching is a very different kind of occupation from the established professions such as medicine and the law and that professionalization brings with it many undesirable conse- quences. I am fully in accord with this position. I also concur with Phillipson's (1992) view that the professionalization of British EFL teaching has served the interests of a neo-imperialist foreign policy and of a narrow circle of native-speaker "experts" rather than those of language learners around the world. Yet at the same time I cannot help seeing the matter from the point of view of Polish classroom teachers and their interests, and from this perspective it seems that certain aspects of professionalization would be advantageous. Amongst the usual attributes of a profession, Freidson (1994) includes such features as control over entry into the profession, autonomy in terms of establishing and evaluating acceptable practices, representation by a powerful institution (like the American Medical Association), and a body of knowledge and skills that is recognized and highly regarded by the broader society. The Polish context recalls the literature referred to above in which EFL teaching is seen as marginalized and the teachers lack influence, status, and power-while at the same TESOL QUARTERLY702
  24. time, it might be added, doing a highly creditable job in very tough circumstances. In such conditions, for teachers to have control over their own practices, to have an influential national organization watching over their rights and well-being, and for their skills and experience as teachers to be recognized would seem to be of advantage. Furthermore, one feature of the current situation in language education in Poland, especially at the elementary level, is a rapid turnover of teachers, such that continuity from one year to the next is often impossible to achieve. I was told many stories of classes starting from the beginner's level 2 or 3 years in succession because new teachers were not informed of the class's progress. It would be in the interests of the students if more teachers were able to stay longer in the same occupation and the same position. For these reasons, while acknowledging the potential dangers, I suggest that in the Polish context certain features of professionalization would be desirable for both teachers and learners, those traditionally in positions of least power in educational settings. The teachers in the study were asked whether they thought of themselves as professionals, whether they saw EFL as a profession, and what it meant to be a professional. Interestingly, answers to these questions were widely divergent. For Danka, being a professional above all meant doing one's job successfully, as measured for instance by exam results. For Ewa, her co-worker, the key quality of a professional was a "100%dedication" to one'sjob and devotion to one occupation only. For Ania, a professional was someone with long-term commitment to ajob: A new teacher by definition cannot yet be called a professional. For Adam, it meant earning a respectable salary. One overall conclusion is that a shared discourse of profession is absent in Polish EFL. The very diversity of responses indicates that notions of profession are little more than privately held beliefs. At the same time, all those who took part in the study gave every indication of being competent teachers who always strove their best to do a good job. Thus, the absence of a discourse of profession must be seen not as an individual failing but as a broader contextual problem. One aspect in particular of this matter seems worth mentioning. In discussing questions of commitment and professionalism,Jan said amongst other things the following. 13. Interviewer: How do you feel about the, the role of Englishlanguage teaching in your life? Is that, do you feel committed to that? Jan: Um, committed?In whatrespect? Interviewer: Well,let's takenow;I meanjust thejob thatyou're doing rightnow;how,whatsortof sense of commitmentdo you DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 703
  25. feel about the job or jobs that you do now in terms of language teaching? Jan: Wellif you mean is myapproachperfunctory,no it isn't; um, my day-to-daycommitment is obviously100%. Here,Jan interprets "commitment" to refer to a short-term, day-to-day dedication to doing the job well. What is lacking in his response, and in those of other teachers in the study, is any sense of a longer term commitment to the occupation. Such a commitment is rendered impos- sible by the dynamic nature of the broader social and economic context. Another example of this interplay between teachers' work and the context it takes place in can be seen in certain comments by some of the teachers regarding the question of service or altruism in their work. Freidson (1994) includes a commitment to service as one of the key values of a profession. Yet for Polish teachers, this is a difficult ideal in light of the exigencies of everyday life. Monika and Marek both referred to this notion by applying to the occupation of teaching the adjective spoleczna,literally "social," meaning something like "charity"work done for a good cause and without financial reward. Monika taught English in an elementary school, but she and her husband lived principally off his earnings. Of her own job, she said, 14. You have to have another means of support to be able to afford to do such charitywork,because that'svirtuallywhatit is. (tr) Marek taught in an elite private high school, but he also espoused the principle of equal educational opportunities for all. I suggested that his talents might be more needed in the public sector. He defended his decision to take a higher paying job in the private sector. 15. It'sjust thatI'm not such an idealistas to saythatit'sa charitablematter and thatyou simplyhave to [???]workfor free; that'snot how it is. (tr) In both of these examples, the notion of altruism-that is, the professional's devotion to service-is ironized or, in Bakhtin's (1981) term, "reaccentuated" (p. 417) by the competing discourses of making money and looking after one's own interests. These discourses, in turn, are not merely individual ones but are socially shared discourses rooted in the economic realities of post-1989 Poland. Perhaps the most telling statement on professionalism comes from Joanna, a recent graduate of the teacher training college, who was working in a public high school. Joanna had been identified to me as a teacher of exceptional ability and promise. Yet she responded as follows to the question of whether she considered herself to be a professional. TESOL QUARTERLY704
  26. 16. I think I could be; but I'm not, at school, because I don't have time to organize my classes in such a waythat they would look like, as if, well, they are organizedbya professionalperson;because I'm not workingas much as I could perhaps to get the most of the book, and the time I have; well, and all other possibilities. But I'm not going to do more because firstof all I don't have time, and secondly it's not paid enough to workmore, I think;and then I'm not going to do something, as I said I'm not an altruist,and it's a cheat-off,actually,whatwe're doing, with the, well, the Ministryof Education,and what'sgoing on in this country, I mean the workyou have and the money you get for it, I think it's a huge misunderstandingand I'm not going to put up with it. In this eloquent passage, part confession and part accusation, not only does Joanna reveal that a discourse of profession is absent from the way she talks about her work, but she also actively resists such a discourse; the reason for her resistance is found in the sociopolitical context in which her teaching takes place. To conclude, I repeat what was said above: All those who took part in this study appeared to be competent teachers who performed their job well. Yet they found themselves restricted to a kind of "semi-professionism" (MacLure, 1993, p. 320) that put discursive limits on the ways in which they could talk about their work. This situation recalls what MacLure suggests in the context of teaching in Britain: that "the old iconogra- phies of teacherhood, with their virtues of vocation, care, dedication and self-investment, are being eroded under the pressures and interventions of the late twentieth century" (p. 319). With the caveats mentioned above regarding the limitations and dangers of professionalization, in the case of Polish teachers of EFL I would argue that the unavailability of a discourse of profession is detrimental to individual teachers and to the system as a whole. CONCLUSIONS The findings of this study indicate that for many teachers in Polish EFL, the straightforward notions of career and profession assumed in mainstream research on teachers' lives are not very helpful in conceptu- alizing the teachers' lives and the way they construct them discursively. To grasp the complexity of these teachers' life stories, a more context- and discourse-sensitive approach is needed, one that can countenance the contradictions of competing discourses, a nonunitary view of iden- tity, and the interplay of occupational and broader socioeconomic factors. The Bakhtinian analysis undertaken in this study shows that teachers do not tell teacher life stories and do not rely on a teacher identity. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 705
  27. Rather, their accounts draw on different discursive strategies involving a multilayered sense of identity. Polish teachers often prefer to present themselves as expert speakers of English, thus lending coherence to occupational moves outside of teaching. Another discursive strategy involves presenting EFL as a permeable occupation that is easy to enter and leave. Such strategies are in many ways advantageous to teachers who are attempting to deal with difficult circumstances and a complex, rapidly changing socioeconomic context. But these discursive preferences may have certain disadvantages. By presenting themselves as expert speakers, for instance, Polish teachers are choosing to ignore the other skills, expertise, and knowledge they possess as teachers and may thus be making it more difficult for teachers as a group to gain the status and influence they deserve in the broader society. Still on this topic, prospects for professionalization are also seen to be limited because, although teachers act professionally in the day-to-day sense of working conscientiously and responsibly, the socioeconomic conditions make it impossible (or at least extremely unwise) for them to make a long-term commitment to EFL teaching. Again, although this lack of commitment is probably the best move for the teachers them- selves, it perpetuates systemic problems of rapid teacher turnover and lack of qualified teachers for many posts, especially in public education and especially for younger learners. I am not suggesting that all teachers should follow a teacher life story. My point is that it would be advantageous to have such an option available: It would allow teachers who enjoy their work and are compe- tent at it to discursively construct a life as a teacher and thus to envision staying in this occupation longer. At present, that discursive option does not seem to exist, to the detriment of teachers and students alike. Teacher identities are frail in comparison with competing economic and other discourses. To put it at its simplest, for many teachers in Poland, it is not in their own interests to remain teachers. In terms of the Polish context, the findings of this study are consonant with trends that have been noted in larger scale survey research (Drury, 1994; Tann, 1994). If this is the case, certain conclusions suggest themselves. One is that, given the impermanence in the occupation of teaching English, the newly established teacher training colleges may well fail in the long run to produce the large numbers of teachers they were supposed to. Another conclusion is that Polish teachers' organiza- tions such as IATEFLPoland need to move toward an advocacy role and to militate for improved working conditions and an improved public image for English teachers, especially in the public sector. Of course, certain of the features of teachers' lives that have been examined here are true of Polish teachers generally under the conditions obtaining after TESOL QUARTERLY706
  28. 1989. To the extent that this is so, prospects for change are constrained by the overall development of social, political, and economic structures, in particular those relating to education. At a theoretical level, the Bakhtinian framework has proved useful in detecting and unraveling the multiple, competing discourses present in the teachers' speech. The framework makes it possible to conceptualize teachers' lives in EFL/ESL in a way that captures the complexities and contradictions of those lives without a general descent into incoherence. It produces an image of identity as multiple and dynamic. Further, it reveals how these lives are embedded in a complex occupational, social, economic, and political context; yet, by seeing this context in terms of discursive practices, it avoids the assumption of a simplistic world-word relationship. Overall, the findings here echo those of the CfBT (1989) and McKnight (1992) studies summarized above. At one level, they confirm empirically what was already suspected: that EFL/ESL can be an un- stable, marginalized, impermanent occupation. It is important that such generalizations be grounded in actual data. In this case, qualitative data support the survey findings of the earlier reports. The study also goes beyond an empirical confirmation of what is commonly believed. It suggests that assumptions about the status of EFL/ESL as a profession and about the possibility of careers in this field are highly questionable. It serves as a prompt to look beyond the classroom for an understanding of how teachers' lives develop. And it raises the question of how best to safeguard the interests of teachers and students-those most disempowered in the educational process. This article represents a first attempt to gather empirical, in-depth data on teachers' working lives in EFL/ESL teaching. A relatively small- scale study such as this, of course, raises more questions than it answers. Do the findings reflect the lives and the conditions (discursive and sociopolitical) of EFL/ESL teachers elsewhere? Informal comments from audience members in various venues where I have given presenta- tions on this research project have suggested that it rings true for many national contexts (e.g., Greece, Mexico, Russia, Korea, the U.S.) but not all (e.g. Germany, Japan); empirical evidence is again needed. What aspects of the Polish situation are found in other countries? What options exist to offer teachers greater stability and security in their work? It seems to me that the answers to these questions should be of interest to administrators and teacher educators in all contexts and, of course, to the teachers themselves. The field must surely benefit from a deepened understanding of teachers' lives set in the rich context in which they are lived. To return to the title of this article, the question it asks will have to go unanswered. Indeed, it seems clear from what has gone before that it is DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 707
  29. not merely playful: It is the wrong question to ask if we as educators are to gain a better understanding of teachers' working lives in EFL/ESL. These lives are lived in complex contexts in which personal, educational, political, and socioeconomic discourses all influence the way the life is told. It is only by recognizing these fundamental truths that we can begin to make headway in understanding the lives of teachers in our field. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I wish to thank all those teachers who gave of their time to be interviewed for this study. I am grateful to two anonymous TESOL Quarterlyreviewers for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. THE AUTHOR Bill Johnston is Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota. The Immediate Past Chair of TESOL's Teacher Education Interest Section, he has worked as a teacher and teacher educator in Poland, France, the United Kingdom, Hawaii, and other places in the U.S. His interests include language teacher education and teacher development, discourse analysis, and postmodern research methodologies. He also works as a literary translator. REFERENCES Bailey, K. M. (1992). The processes of innovation in language teacher development: What, why and how teachers change. InJ. Flowerdew, M. Brock, & S. Hsia (Eds.), Perspectiveson secondlanguage teachereducation(pp. 253-282). Hong Kong: City Polytechnic of Hong Kong. Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). Thedialogicimagination(C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press. Bakhtin, M. M. (1986). Speechgenresand otherlate essays(V. W. McGhee, Trans.). Austin: University of Texas Press. Burbules, N. C., &Densmore, K. (1991). The limits of making teaching a profession. EducationalPolicy,5, 44-63. Burman, E., &Parker,I. (Eds.). (1993). Discourseanalyticresearch.London: Routledge. Candlin, C. N., & Maley, Y. (1995, March). Workplaceenterprisebargaining:Shifting alliancesand shiftingalignments.Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, Long Beach, CA. Centre for British Teachers. (1989). Pilot study of the careerpaths of EFL teachers. Reading, England: Author. Clayton, T. (1989). International teaching of English to speakers of other languages: Where is our profession going? CrossCurrents,16, 55-61. Coenen-Huther, J., & Synak, B. (Eds.). (1993). Post-communistPoland:Fromtotalitari- anism to democracy?Commack, NY:Nova Science. Cruse, D. A. (1986). Lexicalsemantics.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Derrida, J. (1993). Aporias (T. Dutoit, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Donmoyer, R. (1990). Generalizability and the single-case study. In E. W. Eisner & TESOL QUARTERLY708
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  32. APPENDIX A Interview Schedule The Life Story *Tell the story of your life as a teacher so far. *How did you get into teaching? *Whydid you move to each newjob? *Whydid you leave thatjob? *What qualifications do you have? Why did you choose to get those qualifications and not others? *Do you plan to take other qualifications? *What have been the most important turning points in your life as a teacher? *What ambitions and plans do you have for the future? Looking at your life overall, does it seem to have coherence? *What personal or family factors have affected your working life (e.g., marriage, divorce, children, bereavement)? *What other paths might you have followed in life? Have you ever been tempted to leave English language teaching (ELT)? Why did you stay? Do you have, or have you had, other jobs beside your main one (translating, private lessons, etc.)? How do you feel about this? *What interests and plans do you have outside ELT? Career and Profession *Is ELT a profession? *Are you a professional? *What, in your opinion, is a professional? *Do you see yourself as having a career? *What does this mean to you (career and having a career)? *To what degree are you committed to teaching/ELT? Relationships and Social Status How do you feel about your students? What kind of relationships do you have with your colleagues? Do you tend to socialize with other ELT people or with people not connected to the field? How do you feel about your work when you tell others what you do? Are you proud, embarrassed, indifferent? The Polish Context *How do you feel about the changes that have taken place in Poland over the past 5 years or so? *What are the major changes in Polish life? *What are the major changes in EFL? *Core question, asked in every interview. DO EFL TEACHERS HAVE CAREERS? 711
  33. APPENDIX B Teachers Mentioned in the Article Poles Adam: Male, late 20s. Teaches in a private language school affiliated with a Western chain of schools. Also translates, has his own publishing business, deals in real estate. Ania: Female, early 20s. Graduate of teacher training college. Teaches at a liceum(high school). Danka: Female, early 40s. Director of Studies of a prestigious private language school and private teacher training college; teacher, teacher trainer. Also teaches at the British Council Centre at the university. Ewa:Female, mid-30s. Teaches at the British Council Centre. Also worksas teacher and teacher trainer at the private school run by Danka. Joanna: Female, early 20s. Teaches part time at a liceum.Graduated from the language teacher training college, summer 1994. Also studying at the university extramurally for an MA. Marek:Male, mid-20s. Teaches in a private liceum.Also sells life insurance. Graduated from the language teacher training college, summer 1994. Monika: Female, mid-20s. Teaches in a public primary school. In her 1st year of English teaching. Has an MA in cultural education. Rafal:Male, mid-20s. Teaches in a prestigious public liceum.Also teaches in a private language school and translates. Studying for postgraduate qualification in business studies. Szczesna: Female, mid-50s. Teaches in the same liceumas Rafal. Also runs a small private language school. Holds a PhD in microbiology; requalified as an English teacher about 10 years ago. Wojtek: Male, mid-20s. Teaches in a liceumand in a private school. Graduated from the language teacher training college, summer 1994. Native Speakers of English Bernadette: Female, British, late 30s. British Council Regional Teacher Trainer at the teacher training college. Jan: Male, British, mid-30s. Teaches at the British Council Centre at the university. Sarah: Female, British, 30. Teaches at a private school affiliated to an international chain of language schools. Currently preparing to be a teacher trainer. TESOL QUARTERLY712

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