My professors asked me to write a memo about researcher identity. This is one the weekly assignments in Introduction to Qualitative Research class. They asked the students to look back to their personal experiences and see how that experiences might influence their future endeavor in research. What prior experiences have the students had that are relevant to their topic or setting? What beliefs and assumptions about the students’ topic or setting have resulted from these experiences? What goals have emerged from these, or have otherwise become important for the students’ research? How have these experiences, assumptions, and goals shaped the students’ decision to choose the topic? So, here is my memo.
I have never imagined myself to have been working as a teacher and teacher educator for more than ten years. Since I was a child, I had always been dreaming of working as a banker for I believed that the job would allow me to deal with a lot of money. Speaking quite frankly, the reason why I went to a teacher college was not because I wanted to become a teacher; rather, I had no other options available. My parent could not afford to send me to a banking school, which was very expensive. Thus, going to a teacher college had never been a part of the plan that I had for my life.
It was not until I reached the third year of my undergraduate study that I started to fall in love with teaching. I conducted teaching practices in a high school when I was at the end of my junior year. Teaching at a high school for the first time in my life was a terrifying yet life-changing experience; it was the tipping point for me. I, who was always skeptical about teaching and believed that working as a teacher was not a promising profession for its low salary, suddenly found a kind of excitement interacting with students in school. Since then, I have been working in the education field for more than ten years performing different kinds of roles ranging from teaching at middle schools to teaching university students.
My primary purpose of studying in an English teacher college was not to become an English teacher; rather, I only wanted be able to speak English for I believed that it would open more doors for my future career. Therefore, I prioritized all English courses and paid less attention to educational classes. What happened then was that my first job after graduating from the college was teaching. As time went by I found myself falling even deeper in love with this job. But then I realized that since I paid less attention to educational classes, I found myself of lacking skills in teaching. I had to go back to learn about teaching. Moreover, I had to struggle to develop my self-identity as a teacher; something that I supposed to have since I was in the college. It took a while for me to develop a sense of teacher identity.
For the past five years, I have been working in a teacher college. My students are future English teachers for middle and high schools. Interestingly, I found the same phenomenon on my students. Often, in the class, I asked my students why they were here in the teacher college and if they were going to pursue teaching career. I saw myself in their answers; it was as if I looked in a mirror. Many of them have never had any idea of becoming a teacher. However, I also noticed that once they graduated from the college, the majority of them are working as a teacher. Me and my students are walking on the same route. We share the same stories that studying at a teachers college and pursuing teaching career have always been the last option available.
These life experiences have become the background of my interest in studying how preservice teachers develop their sense of identity as teachers. I am interested in conducting narrative inquiry about it. My personal experiences have provided me with advantages since I was there in that situation. Thus, basically, throughout the research process, I will keep looking back on my own personal narrative. But, it is also a disadvantage for me. I need to be aware that my life experiences could place a major bias on my research. I need to really careful when interviewing my students for I do not want to force them to provide the story that I want to hear, not the ones they want to tell. Currently, I am practicing to write my own narrative about my life experiences about developing teacher identity in myself with hope that it will help me improve my capacity in interpreting my own experiences. That way I would be able to separate my own interpretation of my experience and my interpretation of my students’ stories.
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Sebagai mahasiswa program Doktor di Penn State University College of Education yang didanai melalui program beasiswa LPDP, tulisan pada Blog ini merupakan pendapat saya pribadi dan tidak mewakili Penn State University of College of Education maupun LPDP secara kelembagaan.