(Bautista, Personal Photograph, Pyeongchang, South Korea, 2008)
When viewed from a socially situated perspective, teachers not only possess knowledge, they can also be creators of that knowledge. What teachers know and how they use their knowledge in classrooms, are highly interpretative and contingent on knowledge of self, students, curricula, and setting. Teacher learning is understood as normative and lifelong, built of and through experiences in social contexts: as learners in classrooms and schools, as participants in professional teacher education programs, and as members of communities of practice in the schools where they teach. (Johnson & Golombek,2002.p.2)
I have a few more weeks here in South Korea before closing the door properly on a teaching community that has been a part of my life for almost 17 years. My first year out of teacher’s college I came to Korea because there were no jobs available in my field as a high school English teacher.
Without prior knowledge of teaching the English language, I started my career in the private school system in Seoul. At this time, I am part of a Teacher Educator program working with Korean English language teachers. I think I have come full circle. I have been a part of most English Language teaching environments here in Korea except for actually teaching at the public school but I have completed research with public school teachers. I’ve been an instructor, a tutor, an M.A professor of Native/Non-native English teachers, an editor, a researcher, an online professor for adult learners, and now, as mentioned, I work with public school teachers in a teacher training program.
But I am ready to move on.
I search for a community of practice; I think I always have. And the minute I think I’ve found one, I’m met with a system driven by results, tests, competition, money and deceit. What is worse, in my opinion, is working with people who have bought into the idea of teaching as a competitive or hopeless career. The stories of teachers feeling isolated, threatened, unsupported and overwhelmed astound me. My experiences as of late also stem from witnessing such dire practice.
The quote above is something I have chosen to share lately on my last day of teaching but as I prepared the handout today, I realized a community of practice is missing from own my career.
So, as the adage goes “whatever you deeply believe, you will create” and I embark now on a quest to find a community of practice in education. And until I discover such a place, I pledge to move on. I wonder if my ambition though is too grand.
I’ve been thinking lately about my passionate beliefs in education and my strong ties to being a respected and respectful educator. These thoughts inspire me and in turn, I hope to inspire others.
We traverse different paths in life, and the teacher path is one I wholeheartedly choose. Lately, my path has been strewn with thick verdure, steep valleys and endless twists and turns.
But up ahead, I see the path begin to clear. I take careful steps as I travel out of my current surroundings so as to meet this clearing in due time and with a clear mind. I will leave the past behind and walk proudly into the landscape of the teacher I am meant to be.
And in this clearing, I may not necessarily find a community of practice but I hope I do.
Or at least I hope I meet others to help build one.
Johnson, K. and Golombek, P. (2002). Teachers’ Narrative Inquiry as Professional Development. Cambridge, UK. Cambridge University Press.