Surviving and Thriving in the Gendered Waters of Japan: Ten Women’s Stories

Many native-English speakers seek employment abroad as language teachers because of an interest in foreign cultures and/or a desire to see the world, but few remain in the field For some, teaching abroad was merely an interlude before returning home and getting on with their lives. Others may exit the field because of its instability and choose to enter an entirely different profession. But what about those who decide to settle in one country permanently and to make English language teaching their career?

In this talk, I will show how personal and professional identity has developed among ten Western female EFL teachers as they navigate their careers in the gendered waters of Japan. These women, ranging in age from their mid-twenties to mid-sixties, have survived and thrived by having a great amount of creativity and an extraordinary amount of resilience. They have moved fluidly from one teaching context to another, often climbing the EFL hierarchy. They started out as assistant language teachers in public schools or conversation teachers in language schools. But now they are university professors, secondary school teachers in charge of their own classes, and language school owners. Using Gee’s (2000) theoretical framework for viewing identity, we shall see how these women’s personal and professional identity has developed over time and how they became the teachers they are today. This presentation will help attendees consider the development of their own personal and professional identities.

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Posted by IAFOR