Teachers of action: a narrative study into the Identities of Turkish teachers of English
This narrative study explores the identities of Turkish teachers of English, who engage in volunteering activities in addition to their everyday teaching. These activities include writing local and international development projects for students and communities, spending an entire summer holiday to volunteer in an orphanage in Africa, running an amateur football club for the community, voluntarily tutoring for the economically disadvantaged kids for free, and volunteering in health-related organisations. Being a Middle Eastern country between Asia and Europe, the Turkish context seems to constrain than to support the teachers to engage in volunteering for others, especially in addition to their everyday teaching duties. In this vein, with accountability and standards they enforce, neoliberal trends affect education negatively. Additionally, it is difficult to define the engagement of these teachers within the current literature, as teacher volunteering does not capture what they do, making it necessary to gaze towards teacher activism. Yet, activism, especially in the Turkish context, has different connotations. Hence, while there are already limited studies on the identities of international teachers of English, this study enriches the existing literature around the topic by bringing a unique perspective, identifying the similarities and differences between teacher volunteering and teacher activism as well as offering an additional discourse to teacher activism. Through two in-depth interviews each with five Turkish teachers of English that are analysed narratively, participants’ discussions around activism and volunteering led to the construction of a ‘teacher of action’ concept. Teacher of action recognises the participant teachers’ authentic ways of engaging in volunteering, taking action for others as well as encompassing teacher activism and volunteering. Some teachers in this study choose to see teaching as a political act. Others deliberately refrain from politics to carry out their agendas, whether they have ideas on politics and activism or not. Their engagements are a combination of their personal and professional identities and values, which affect and, were affected by, their actions. In this regard, taking action eventually becomes a stance for them, which informs their behaviours and actions in their personal and professional lives. Taking action as a stance, they are not only active in organised projects but also their everyday teaching, through big and small acts. Moreover, they do not limit themselves to the spheres of school and education, as their engagements are not limited to these spaces, while all affect their professional identities. What they have in common is their beliefs in the transformative power of education and urge to take action to make that transformation more possible, which affects and reconstructs their personal and professional identities. The study demonstrates that taking action can be possible for all teachers and has various benefits for teachers’ identities as well as their motivation in teaching, as it is driven by their beliefs in the transformative power of education, the values they hold about teaching, as well as their care for their students, families, communities and others.