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Looking into teacher identity

Who are you? Tyson Seburn. Scorpio? Tiger? Philosophy major? I used to think so. TESL Toronto President? Conference organiser? Writer? Grad student? I was once. Canadian? Author? EAP instructor? TDSIG peep? Yes, this guy exists.

What is your teaching philosophy? Ugggh. That one’s the worst.

I’ve questioned my identity a lot, but here let’s focus on career. We all probably do when push comes to shove. I often garble out something about EAP and guided discovery and teacher development, but do I make sense? I often stare at the wording of my bio when submitting one for a conference proposal. What do I focus on? What description most accurately portrays how I see myself? How do I want others to see me? In 50 words or less. See my LinkedIn profile for one version; my about me page here for another; even the little bits of my email signature. I’m never fully satisfied with them, however.

Teacher identity is an ever-present interest insofar as it’s difficult to concretise and continues to shift. Once you feel you’ve figured it out, it gets called into question again. In a way, I like that.

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I’ve rewritten a love letter of sorts to TESL Toronto (a teacher association committee I’m leaving after 6 years) three times from three different angles and voices. There’s much I want to say to different groups involved, but no one focus conveys my intentions vividly enough. I think it’s because no matter what words I use or perspective I take, it doesn’t capture that magnitude of its impact. It’s been a love/hate relationship with the stakeholders of TESL Toronto, mostly love for my colleagues, the membership itself, and the work I’ve been involved in. The effect of being its president and chairing TOSCON for 3 years that it has had cannot be understated–roles, or the likes of which, I’d highly recommend any teacher eventually seek in some capacity during their careers.

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For many of us, the academic year has come or is coming to a close and with that the busyness of wrapping up meetings, grading, and making difficult decisions. Yet amidst this organised chaos, uniting a course’s team of teachers for professional development and curriculum debrief best happens here while the year is fresh in our minds. This, however, can be challenging at this draining time of year. So how does a team leader create space for agency in these two areas without crossing into chore-like territory?

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