Career choices and teacher identity

I hope this post is an introduction to future projects and discussions that have been on my mind lately. The topic of career choices has raised lots of questions lately, not only during BrELT chats, where some people were in doubt as to which path to follow – e.g. the Cambridge courses or an MA -, but also a recent talk to a great friend of mine who asked me what he should do next in his professional life.

I cannot tell anyone to do what I do, I can only share my opinions about the options, and the decisions I took and where they led me. At the end of the day, we are accountable for what happens to us, so it’s important to make choices that make us happier with what we become as professionals and avoid choosing what other did/ would do if that can frustrate us later.

I finished my MA in TESOL a year ago and that opened doors for productive discussions with other professionals about what I learned and whether that would be an interesting path for them as well. Like any course taken seriously, it is hardworking. In this case it was also very expensive and I needed to save quite a lot before starting. Thus, choosing an academic path is not a simple decision, although it broaden my perspectives of our are, not only extensively reading, but also doing research. It was definitely worth all the work.

What most people don’t know is that eighteen years ago I was half-way through my Masters dissertation when I learned to say ‘no’ to what I felt would make me a frustrated professional/ learner. It has always been important to me to consider practice, the teaching itself when researching. At the time, my tutor wanted to direct my research to what was needed for the university and it would take me far away from the aspects of teaching, so dear to me. Immediately after a meeting with my tutor, I impulsively gave up. For my parents, that was a great disappointment. For me, one of the most important decisions I had made towards my professional growth.

That was one of those moments when you see your dreams on one side, and something else that seems right for the world, for people around you, other professionals, a more tangible career path – and they do not seem to match. I cannot say whether I would also be happy had I chosen the other way, but chasing dreams has brought me closer to people I admire, has been giving me great moments of happiness, and has kept me on the development path. This one does not have to be a straight line, as English language teachers we can develop in so many ways, learn about so many different contexts, that there may be as many different paths as teachers. Each one of us building their own identity and learning at their own pace.

I believe the truth is we do not know. We cannot be sure where the certificates, the knowledge, the newly acquired skills and our development are going to take us. Most of the times, we should not be expecting anything specific to happen – e.g. to be given new groups, a new position or a pay rise. We should, however, consider what we want to develop next in our career, talk to people who have tried certain paths, people who are happy with what they are doing, people who changed their trajectory. That may help us all eliminate fear of the unknown and encourage us to take chances towards an improved version of us as ELT professionals. What kind of ELT professional do you aim to be and what is your next step towards the better version of yourself?

Marcela Cintra

Marcela Cintra is the Head of Products in the Academic Department at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo. She has been working with English language teaching for over 20 years, been involved in teacher training and development programmes and presented in ABCI, LABCI, BRAZ-TESOL, TESOL and IATEFL conferences. A CELTA, ICELT and Delta tutor, she has an MA in TESOL. She is the current first-vice president for BRAZ-TESOL.

  • Silvania Capua
    Posted at 21:14h, 04 maio Responder

    I do appreciated your post Marcela , the right of being wrong sometimes in life, we are the result of our choices, Nowadays I really choose what makes my heart beats happier, We have to be good first with ourselves then to the others. My teacher- identity is too important I like to be a model of good practice for my students who need to be comfortable with us and feel that I really do everything with passion. Being healthy is the key for our carrer choices will be sucessful. Thanks for sharing with us your personal experience.

    • Marcela Cintra
      Marcela Cintra
      Posted at 08:29h, 31 maio Responder

      Hi, Silvana!
      Thank you for your comment. You summarised it well: if you are healthy, comfortable with our choices, this will bring such a positive role model for our students of how they can also make choices that will bring passion to what they choose to do. I’m glad for your success and your students’ luck to have you there. Thank you!

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