our words make worlds

From Pupil to Teacher

Title: From pupil to teacher: beginning teachers’ share memories of their own language learning at school and compare these with their current classroom practices as teachers 
Session type: Panel
Chair: Simon Coffey, King’s College London
Participants: Simon Coffey; Julia Eckert; Marco Holloway-Levantal; Christopher Jackson; Julie-Anne Maxwell


Learning foreign languages, in both formal and informal settings, is closely tied to autobiographical experience and personal beliefs about language(s). We know that, as Tedick (2009) states, “pre-service teachers enter teacher education programmes with pre-conceived ideas” (p. 264), often based on their own educational experiences, and one of the aims of teacher education programmes is to encourage a critical stance vis-à-vis these ideas. As language education becomes ever more regulated by performance indicators and accountability, it becomes increasingly important for educators at every level to reflect on our wider relationship with the languages we teach and to acknowledge our personal investments in them.

In this panel we heard from four beginning teachers as they reflect on their own experience of learning and teaching languages. Modern foreign languages (MFL) teacher trainees at King’s College London are all graduates with a personal history of high level language study and some degree of international mobility. They spend two thirds of their training year (the PGCE) teaching in two different secondary schools. Firstly, each gave a brief reflective account of their autobiographical memories as successful language learners (what worked for them? what are the salient memories of language lessons?). Then, each reported on the key impressions as they re-entered the classroom this year as training teachers: how do their current school contexts and classroom practices contrast with or complement those of their childhood memories?

This collection of reflections contributes to the growing field of narrative inquiry now well established in teacher development. Following Johnson and Golombek’s (2011) call to document how “teachers’ narrative activities are being taken up and used within second language teacher education programmes” (p.504), the autobiographical narratives of language learning presented here bring into relief how broader socio-demographic developments and cultural models play out in individual lives.

Johnson, K. E. & Golombek, P. R. (2011) The transformative power of narrative in second language teacher education. TESOL Quarterly 45/3: 486-509.
Tedick, D. J. (2009). K–12 Language teacher preparation: Problems and possibilities. Modern Language Journal, 93/2, 263–267.