Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Re-Positioning: Internationally Educated Teachers in Manitoba School Communities

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Re-Positioning: Internationally Educated Teachers in Manitoba School Communities

Article excerpt

Communities

I have been able to adjust well and create an individual who is not one kind of person. I find it difficult if I have to call myself [a person of my home country], because I am not that anymore. All that I have been through, all the different cultures-for me it was interesting and I was hoping to adapt and embrace it and grow with different cultures I had experienced. And Canada was just one of them. Here I realized I was valued here as an individual; my uniqueness was encouraged to show, to shine. I was very happy to, what should I say, be myself ... (Ella, Internationally Educated Teacher)

Discovering an identity that is not "one kind of person" is a 21st century task. Immigrant students and particularly immigrant teachers have out of necessity been involved in this task. Canadian schools and communities may learn from their experiences. Curriculum, in its broadest sense, is changing as our school communities respond to and include students who are immigrants, refugees, and first generation Canadians. This paper examines how internationally educated teachers (IETs) participate in these changes and in some cases, propel them. IETs are positioned to become agents of change in school communities. To what extent that position is taken up is contextual. The study explored how teacher agency was expressed by internationally educated teachers in the context of a university-based bridging program and in school contexts where IETs were employed as teachers in the province of Manitoba.

A bridging program provides coursework and support to gain provincial qualifications towards teacher certification. As immigrant professionals, IETs in a bridging program are positioned in a cross-cultural exchange with each other, with their instructors, and with their mentor teachers and their students. In the context of this exchange, IETs' learn to negotiate and mediate cultural differences. When IETs found employment as teachers, they were re-positioned, in the context of a particular school community. How is this re-positioning of IETs' experience as individuals and as teachers woven into their interactions with immigrant- and Canadian-born youth? Does this hybridity make them more or less authoritative in the schools? The research (Cho 2010; Quiocho & Rios, 2000) had suggested that they could be effective agents of change. The purpose of this study was to investigate to whether this was evident among IETs in Manitoba school communities, and to what extent.

Agency can be understood as the potential to resist and to recreate socio-cultural structures (Hall, 2000). This paper approaches educational change and teacher agency with the assumption that the educational system is implicated in social inequities and that teachers, individually and in groups, may choose to address those inequities (Luke, 2008; Villegas & Lucas, 2002; Vongalis-Macrow, 2007). If teacher agency is understood as an effect of presence and participation in a specific education context (Priestley, Robinson, & Biesta, 2011), then IETs' presence and participation may affect equity issues in their schools because of IETs' experiences of cultural differences, displacement, and resilience.

Agency, in other words, is not something that people can have; it is something that people do. It denotes a 'quality' of the engagement of actors with temporal relational contexts-for-action, not a quality of the actors themselves. Viewing agency in such terms helps us to understand how humans are able to be reflexive and creative, acting counter to societal constraints, but also how individuals are enabled and constrained by their social and material environments. (Priestley, Biesta & Robinson, 2012)

The environments of bridging programs for immigrant professionals are constructed to support their transition to employment. However, a program may also include other goals. The Academic and Professional Bridging Program for IETs at the University of Manitoba was originally funded as an equity initiative. …

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