Masks as Self-study. Challenging and Sustaining Teachers’ Personal and Professional Personae in Early–mid Career Life Phases

Jun. 20, 2010

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 16, No. 3, (June 2010), 329–352.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article draws on previous research identifying how teachers’ capacities to sustain their effectiveness in different phases of their professional lives are affected positively and/or negatively by their sense of identity. The paper illuminates three early–mid career teachers’ self-study inquiries, centring on mask work.

The context

The site of this inquiry is a university, masters-level programme, based upon a 30-hour module on critical pedagogy and personal development. The module culminates in mask-making workshops.

The aim of this self-study activity is for participants to reflect upon and engage with the face(s) they present in their lives as a teacher and to express creatively, through three-dimensional representational images/artefacts, an embodied sense of what (and who) they present professionally, and what remains beyond the surface.

Three teachers’ performative self-studies from early–mid career phases participated in this presentation.

Summary and Discussion: Learning from Mask Self-study

Through mask inquiries, the teachers constructed, deconstructed and disclosed to themselves narratives of personal/professional identity. Each engaged deeply with issues emerging from an inchoate and incomplete apprehension of their identity, stimulated by the entanglement of their internal dispositions, professional context and biography.

By means of the performative elements, each teacher came to some renewed understandings of how the felt-sense of interior dispositions related to their biography and their experience of the socio-political in their professional contexts. By crafting their masks, observing the symbolic nature of their representations and engaging in the performative elements, these teachers were able to project a sense of self and a sense of their worlds into their biographical projects, where self was reconceptualized, resulting in a number of decisions, or professional actions.

Implications for Professional Development

Professional developmental engagements that attend to and embrace a more holistic conception of teachers’ identities and the dynamics that flow between the personal, professional and political have the potential to support teachers in reimagining and reshaping what is possible, across the varied phases of their career.

Updated: Oct. 17, 2010