Emotional caring, self-formation and the interrogation of identity in the journey of becoming a contemporary educator

Year: 2019

Author: Zhang, Chunyan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As a young female Chinese teacher pursuing ‘individual freedom and self-actualisation’ (Elliott & Lemert, 2009) in Australia, my identity has been under constant construction based on the sociocultural conditions and discourses shaping my social and professional practice. Teaching and conducting autoethnographic research in a local primary school since 2013 in Melbourne, Australia, I have attempted to make sense of how my (multiple) identity(ies) are interrogated, deconstructed and (re)constructed through teaching Mandarin Chinese language and culture. In this teaching/researching space, various teaching methodologies are employed and experimented with, according to different teaching plans. Throughout the experimentation with various teaching methods, emotions or emotional caring through teacher-student talk is emphasised. In this space, the boundaries between private and public, reason and emotion are blurry and in a state of continuous flux. Beyond teaching and researching is the fluid process of identity construction in which my own emotional growth, the correlated interrogation of Chinese identity, and processes of self-transformation are exemplified pedagogically and privately. In this teaching and researching process, my identity is more than a language teacher, a research insider or an auto-ethnographer. Instead, I am on the track of becoming (Deleuze & Guattari, 1988) a contemporary educator in this globalised world, a world in which digital information technology and artificial intelligence open new perspectives in teaching and learning, but at the same time are accompanied by increasing uncertainty, complexity and precariousness.

In this presentation, I use three autoethnographic cases to argue the following (1) Emotion is a critical element in the dynamic process of negotiating and constructing not only a person’s professional identity, in this case, my teacher identity, but also in other dimensions of one’s life. (2) Living in this fluid, contemporary world, one’s identity is always fragmented, incomplete, multiple and dynamic; One is always under constant identity revision and construction in different social-cultural and situated contexts. The challenge for contemporary educators, in particular for immigrant educators, is to balance the ongoing process of identity negotiation and, at the same time, maintaining a more or less coherent and consistent sense of self in one’s (working) life.

Keywords: becoming, emotion, identity formation, sense of self, contemporary educator


Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. s. (T. B. Massumi, Ed.) London: Athlone Pres.

Elliott, A., & Lemert, C. (2009). The new individualism the emotional costs of globalization (2nd Edition ed.). Routledge.