It’s quite ironic that this is the message WordPress is greeting me with after a year-long separation, considering the title of my upcoming post.
“Sometimes you focus too much on what is blocking you.”
BAM! I do, don’t I?
So what’s next? Realizing the immensity of this truth is helpful but doesn’t quite do the unblocking, I felt. Not feeding my energy to the thoughts that block me from taking action is a good first step, but I need a push, some hope and faith that I can manage whatever it is I set my mind to.
Then came a reflective practice meeting and in its customary manner pursued the unblocking! It is quite amazing how our online RP meetings keep giving me exactly what the moment is asking for, regardless of the announced topic of the month! It is the spirit, the space to bring up issues of concern. The people who listen. And while I have not ACTED yet, after this meeting I feel characteristically moved to taking that action with a better understanding and firmer faith. What is more, I am moved enough to dust off this blog and type some lines about it. Here’s what IT is.
Teams that could be.
The issue: Since I moved to Vietnam, I have focused my mind rather negatively on the lack of professional community, the comfort and support of which I had come to value as crucial for myself after 3 years of teaching in Rikkyo University and 4 years in Japan overall. I couldn’t find an ELT community to join, I didn’t have enough organizational skill to create my own RP group in Saigon, I didn’t have colleagues I could turn to in the way I was expecting. I moaned and mourned what I had lost.
Fast forward some months and I take on a role of being a coordinator for three loosely related subjects in my university – so exciting and promising! Could we, teachers of those subjects, become a team? Can we form a community? The dreamer in me starts building castles in the air, and when my first attempt to get all teachers together largely fails (only 3 teachers I already know very well come), oh do I feel but a little crushed inside. The promise vanishes into thin air and the excitement gives way to self-deprecating, blocking thoughts – that I can only succeed given the right circumstances. That I cannot, in fact, create those circumstances myself. With those thoughts, I approach my coordinator tasks, maybe for a while even giving up on the idea of bringing people together.
The RP meeting helpful realizations: This month’s online RP meeting was a discussion on what constitutes a team, how we “find” teams to work/reflect with, as well as a sharing of past successful and not so much experiences of getting people to work/reflect together. The people that attended that meeting are my RP community, my only community at the moment, too. They are also a community of LEADERS, and here is what I learnt from and with them:
- Nurturing collaboration is a process that is based on trust, reciprocation, and a common purpose. It is a process and teams/communities can start small (or very small!) and be successful.
- The culture of sharing and openness needs to be intentionally fostered. Initiating, sharing, opening the floor to discussions and the doors to observations should start with ME.
- If you want to find a team, you may need to lead one. That resonated sharply! Leading involves commitment.
- Shake off assumptions of what may or may not be. Other teachers may be not interested in forming a group, but they also might be looking for someone to find them. It’s a beautiful, reassuring thought.
- Emails, at least “mailing list” types, may be a dead end in terms of initiating a connection. Human touch is still everything! (Not literally.)
- I should not dismiss the relationships I have already successfully and organically built! Appreciate them. Analyse them (how did that happen??). Rely on them.
- Finally, it was meaningful for me to look back at the time when RP Tokyo group started. The group that lasted 3 years, met nearly every month, gave rise to other RP groups (including the current online one I am part of), started from 3 colleagues agreeing to meet in a classroom and publicizing it on Facebook inviting others to join. Some meetings were big, some small, all purposeful and motivating. They seemed important at that time, to me to keep scheduling and planning for every month, for others to dedicate an evening of their busy workday to.
You can’t repeat the past, but you can choose to find blocks in it or inspiration.
Today, I was helped by my community to think of my issue through a different lens. I wish for everyone to have such people to turn to! And if you feel you don’t, join these smiling faces =)