If there is any socially useless, purely hedonistic, speculative activity I like to engage myself in, that is amateur self-analysis. If there is any perfect place to shamelessly expose it on, that is this blog. See the header quote line on the top and the category this post fits in. Contemplations. Prepare to be confused as I am right now.
During one weird conversation on Facebook I challenged myself with finding reasons to criticize something. The moment this idea leapt into my mind it looked attractive and special. In ten minutes it lost its vibe and I lost my drive. In an hour I started feeling really bad about having this idea in the first place. I remembered my hard work in trying to exercise kindness and non-judgemental attitude and how repelling the all-set-and-ready-to-criticize me must look to the trying-to-be-better me. Then I thought that maybe there is no large gap or fundamental contradiction in being in two minds. And so I decided to explore the few depths and multiple shallows of my mind.
Here they are, four things I used to be categorical about and now think I am not *that much*. Four things I am not willing to criticize or expand on the goodness of. Just laying my two minds bare.
1) Conferences, ELT events, communities, services in my country.
I have some little experience of attending ELT events both abroad and home. At every conference I go to I take plenty of notes on different aspects, from quotes of speakers and *potentially* useful links and ideas shared during sessions to random thoughts and impressions (people, atmosphere, comparisons, insights, reminders, etc). Just the other day I read through ALL of the dozens of my notes on both devices I have used for that purpose. I haven’t found any evidence that Russian events are not worth visiting. As is my teacher habit, there are pluses and minuses. Personal! And there is more or less balance. Some place more, other place less, but still.
And the most important factor (alongside with a clear lack of experience) is my obvious incompetence in bearing judgements to this sort of thing.
2) Teachers not involved in PD in any format, teachers unwilling to go online for PD.
I have formed a sort of a word-of-mouth community of language teachers, as long as learners, around me. It means that I regularly search for a teacher for some learner, or the other way around, help some teacher find a learner to teach. So I’ve recently recommended one of my former university mates to one of my sister’s friends, to help her child cope with the school English. Today my sister called me and said her friend (a teacher herself) is speechless about this recommended teacher. He/she is impressive in all respects and came across as a true professional.
For all I know, this teacher is not on FB for PD. Neither is he/she on Twitter. I haven’t seen any PD-related status updates from him/her on the Russian social network we’re all using. I can’t be sure of anything that is going on offline in the life of this teacher, but in the end I just know that the students learn from a dedicated professional, and maybe that is what matters. Maybe not, I can’t be sure.
I have already tried to express my mixed feelings about research in an iTDi Blog Research Issue. I was almost categorical then, but not entirely. And now I’m about to embark on my own research. That is something I will surely be writing more about [in the coming years] and that is something I want to explore with more awareness, but for now I’ll just say that research has value which I am now starting to comprehend. To be continued.
4) Kind attitude.
This one is a really risky point to be saying it out loud to the whole world of 44 followers of my blog. So I’ll be brief like a coward. I used to think kindness is exaggerated. That must make me look very cynical in your eyes. Maybe I used lame excuses for myself, such as living in a country like this, being surrounded by a society like this, blah blah like this. This all now sounds to me lame indeed. It doesn’t seem phoney to me anymore that kindness comes from within of all of us, that empathy can/could relate to me, too. I do believe though that it is a quality of the soul that needs to be fed and exercised. In this year 2013 I’ve been trying as much as I’ve never done (or thought of doing) before.
On a practical note, it makes sense to me to talk about all of these as of shifting your perspective, testing and stretching your grounded beliefs, especially when you expect your students to do so. Like I do. In a class a week ago there was a discussion task I’m really keen on. I give my students a statement and then, working in two groups, they have to find arguments to either prove or disagree with a statement. I assign the FOR or AGAINST position myself and they have to work within it. So this one student at that lesson was clearly unable, unwilling and openly against the position he had found himself in. He never tried to open up to a new vision. He took a firm, argumented hold of his opinion which he cares about. What I need from my students in this task is to be able to switch over, look at something from an angle different from what they’re used to. And trying to find sound arguments to try a d support this alternative, often unusual position.
How unbending are you in your beliefs? Are they right? And what is a right belief. Being categorical means to me now possibly regretting it in the future, possibly looking silly, holding too tight to something that might have little value in changed circumstances.
I have a friend who has very strong principles and beliefs and is proud of this fact. There is no reasoning with him when some part of his principle does not work in a certain condition, in an individual case. Verdict: all wrong. No reconsideration. No review. I am again in two minds about it. On the one hand, I feel jealous as it shows a character. On the other hand, I feel lack of balance, lack of an escape, suffocating limits.
And I am not sure how to end this. I suppose it’s got quite bizarre by the finishing lines. There is apparently no conclusion to be made, to match the main idea.