One of the things I took for myself out of the Reflective Practice meeting (#RPTokyo being the unofficial hashtag used solely by me *so far*) that we had today is that I can write every day. I’ll set the timer for 10 minutes and just write. Write those blog posts I want to write. Write NOW and not expect myself to have them clean and perfect and ready to publish.
So here I am, just back home from an RP meeting on a Friday night, dying (metaphorically) to put on the screen what this meeting was all about. Setting the timer for 10 mins and…
Below is my plan (annotated where necessary) for the second RP meeting that we held today. I post it as it is, copied and pasted straight away from a Google Doc I have created for that #RPTokyo purpose. Afterwards I will walk you through what actually happened and how.
May 27th, Friday
LISTEN (note for myself to remember to keep it a priority for us to listen to each other)
- Quick intro (Who are you? Why are you here? What’s your experience with RP?)
- “Fluency” warm-up. Talk to a partner for 3 minutes about the questions. The listener should ask questions.
Remember one or two challenging moments in class: What happened? How did it make you feel? How did you respond to it?
- Whole group recap of the ways people respond to challenging, stressful situations.
(?elicit and write on board adjectives to describe emotions people felt?)
- ELC as one of the tools to learn to reflect on our teaching in order to make changes.
(discuss the cycle in pairs?). Any comments? —> “experience” that we look at doesn’t have to be a negative experience. It can be any stage of class or a success. (my own note I wanted to remember to say)
- Let’s explore the ELC together. In pairs, go through a moment you shared before (or a different moment?) with the help of the Cycle.
- Wrap-up. Share what you’ve learnt today (if), any thoughts before leaving?
Give article to read just FYI. About RP groups in Korea.
Resources to share in the group:
Lessons learnt, Lesson one
Trust myself to plan and organize, trust the group to follow and adjust.
You might notice in the rough plan I shared above the many question marks I used. Thinking of how to facilitate a meeting to the benefit of all proved not at all equal to planning a workshop, as the underlying thoughts I had were, “Does it help us feel a community? Can we open up? Will we listen to each other? Who has control?”
One of the main concerns I had in anticipation of the first meeting was that, as an organizer, I’d risk coming across as knowledgeable. That my role of an organiser and facilitator would have me pushing people to do what I think RP meeting is about, what I saw it to be (in Daegu, Korea, in the autumn of 2014). I sweated and panicked over this. Two meetings later, I realize that being a facilitator is a package deal – it goes with those concerns and responsibilities in hand. Fear of the unknown, anticipation of negative reactions, unclear set-up, unmet expectations – those were some factors that triggered a massive lack of confidence in me. And while to a certain extent they still do, now I know I’m not alone. In this second meeting, it did feel like we were a group. We were making choices together and it proved painless to trust each other and share the reins. It was painless, too, to get the reins back and ensure we’re on track.
Notes, thoughts, practicalities
There’s a mental trap it’s easy to fall into – to consciously or subconsciously expect to come out of an event/presentation/workshop/meeting with real take-aways. Well, when I’m present and listening, it’s easy to. Here are the notes I took which count as take-aways.
1. I did take notes of the emotions that were named during the 5-5-5 activity during our group recap of our stories. Challenging situations left the teachers feel frustrated, confused, overwhelmed, helpless, frozen, ignorant, grateful for students’ good communication skills, guilty, caring, angry… Feeling like they’re not doing enough. I’m glad we looked at the bright side, too.
2. Two out of six teachers present at the meeting were Japanese, and it was from them that I heard the following idea: Japanese teachers are culturally more inclined to be negative towards their teaching experiences. In the same way, Japanese students might not be used to praise. But then, is it really so culturally exclusive? Aren’t we all too obsessed with dwelling on the negative sometimes?…We’re probably more likely to revisit in our minds a tiniest classroom failure than a little classroom success.
3. … And that was when it dawned on me that, in the short time in the very rigid structure of my class that I have for feedback and potentially connecting to the students, I should aim at making my class a more positive experience. Limit the points to improve, extend the praise. Today was the first day when I drew smiley faces in my students’ self-check sheets.
4. I will use a timer for my own writing! I have. We’re reaping the fruit.
5. In connection with the same idea of obsessing over the negative, I remembered a plenary I attended three or four years ago at a conference in Turkey. The speaker asked us to write down the answer to the question – What am I good at as a teacher? – and tell about it to the partner. Is it an easy question to ask yourself? I struggled to do it back then, I’m not sure I’ll easily do it now. The plenary speaker was Chuck Sandy.
6. During our discussions at the meeting I formulated a couple more things that teaching at Clark taught me. (A) Have students busy with a task all the time; (B) Minimize teach-talk to students – what is an important message for me is likely a mere noise for them. (C) Do not fear to show strength and character, do not fear to not be soft and friendly. (D) I hadn’t realized before teaching in Japan just how much code-switching from Russian to English and back I was doing in my classes and how big the impact was. I never had to think about it!
I have said it many times, to myself and others, that I’m good on my own. I have said it so many times that I believe it to be true. Indeed, imagining me spending a Saturday night alone sketching, colouring, reading, writing this, one might agree that there’s a lot of an introvert in me. Yet there’s no denying the fact that reflecting in a group for two hours gave me so much energy that I nearly finished this blog post in an hour’s time. After struggling for months to get my momentum back.
Maybe there’s something to it, even if it only were a once-in-a-month kind of effect.