rpc – analysis

!!!GUEST POST ALERT!!!

It is with the utmost pleasure that I post the following challenge, put together by non other than THE Josette LeBlanc. Josette regularly writes on her fabulous blog where she focuses on reflective practice and compassionate communication. She also leads a great group of teachers in monthly RP meetings from her home base in Daegu, South Korea. She has been a momentous mentor to me over the past two years and I believe the following RP challenge will add immensely to our RPPLN’s ongoing reflective mission.

In the last Reflective Practice (RP) Challenge (link) we started at the first stage of the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) and described a moment in our classrooms or workplace. The next stage in the ELC is what some might call the Interpretation stage. However, for the purposes of this challenge, we will divide our interpretation of our moment into two separate parts: Analysis and Generalization. The Generalization will come later in the challenge. For now, I’ll explain how we can move forward into Analysis.

Considering all the facets that you discovered in your description, come up with possible reasons for the actions and reactions. Generate as many possible explanations as you can. Look at the moment from different perspectives. Consider the material, teacher, students, student dynamics, or student-teacher relationship. Recall past teaching, learning, cultural, or life experiences. Refer to the educational, cognitive, and linguistic theories you know. All this will inform your analysis.

The basic question that you want to ask during the analysis stage is, “why?” Here are some examples of such questions:

- why does/did it matter (why was it important) in that lesson/interaction?

- why was it helpful (or not helpful) for the people involved? for yourself?

- why was it helpful (or not helpful) for the goals of the group/course/lesson?

I also want to offer another lens of Analysis to look through. It connects to something we touched on during the third prompt in this part of the challenge: the topic of feelings and needs. During your moment, certain feelings arose which may have caused you to react or behave in a certain way. As I describe in the linked post, when a certain feeling comes up, it is because a need of ours has either been met or has not been met. These feelings and needs can be relatively easy to identify in ourselves — I wrote that with a bit of apprehension because even identifying our own needs and feelings can prove challenging. However, we will never really know the feelings and needs of another. As empathic beings we can only attempt to understand what is going on inside someone else, and this is where I believe we can get great insight into the Analysis of our moments.

Make your best guess as to what your student or colleague was feeling during your moment and link this to a possible need he or she may have had. Click here for a list of needs and here for a list of feelings. I also suggest empathizing a bit more with yourself at this stage. Ask yourself, “What other feelings did I have and what need of mine was either being addressed or not addressed?”

I like using a table to help me analyze feelings and needs:

Moment: Student was sleeping in class.

Me (Teacher)

Other (Student)

Feelings

Needs

Feelings

Needs

annoyed Shared reality (I am here to teach and that means I hope you are here to learn) Exhausted Rest (Maybe he has a job and couldn’t get to sleep last night)
       
       

For your Analysis feel free to look through the lens of feelings and needs, as well as the questions offered above, and also feel free to simply look through the lens that resonates more with you.

I look forward to reading your Analyses! 

rpc3 – the descriptive challenge

In my previous post I challenged out #RPPLN crew to describe a negative (or challenging) experience they have had.

Anne Hendler, Hana Ticha and David Harbinson all provided brave and supremely informative insights into the moments in a classroom that affect us all.

Josette LeBlanc  and Zhenya Polosatova went there own way and provided a perspective on interactions that will get you thinking.

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I too will follow in Josette’s renegade footsteps. The following will be a description of an experience I had in the classroom. There is quite a bit of self introspection mixed in as well if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me.

One thing about reflective practice (and something our #RPPLN has consistently shown) is that the “rules/directions” we follow are guidelines, not instructions.

That said, here goes.

I walk into my second class of the day straight after the completion of my first, which happens to be in the next classroom over. I love my first class of the day. The dynamics of the class and the rapport the students and I have built together has been fantastic. I always leave with a smile on my face. 

It’s an intermediate class. There are 15 students on the roll, but attendance is sporadic and averages about 7. Students are all young adults or adults.

The second class of the day is full of great students as well. However, I actively feel my enjoyment and happiness leeching into the atmosphere as I walk into the room. The second class has some very strong personalities. It also has a few quite meek ones. It demands constant attention on my part, to make sure the dominant members don’t take all my attention. 

I’d like to focus on an interaction I have had with my two biggest talkers. 

This experience comes after the class has met a number of times. It or something similar has happened a number of times throughout the course and is one of the big reasons maintaining the enthusiasm and verve from the day’s first lesson has become so challenging. 

One of the students in question is by far the oldest in the class. He is also not a native Korean, in a class full of native Koreans. The other student is nearer the age of her classmates, but has been a previous student of mine on two separate occasions. We are friendly and both frequently join weekly coffee/lunch sessions I have as open invitations to all my students. 

It's like listening to politicians speak past each other, with worse grammar and no vitriol.

It’s like listening to politicians speak past each other, with worse grammar and no vitriol.

Both of these students are quite gregarious. They love speaking. They both tend to dominate the conversations they are in. They both have major difficulties with listening comprehension. They both demonstrate very low awareness of their own speech or of the speech with whom they converse. 

With these challenges in mind I come into the classroom. These two students are always the first in the room, and I try to give them as much of my time as possible before the class proper begins. 

On this particular day I felt more acute frustration than normal at my inability to replicate the great atmosphere and dynamics of my day’s first lesson. I was annoyed that errors and mistakes noted and worked upon many lessons over were not being noticed by the students themselves or their peers. I was confused as to why peer noticing was working so well in the first lesson of the day and failing so miserably in the second. 

Today I entered the room and spent the break chatting with my eager beavers. When the time came and all students had assembled we began our “free time” (a short period at the beginning of class when students can don their metaphorical language hats and settle in for the day).

During this time students are to chat with neighbours, or friends, or me about whatever they’d like to talk about. On this day, eager beaver 1 & 2 had little intention on halting their conversation with me. In previous classes I had tried to use this energy to spark other students into comment. Many are very reluctant to talk.  Today I saw all the other students sitting around our circle looking bored, with their heads down, as my two dominant speakers maintained their line of questioning with me. I repeated many times that it is “free time” and that this is their chance to talk about whatever they’d like to talk about with whomever they wanted to talk to. 

I repeated these instructions with little avail. 

I allowed my frustration to show with the tone of my voice, even though I maintained my smile. I cut off the two in mid-concurrent-sentence.

slow downSTOP! Thank you. Slow down. Listen. Please. Slow down. Now it is free time. Please talk to one of your classmates. Try to listen to yourself. Listeners, help the speakers notice errors. Mistakes are A-OK! Let’s fix our errors! (We had talked about the difference many times. We also discussed the need to fix our errors and how helpful we could be to each other in working towards that goal.)

As I did this with a tone of a parent speaking to a child, with a forced smile pasted on my face, I was ashamed of myself. My eager beavers responded with graciousness and smiles. It certainly did not stop them from wanting to interact. Neither did it stop them from attending my coffee/lunch sessions or generally hurt the rapport within the class. Nevertheless, I was disappointed in my reaction. 

As we moved on into other activities I replayed the whole experience back in my head many times. I haven’t been able to let go of that ill feeling, that is until I read a couple of Josette’s recent posts on compassion training and self-lovingkindness.

mindfulness-roadWhen I think back on this experience now I see myself seeing the hole in the road coming (even though I wasn’t in a mindful enough place to see it in real time). That knowledge led to more self abuse. That is, until I recognised my large step forward in regards to my own mindfulness.

I had seen the hole in the road. I recognised it immediately upon falling in. I mitigated some of the possible negative outcomes by handling the fall more gracefully than I might have done in the past, when that hole would’ve had me at sixes and sevens. All positive steps taken.

Recognising all of this leaves me in a better place the next time this particular hole presents itself, and even if I fall in again, I know I can be mindful enough to recover.

That knowledge is a massive weight lifted.

Thank you for reading and providing me a space to further explore. As others have noted, simply by “getting it out there” we see with far more clarity.

Some questions to consider:

What impact do I think my handling of these students had on their enthusiasm, desire or learning?

How might it have affected the classroom dynamic as a whole?

How might I better manage my expectations from class to class?

How could I have better managed the class as a whole to better serve each student as a whole person (how could I have tailored my lessons to better fit each students needs)?

And many many more…

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rpc 3: description

I was hoping to write a quick recap of all the great stuff that has come out of this challenge so far, but there is just too much! Have a look at our previous challenge and you will see links to all the fantastic participants posts. Hana Tiche does a great job here of highlighting how beneficial this #RPPLN of ours can be.  Even better, there is a vibrant and quite enlightening dialogue going on in the comments section of everyone’s posts as well!

That said, it is never too late to join in with us. Have a go at commenting or maybe even a whole post! The more voices we have the richer and more fulfilling our learning becomes.

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Before setting up our next reflective practice (RP) challenge, I thought it would be prudent to provide more information on what the experiential learning cycle (ELC) is. RP comes in many flavors, but the ELC provides us standard platform from which we all may jump.

ELC

What? = description. The goal in this stage is to describe, objectively, what has happened. The key difficulty in this step is separating our emotions from our descriptions.

So what?= analysis. Once we’ve described fully and separated feelings from our description we can better analyze the experience we encountered.

Now what?= action plan. This is the stage where we review our description and analysis and form a plan of action for our next experience.

In addition, if you are interested in how a RP meeting might work in a face to face context, Josette Leblanc has a great write up here.

Now, without further to do…

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rpc3 – description

Our third challenge might prove to be our most difficult. At least I find this part of the ELC the most difficult.

In the description phase of the ELC our job is to fully describe our experience. We must acknowledge as many facts as possible. EVERYTHING is important and useful. The more thorough we are the better we understand.

In addition, we must acknowledge our emotions, as well as those of whom we’ve interacted with.

This is no small task.

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DIRECTIONS

Think about a negative interaction you have had in your classroom. Not an entire lesson, but a single interaction that occurred between you and someone else (a student, another teacher, a parent, etc).

Perhaps a student was sleeping in class, or being disruptive or inattentive. Perhaps we, the teacher, reacted to a specific stimuli in an unhelpful way. Maybe someone walked in on a lesson and caused a negative disruption to us or our students.

Our task today is to take this negative interaction and describe it. It is important that we describe and describe only.

Give a little background. Describe the classroom layout, the students, the weather. Were you hungry? Was the class the first of the day? The last? Right before lunch? How often do you have that class? Have there been previous incidents with class? at this hour? How did you feel before walking into class that day? How did you feel before the incident? During? Directly following it? How did you respond? How did the students respond?

There is no detail that is too small. 

In addition, I would like us to pay particular attention to the feelings of all those involved. How did we feel? How do we think the student(s) felt. For now, let’s not analyze why we think they felt one way or another (that’s for our next challenge).

Often times, the act of description provides a valuable insight into our thoughts, intentions, assumptions and all other manner of things that affect what happens in our classroom. It is my hope that this description process will push you to view what happened through a number of different lenses, thus creating a more complete picture from which to analyze the event.

***As many of us have already noted in previous #RPC related posts, real learning comes from reflecting on the good and the bad. It is not our goal to accuse, ridicule or demean. Our goal is to build each other up and learn from one another. #TRUST is a crucial component of reflective practice, without it our #RPPLN would not successful. Let’s be brave in opening our classrooms up to each other. Let’s maintain the helpful and collaborative safe space that we’ve created.***

Good luck! I can’t wait to see our #RPPLN in action!

(For those of you interested in diving deeper into the ELC and what this whole description thing is about, Zhenya Dnipro has a fantastic post here all about it.)

rpc2- my responses

The following are some of the thoughts that have coalesced in recent days since posting our second challenge in the reflective practice blog challenge (#rpc).

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grammar police1) Teachers must teach grammar explicitly if learners are to acquire language effectively.

If this statement were posed to me in real life I think I would have found my way to the “strongly disagree” crowd without a second thought. I don’t remember learning grammar rules before learning to speak to my parents as a toddler. However, after reading some of our other participants ideas and after given this statement more thought I am finding myself in far grayer territory.

Now, without diving into the whole second language acquisition debate, I do think there might be a place for grammar explicitly taught. Certainly not a large, or long lasting place. I would be loth to spend time trying to explain the complexities of the rules behind articles or prepositions for instance. But I do think that some focus on a specific form can be helpful. If only for the repetition of it.

I have found that focus on accuracy, when used sparingly, helps students build confidence. It also assists them in working out the kinks of the pure mechanics of production (think tongue movement etc). As a learner, attempting learner that is, of a second language I appreciate very minimal focus on some grammar on occasion.

Just thinking writing this feels sacrilegious after seeing the sterling results of Korea’s grammar based education system (heavy dose of sarcasm). It should be stated that over egging the pudding in terms of grammar teaching is easily done, and so should certainly be done sparingly. That said, I’m still in my gray area as to whether or not it’s necessary to be effective. Perhaps, as with most things, the situation matters the most. ESL learners will have far less need for it than EFL learners I’d guess.

I’ve surprised myself with this answer. Maybe I’ve surprised you too. Any thoughts or guidance or light hearted mockery is welcome.

2) Teachers who don’t utilize technology in class are doing a disservice to their students.

I covered this somewhat inadvertently in a recent post that can be found here.

3) Teachers have to understand the correlation between student feelings and student needs to be effective.

Here again I would fall onto the agree side of the fence. Let’s consider an example. A student is not engaged in a lesson. They are trying to sleep or staring at their desk. A teacher who dismisses that student for being a “bad” student has done that student a disservice. In addition, poorly handled, the situation could cause push back from other members of the class. A teacher could easily find themselves fighting to remain effective.

Most of the participants in this challenge have questioned whether or not they make the correlation in their own class, but then mention that they DO recognize students have needs and that feelings stem from them. That, in my mind, is exactly what the statement is saying needs to be done. Nothing more.

I do not believe this statement is saying that teachers have to successfully understand the needs behind a students feelings or behavior, merely that we must be aware that there is a correlation and heed that awareness when addressing the issue.

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That does it for me.

Feel free to comment and if you haven’t already seen what our other participants have had to say on these matters, have a look…

Anne Hendler asks herself and all of us some very pertinent questions.

David Harbinson joins in with some very thoughtful analysis of his own.

and Hana Ticha responds in her own way providing sage wisdom along the way.

#edtech, star trek and the matrix

So #edtech is a big deal lately.

From what I can tell, #edtech is the idea of using technology in the classroom. There are all kinds of thoughts and opinions about different technologies usefulness and effectiveness to student learning.

Some argue for full tech engagement, others shy away completely. I’ve heard voices inquire about where we educators are supposed to find the time to add another layer to our classes. Who finances all this tech?

There are arguments that say #edtech can help the environment. There are rebuttals to these. There are studies that make one claim or another on any and all arguments.

In the end, there is large disagreement on whether or not we (educators) need to jump on the tech band wagon.

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missing the forest for the trees

I have a hard time engaging in this debate. From my humble point of view, it misses the point.

I would argue that the job of a modern English language teacher is to help students navigate their world through the medium of English. It isn’t about using technology to teach students, it’s about teaching students how to understand, decipher and decode English when using technology.

If looked at through this prism, teaching with technology becomes just another avenue in which to connect with our students. It also helps us connect our students with the greater English speaking world. By preparing them with the skills and tools necessary to interact in the digital age, we better prepare them to communicate successfully in a medium that THEY WILL UTILIZE whether we teachers are comfortable with the technology or not.

The world never stops moving forward. We get older, our students don’t.

Some technology is certainly useful for SOME student learning, just as (and I dislike saying it) some textbooks are useful. Bad technology is as bad as a bad book.

It’s the teachers job to keep up to date and make the determination of what will be useful for their students.

the borg

the Borg

That said, #edtech is certainly not about to replace the need for teachers or face to face contact with ones peers. That won’t happen until we all turn into the Borg.

If we see our job as helping our students navigate the world they find themselves in outside the classroom, we certainly shouldn’t keep technology out of the classroom.

Regardless of the argument, the fact is that technology is here, has always been here, and will continue to be. The challenge for us is that technology is changing faster than ever. This fact does not necessitate that we need to become techie superstars. It does, however, mean the importance of building relationships with our students becomes even greater. For if we don’t, we cannot hope to keep up with all the ways they communicate, and if that happens, the effectiveness with which we teach deteriorates.

Technology is a resource. Teachers need to understand how students use technology to communicate if we want to better aid them in navigating the world of today and tomorrow.

red pill blue pillThere is no technology prescription. It’s not an all or nothing choice between the red pill and the blue pill.

Remaining flexible to our students needs and working to better understand the necessary technology to better serve those needs is what we should be focusing on. If we do that we are assured to remain relevant to our students.

There will be a place for a good old pen and paper for some time to come. There will always be a place for face to face contact. AND, technology will always be an important aspect of our lives.

We may not yet BE the Borg, but they are right about one thing.

Resistance is futile.

rpc2–statements and responses

This is the second Reflective Practice Challenge (rpc) in a running series of challenges in which I challenge myself, and whoever would like to join in, to reflect upon themselves and their classrooms.

The first challenge sparked some fantastic responses.

Ann Loseva stepped up with trepidation, inverted it and reflected upon herself.

Anne Hendler broke it down and reminded us that we, all of us, are unique.

Hana Ticha experienced some pain, but enjoyed the process of breaking it down and building it up again.

David Harbinson joins in with his RP mission statement first draft and responds in style to the challenge below.

Josette LeBlanc defined her statement and what a reflective community is all about!

Kevin Stein adds his two cents on all that’s worthy regards reflection and teaching. #amazingnarative

Roseli Serra adds her voice and reflects on how she reflects. Meta reflection at its finest.

Zhenya Dnipro on how reflective practice helps her continually develop and learn from her #PLN.

“Newbie” CELTA trainer has come in with a fun, creative approach to our first challenge here.

and Rose Bard has joined in on the act. Check out the back of her dictionary…

Apologies if I missed yours. Let me know if I did and I’ll add it to our growing list.

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RP Challenge – 2

Statements & Responses

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This is a fun ice breaker I use in class. It’s also a great way to get an RP meeting started.

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strongly disagree               disagree                      agree                   strongly agree

1) Teachers must teach grammar explicitly if learners are to acquire language effectively.

2) Teachers who don’t utilize technology in class are doing a disservice to their students.

3) Teachers have to understand the correlation between student feelings and student needs* to be effective.

*What needs are/aren’t being met in the students lives that might lead to the students current feelings.

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The idea behind this challenge is to get everyone thinking and talking. In class I have students make a line (with either end being strongly agree/disagree). I then read the statements out and the students move to a point in the line that aligns them with how they feel about the statement.

For the purposes of this challenge, I hope these statements will get you thinking. I am also hoping to hear your responses to them. What values guide you in your thinking?

All you have to do to participate is blog your thoughts. If you don’t have a blog, join in the conversation through our comments sections.

rpc1-mission statement

Reflective Practice Challenge – 1

My Reflective Practice Mission Statement

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I seek to better understand myself and how my contextual outlook affects the communications I have with those around me. By reflecting on these connections I hope to mitigate instances of miscommunication. This improvement, brought about through critical reflection, will not only help me in my life, but will assist me in guiding my students through the challenges of communicating with a wider world.

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WHY?

I have been thinking of ways to integrate the inspiration and learning I get from face to face RP meetings with the format of a blog.

This is the first of an undetermined number of RP challenges I will set out for whoever is interested. My hope is that these challenges lead to more interaction between the disparate members of our blogging community, and so provide a modicum of the inspiration and insight I habitually leave RP meetings with.

I also hope that the production from these challenges will serve as a quality reference for anyone seeking out more information on what RP is all about.

This first challenge was much harder than I anticipated. It was also quite enlightening.

I encourage you to think about what your reflective practice mission statement might look like. And I doubly encourage you to post what you come up with so that a wider community can gain from your insight.

I, for one, am eagerly awaiting to see what you come up with.