RP Busan – September 2012

Here in Busan the local RP-SIG (Reflective Practice Special Interest Group) met for the first time of the semester. Following are some highlights.

We began by introducing ourselves and discussing the goals we set at the previous meeting in July. Those who were in attendance for the first time were asked what they thought about RP and/or what it meant to them.

Chris believed RP was about bouncing ideas off each other to mutually benefit the group as a whole.

Gareth came just hoping that he could contribute. This was his first time coming to RP. He has taught middle school here in Korea for 18 months and did not know what reflective practice really meant,  beyond the face value of the words. He was quickly assured that everyone with an open mind and an interest in improving had all sorts of quality to offer the group.

Jung Yeong Mi is a native Korean teacher who spent 25 years in the navy and now teaches a local naval university. He thought the idea of reflection was critical to improving as teachers and helping our students improve as students.

Lyndon had come for the first time but had done post graduate work on reflection and was ready to get reflecting with our growing local community.

Matt came just looking for ideas. Ideas of what he could do better, differently.

Owen was another new comer and had plenty of recipe and casino related stories to share from his job at a local vocational university.

Darrell was new to Korea but not to teaching. He agreed with the group that reflection was critical for teacher development.

Josette had taken a long summer holiday and forgotten her previous goal. She was eager to get back into the reflective flow.

Brad had accomplished one goal but not another, and acknowledged that he set fairly unrealistic goals.

Gemma had completed her goal and was ready to get going again for the new semester.

Your correspondent had set a goal to videotape a class. He failed, but is more determined than ever to do so.

We began with a provocative question taken from the talented Kevin Stein (his fantastic blog can be found at this address http://theotherthingsmatter.blogspot.kr/ )

What teaching aids are in your teaching toolbox?

After a short discussion in pairs we came together as a group and discussed the results. The aids ranged from the typical (multi color chalk/markers & teach cables & timers) to the intriguing. Matt needs a water bottle in his class. Not only does it help keep his throat from drying out, but it helps him slow down and give the students time to digest what was said. I thought this was a remarkably simple and easy way to pace ourselves and force ourselves to give the students the time and space they need to absorb. Owen said he needed a positive attitude and a smile. This seems obvious but the group agreed, that while we all know the importance, it can be difficult to manage our daily lives and keep that separate from our classroom.

I was curious, after our discussion had reached full circle, that no one had mentioned themselves as an important tool for their toolbox.

On that note I brought up how my teaching philosophy centers around the idea that I am a language informant, there to help my students understand how the English language is used. I think I have a pretty darn important job seeing as how, when they encounter English in the real world it won’t be the sterile, by the book, inside the box language that their course books and listening tests offer them. This thus makes me (the native English teacher) pretty integral to their learning!

Following that line of thought we moved the discussion on to teachers and students and how we can connect with our students. We all agreed that personalization and “knowing your students” was just absolutely critical to creating the space and the atmosphere that a successful language class requires. This brought another question…

How can we connect with students? Especially considering the language barrier is so high with many of our students.

This question brought the discussion to nonverbal communication. Is it important? If so, how much? How does it happen? Do we actively engage in it? What positive effects can nonverbal communication have on a language class? Negative?

The group again broke and consulted. When we came back we started with the negative. What do we do that can negatively effect our class. Chris noted that organization is huge and a disorganized teacher gives off all kinds of negative nonverbal communication that will disrupt a class. Posture, attire, image, attitude are all important factors as well.

On the positive side, we again talked about our smiles, position in the classroom, writing the days activities/objectives on the borad (which was uniformly agreed to aid student understanding of what is going on in the lesson). A number of members discussed different methods of transitions they nonverbally convey to their classes (ie, when moving from one activity to another, or from the raucous break time atmosphere to the beginning of a lesson). Consistency popped up as it usually does. Consistency in method. How it helps students know what’s expected, but also feel comfortable that they can understand what the teacher will want from them.

Gemma uses a timer, and when the class gets out of hand she stops teaching, starts the timer and waits. When the class calms down again she stops the timer. However much time is on the timer at the end of class is how much time the class must stay after the bell. I thought this was a remarkably effective and useful idea for anyone in a large classroom setting, and especially with children.

Anne and Darrell had a conversation and came back to the group with wholly different ideas from what I thought they would be talking about. Anne thought using Charlie Chaplin (or other nonverbal video) could be used in a myriad of ways in a language class. Description, narration, questioning, etc etc etc. I was very intrigued by this idea and will most certainly give it a go in my own classroom.

I shared my experience with a non-talking lesson, another nugget of genius taken from Mr. Kevin Stein  (his video description of which is far better than any attempt I could make here…it can be found here – http://theotherthingsmatter.blogspot.jp/2012/07/talking-about-not-talking-hatless.html ). Gareth was sufficiently taken with the idea that he made his goal for next month to try it out in his classroom!

With discussion still roaring I had the unenviable job of wrapping up for the day. Everyone set goals for the following month and left with a few ideas in their pocket.

All in all I judged it as a hugely beneficial afternoon of reflection and hope that this recap might offer something to you, the reader, as well.

How would you answer the question posed within? Join our discussion and help build our community.

I opened our meeting with my belief about reflective practice, and will I close with it here. Reflective practice within a community of open minded teachers is a fantastically constructive and incredible method of crowdsourcing. There are so many of us out there; all with different classrooms, expectations, experiences and knowledge. Having a local, and online, community in which to practice RP is an invaluable resource for any teacher. I count myself most fortunate to have found such a community so early in my career.


5 thoughts on “RP Busan – September 2012

  1. Pingback: Meta-reflection, a response « livinglearning

  2. As a way back in to teaching in classrooms again, I think joining the RP in Busan was definitely worthwhile. Educative experiences from John Dewey’s Experience and Education (1938) is the idea of an experience as something to learn from, something to gain knowledge from so that further experiences continually educate; experiences, in some way, can be progressive. Some argue that being able to delineate between miseducative/educative experiences is where Dewey’s argument breaks down but I think the experience in Busan was evidently educative because of the discussions and transformations in practice taking place.

    I walked away from the meeting thinking this is where I need to be. This platform of reflection is where teachers can draw upon practice, both individual and mutual shared experiences, in order to better their own practices. Tangible teaching tools, venting of classroom situations, personal revelations of teacher self – all are welcome in the RP space.

    Solutions to teaching conflicts may or may not appear but there is something to say about sharing in a safe space so that teacher dialogue ensures that you do not feel isolated. Nothing like feeling your classroom practice goes nowhere.

    I believe the classroom is a deeply personal space and so too is the teacher self. Engaging in a forum where my teacher self continues along its path because of those I meet and communicate with is surely where I need to be and where my classrooms need me to be. Progress indeed.

    • Hi Darryl,

      Thank you for your views on the usefulness and necessity of RP in teaching. Your wise comments not only added value on the day but now are able to enrich the communities conversation as a whole.

      I like how you have pointed out what a deeply personal space the classroom is. It is for that reason that so many shy away from opening up to a community of educators. However, when a safe place is created for people to share the benefits to ourselves, and thus the students we work with, are immeasurable.

      I could not be more happy that our Busan community is growing and that, as a first timer here, you felt free and comfortable to share your views. It is an honor to work with so many talented teachers and it is because of you and so many others that I have myself have not only improved, but have felt the confidence to create things such as the RP-SIG, this blog, and so much more!


  3. Hi John and Darryl,

    Any comment thread with thoughtful reference to Dewey is aces in my book. Sounds like it was a productive RP-SIG. Wish I could have attended. You all thinking about meeting in Japan sometime soon? I can snag a room at my high school. I’m thrilled to see that the teaching aids/toolbox question led to such an interesting collection of answers. I’m also definitely snagging Gemma’s idea about the class timer. I’m going to link it up to the idea of “dead time” in a soccer match. And next time I get together with the teachers in my school system, I think I’ll start off by asking them to explore what kind of messages they are sending, non-verbally, in their classes. Reflective Practice that takes place within a community is really key to raising self-awareness and development. Seems like Busan is the right kind of place for a reflective teacher to thrive. Thanks for writing this up John. Definitely a highlight of my week.


    • Hi Kevin,

      It was a super useful bit of reflecting, that’s for sure! Not sure if we could muster the finances to get to Japan, but that does give me another idea.

      I was going to ask what is the most valuable asset to a teacher in the classroom, but thought your teaching toolbox was a better idea, and boy was i proved correct! Very inspired conversation.

      I have been using Gemma’s timer idea with great efficacy. Certainly a top rate idea that could work in many different situations. I also like how you have added a bit of creativity with the football analogy. I think I will try to add that into the explanation as well, just hope I have enough time. The 45 min window I get every week just does not provide for the kind of depth I would like to include in so much of what i do.

      I am excited to hear that you will be asking your teachers about non-verbal communication. I think it is vital in every day life, but so much more so when different languages are involved. I would love to hear the results of the reflection!


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