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.