reflective practice cascade effect

I’m not a religious person. My life has had much religion in it, but nothing has ever spoken to me. I genuinely don’t know the answer to life’s big questions. One thing that does guide me upon my travels through the short time in history that I have on this planet is the belief that what we do, as individual humans, makes a difference. One need not be famous or rich or well known. Each person makes a difference. No matter who or where or when they are, they change. They change everything around them, just by being.

These beliefs ground me when life becomes immense. They guide my decision making process. Most of the time life does not afford us the opportunity to see the waves we leave in our wake. It does not allow us to see the positive or negative effects of our being us.

Today, I was provided one of those glorious opportunities to connect a dear friend with some of those waves.

Last weekend Josette LeBlanc came to Ulsan to facilitate our monthly reflective practice meeting. All the teachers of the group are extremely fresh to reflective practice (RP). She discussed feelings and the needs that are behind them. We discussed both our students and ourselves. It was a roaring success with much passionate discussion.

Today, one of the teachers in that cohort last weekend came up to me. He had been feeling emptiness in his work recently. We discussed it a bit at the RP meeting. He came to me with an enormous smile. He had asked his students to reflect on how they felt about English during their 10 minute break in class. He provided feeling words on the board and left the room. Upon his return the students had genuine answers for him which led to a discussion in which the students felt heard, the teacher was able to connect with a class more than he would have done before, and the students walked away with the positive feelings of knowing that their feelings were justified, heard, and have been taken into account.

A powerful anecdote for the reach of a single RP meeting.

But that is not all

Josette recently wrote a magnificent blog based on her reflections in her own class. Those reflections then led to a children’s story, which she shared with her class and the world (the link provided takes you to the story, and I highly recommend ALL of her posts if you haven’t already found her blog).

I have now taken this story and shared it with my class. I have had them focusing on accuracy and fluency drills (it’s a conversation class) for the past few weeks. I thought Josette’s story would be a nice listening activity for the day. I had the students take note of words/phrases they heard but didn’t know as well as of count/noncount nouns they heard.

The students didn’t understand all the words but they did understand the story and the meaning behind it. This led to many smiles. They also got a healthy dose of exposure to the varieties of count/noncount nouns.

It went so well I am going to use the story with a dictogloss activity tomorrow.

All in all, each student in class told me that today’s class was a nice change of pace, they had learned something new, and they felt more confident now that they understood a bit more about this tricky area of English.

None of this is Earth shattering, but these anecdotes would not have occurred had it not been for the inspiration created by one person. Josette discovered something about herself, gave something to her students, to me and my RP group, to my students and to the students of a colleague of mine. In so doing one person has managed to change an ever expanding group of people.

One more little note of worth. If Josette had not come to a RP workshop on a chilly, very rainy day in Busan April of 2012, I may never have met her. In turn I may not have discovered RP, boosted my passion for teaching, created this blog, or positively affected the hundreds of students I have seen since. If she had not come I may have done all of that. No one knows. What we DO know is all the positives that HAVE already come from that trip.

Inspiration. It happens easier than one might think. Every person leaves ripples on the water of life as they walk through time. Will you leave positivity in your wake?


4 thoughts on “reflective practice cascade effect

  1. You have given me an amazing gift John. With this story you helped me see how my actions impacted you, your colleague, and all the students involved. You could have kept this to yourself, but by sharing the story you have energized me. The story reminds of why I do what I do and encourages me to keep going. If only we could give this gift to more teachers. Your final question made me wonder how we could help other teachers see their ripples. I think the energizing factor would do amazing things for teachers who often feel unappreciated. I’ll have to think about this a bit more. Thank you for helping me to reflect and for helping us see that what we do does reach people.

  2. It’s after RP*, and our talk about this post made me realize that my comment above perhaps didn’t connect to the essence of this post, which as you said, was for teachers to be aware that what they do does have an impact. Your last question leads one to wonder what kind of ripple they would like to leave behind, and your story is a perfect example of how it’s possible to make a positive impact. This pondering itself is important. If I can extend my comment above, I think if teachers could see the positive impact they have, or even the negative one, they would be able to move forward with greater resolve. Of course they can see the ripples via reflective practice, but sometimes we need a friend or colleague to show us the mirror, as you did for me. No amount of reflecting could have helped me see this. For me this post is not only about imagining the impact we have, but it also inspired me to think about ways we can help teachers see more concretely the impact they have. Imagine the learning that could come of it. For example, what I learned from this is that I need to keep going with my research into NVC and reflective practice. Essentially, you helped me see that I am on the right track. Now, if I had been doubtful of my track (which I’m not, but let’s make this hypothetical), the mirror you provided here could have been the nudge I needed to stay hopeful.

    Hehe…this comment is a response to your comment earlier at dinner when you said that you thought we had a different perspective on the post. I’m wondering if you still think that way, or do you think my perspective is an extension of your reason for sharing this story?

    *Thank you so much for facilitating today. You provided an open space for exploration, and we all took away something very valuable. What I was struck by was the honesty and desire of all the teachers to improve even one small moment. From these small moment, which essentially have happened to all of us at some point, you gave us the chance to grow. You helped us see ourselves and each other. By going deeper into these moment, each one of us left the meeting with at least one strategy, or at least with a bit more hope in our hearts. Thank you for showing me again that there is nothing we can’t reflect on. Everything is a subject for reflection if we are curious.

      • Hi Josette,

        Thank you so much for elaborating on your initial comment. I see now where you are headed with your train of thought and completely agree. It would be amazing if we could create…something…that would allow for teachers to see more clearly the waves they leave in the process of doing all the amazing work teachers do.

        On a separate note, I’d like to thank you for your positive comments concerning our RP meeting today. I too got a load out of the meeting and you can be assured that a new post detailing what I took away from it soon!

        Your comments are always thoughtful, insightful and very much appreciated! Thank you again for continuing the discussion and adding depth to what has been posted.


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