I think teaching can be a life purpose, or calling. I don’t usually like ‘big words’ but at this point I am thinking about my reflective mission statement and therefore allow myself to use them. If teaching is a purpose, then ‘mission’ is something to do at a particular stage of life (or career) that brings someone closer to fulfilling this purpose.
How can one become a good teacher? To define ‘good’, let’s just simply use ‘helping students learn’ as a working definition here (apologies for being too simplistic!) How long does it take someone to become a real professional in any area? I really like the idea that it is about 10’000 hours of deliberate practice. Sounds like a lot of hours (on the one hand) but if you count the number of hours we teach a week, and then multiply it by the number of weeks in a term, then in a year, it is easy to see that we are already ‘doing’ many of those hours.
Does ‘deliberate practice’ involve reflection? In short, my answer is ‘yes’. I believe that good teachers are constantly learning from their own experiences: it can be through written notes on lesson plans, talking about the lessons with a colleague (or even a non-teaching friend or relative) or reading articles and books about teaching and learning, or writing a journal or a blog, etc. – in simple words, reflecting.
How do we measure if this reflection is ‘serious’ or ‘deliberate’ or ‘rigorous’? My own answer to this question is using the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC) as a tool to make my own reflective process structured and consistent. I am not planning to go into details about what ELC means, because I believe many of you are either actively using it or have read/heard about it, and I also think that each of us perhaps has a (slightly?) different idea about using the Cycle for reflection. I need to say that I have been a very passionate ELC-user (or supporter) since 2006, when I first encountered how the Cycle can facilitate reflection and even feedback on a training course and in everyday learning of a teacher, and to which depth it can lead. I realized now that the ELC is my kind of ‘password’ into making connections with other colleagues, and even started to fear that I am limiting myself in this way and perhaps close my mind and eyes for other effective and helpful practices. So the RP question to explore this year would be this: Are there any other ways to reflect besides using the ELC?
I am saying this because I am finally approaching my Reflective Practice (RP) mission statement for 2014, which is a promise to myself to do the following:
explore and share the value of experiential learning and teaching as a means to continuous professional development and job satisfaction for both teachers and trainers and, ultimately, a successful language learning
I am going to do it by:
- articulating and sharing my own vision on the Experiential Learning Cycle (ELC)
- practicing written reflection on the lessons and training sessions I run in 2014 (in this blog, for example)
- learning from others on how they approach reflection (and this is how I hope to connect to the amazing reflective community of bloggers with whom I would like to share my gratitude below)
- This blog post was inspired by John Pfordresher who started his RP Challenge and the brought together so many new perspectives on and about Reflection
- Anna Loseva, whose mission statement is loading and who reminded me that accepting a challenge does not mean following the rules (especially in the area of reflection where the ‘rules’ themselves are hard to define or work out)
- Anne Hendler, who was looking at mission statement in reflection and analyzed the parts of this concept and then created her own view on herself as a unique product, personally and professionally (well, this is how I read it and hope that it is accurate)
- Josette LeBlanc, who meaningfully divided the RP mission statement and focus into 2 parts, herself and community, and made me think again of how important communication is in the process of reflection (at least for me as a teacher seeking improvement and ‘measure’ in helping my students) Thank you for the mention, too (and searching for the meaning of reflection together is definitely more fun than doing it alone!)
- Hana Tichá, who helped me choose the actual verbs for writing out the mission itself (and gave a perspective that the mission statement can be modified, or crystalized in the future and even reduced to two words, for example!)
- There were also several more RP statements recently which I still need to read in more depth, and they are written by: David Harbinson, Kevin Stein, Rose Bard and Roseli Serra.
Thank you for reading and reflecting together, and I am looking forward to what this reflective year brings!