Promoting?

I had lunch with a colleague yesterday. We meet semi-regularly to exchange books and talk about teaching and learning, conferences, news, etc.

I told her that the idea about our Reflective Practice Group in Dnipro is gradually shared in Ukraine and beyond. For example, we co-presented about it in August 2018 as a session of a Teacher Training Day in Kyiv, then brought it to IATEFL Ukraine in April this year, and just on Friday were officially accepted to IATEFL Poland. Besides, I will be talking about it in Lviv at the end of the month with the local teachers here. I also (secretly!) applied to TESOL International and will patiently wait till the end of summer if the session is accepted.

My colleague asked me if it was/has been okay to ‘promote your own idea’ as a part of big events for teachers. I was surprised to hear this question, but then realized that it could be actually seen as a self promo, on some level. My quick reply was that there is nothing to sell (actually or potentially) and no money-making involved. There is nothing I am going to organize or arrange in any new city in Ukraine. My only purpose is to share the passion for reflective thinking, encourage teachers to ‘take control’ of their professional development and if they are inspired, to try a similar kind of group in their city or workplace. I think my colleague got the point, and agreed that it is ‘okay’ to share that.

I realized I am still thinking about the ‘promotion’ idea. What came to my mind is one attendee in Kyiv, who seemed to be disappointed (even angry?) at some point during our session. She disagreed with the tasks we offered, questioned the idea/purpose for such a group, refused to work in pairs/groups, etc. The great part of presenting as a team (three of us) was that we took turns and sat next to this person, answering questions and helping the rest of the group to focus on what was going on.

Co-Presenters, Reflective Practice promoters, Edu Hub organizers, friends and colleagues from Dnipro: Olya and Oksana.

Since this blog is my reflective lounge, I’d like to share some thoughts about it.

First of all, the title and the abstract for the sessions in the booklet. 

The title of this session stated: ‘Alternative Way to Develop Professionally: Reflective Practice Group‘.

Our abstract said (more or less) the following:

‘This session is about an alternative way to develop professionally: in a group of like-minded colleagues, for free, without any hidden agenda and aiming to serve students better. For each meeting, a specific topic is set and preparation questions or reading is shared. There are similar groups in other countries, so we see ourselves as a part of larger reflective community of language teachers. Our group has been operating in Dnipro for the last 3 years, so there is a number of topics and insights to share. Everyone who comes will be inspired, and more groups around Ukraine may be born.’

I now wonder if it was clear enough, and/or helpful to make the choice what to attend (there were eight or nine more concurrent sessions at our time slot).

Second, the presentation materials (slides): we each introduced each other, and had a slide with some logos, stats, certificates, etc. Mine could have looked like boasting as I listed the countries where I had run intensive courses for teachers. The intention was to show how different all of us co-presenters are, and that we all find the idea of the reflective meetings useful for our professional development.

I now wonder if we could introduce ourselves at the end of the session, not distracting everyone from its content, ideas and tasks.

Third, and still talking about the materials: the handout mentioned our e-mail addresses, my Twitter handle and… the name of this blog. The reason was to share where attendees can find some more information about the group activities, topics, theory, etc. Since the title says ‘Wednesday Seminars’, it was possibly perceived as my attempt to sell some teacher development sessions?

I now wonder if… (to be honest, I don’t know what to say about this one!)

Finally, I wonder if there was anything in our manner of facilitating the session, and/or in the way we engaged the audience at the very beginning, that could have made that attendee feel she had to resist the idea of such a group. Something we could not notice, something we could have learned if we had asked for some feedback from the audience?

Overall, as our session progressed, she seemed to be more accepting and open. She did suggest that we should (quote) ‘publish our findings’ so that other teachers could learn from this experience. Well, I think the whole idea of having your own reflective circle of colleagues to share the learning and teaching challenges and successes is generally very new in Ukraine (and not only?) is perhaps far from ‘main stream’ professional development activity (with course books to share and certificates at the end). Sadly (to me) though, I have seen a lot of (sponsored) talks on behalf of a publisher or institution, and those were accepted without resistance or open questioning. Is the idea of our reflective meetings too ‘alternative’? Hm…

Something I learned as a conference co-organizer is being more clear and transparent about this point in the proposal selection process. For example, I was reading the Call for Papers from the Image Conference (one event I really want to attend in the future!) and found this note in the Guidelines for Speakers. Quote:

‘Delegates are likely to be disappointed if a session they attended based on the description in the abstract turns out to be an advertisement for a publication, product, or course. The submissions of speaker proposals for commercial presentations are welcomed but, if you are basing your presentation either in part or in full on a newly or recently published material, you should clearly say this in your abstract.’

I think this is something we will keep in mind for the future EduHub events in Dnipro, Ukraine.

Wait, was that some promotion? Oops…

Thank you for reading! 🙂

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/.
This entry was posted in Learning Thoughts, Reflective Practice and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Promoting?

  1. Andriy Ruzhynskiy says:

    Promotiin does not necessarily mean money making, Zhenya. I would use all my hands (even if had more than 2} to vote for the kind of promotion that you offerr. Promoting professionalism is not a bad idea, eh? (this was a special question for our Canadian friend Wilma:)))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Andriy
      Thank you for this comment, and I feel great to have your hands in support of this idea. I do hope it is about ‘promoting professionalism’, as you put it so beautifully.
      And yes, great to have like-minded friends who are also colleagues and fellow reflective practice addicts (wink, wink, Wilma)
      By the way, have you seen her amazing blog where she has been posting daily for hte last 6 months or so? http://teachandreflect.com/
      Zhenya

      Like

  2. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Zhenya,
    I was quite surprised to read some of the questions here.
    “My colleague asked me if it was/has been okay to ‘promote your own idea’ as a part of big events for teachers.”
    Surely that’s the point of a conference? To share your ideas?
    “I was surprised to hear this question, but then realized that it could be actually seen as a self promo, on some level.”
    What’s wrong with self-promotion? (said as somebody who’s been doing that for a while!) And actually, I don’t think what you’ve been doing with the RP group _is_ self-promotion – you’re sharing an incredibly valuable CPD idea that has the power to help a lot of people. If you link people to your blog in the process, all that’s doing is giving them somewhere to find out more.

    Keep sharing your ideas, and good luck with being accepted at TESOL! And if you can manage it, please apply for IATEFL too 🙂
    Sandy

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zhenya says:

      Hello Dear Sandy
      Thank you for your supportive and warm comment! As I said already (on Facebook?) the idea of what a conference is for (and what it is not for) may vary from culture to culture.
      From my most recent experience in Ukraine, it is a definite ‘yes’ for the part about sharing ideas. I agree with you that the whole point of a Reflective Group is a CPD idea for teachers, by teachers. New groups can be started, and I am offering my help to colleagues in Ukraine, if they needed (just as I was offered help at the beginning by my friends from the groups in operation)
      The whole notion of ‘an expert’ seems to be important for the Ukrainian CPD (at least now). Irene writes about it in her comment below. My other colleague said this on Twitter: ‘In Ukraine there’s hardly any tradition of grassroots-level democracy and this answers the question. Most people are just not aware of anything which is not a commercial or formal organization and it makes them suspicious. Moreover, teacher training in most cases is indeed either a formality/obligation to gain a rise/promotion or an occasion for publishers/authors/book sellers promote their books.’ I agree about the ‘suspicious’ part, and Irene below summarizes how I sometimes feel about the publishers’ presence and activity.
      In a way, reflective groups offers a choice, and allows teachers not to see anything as ‘the’ way. I think this idea is powerful, yet scary, on some level.

      Thank you for helping me continue this conversation, and hope we can meet in Gdansk, even briefly! 🙂
      Zhenya

      Like

  3. Irene Sushko says:

    Zhenya, I read your post days ago but I am a bit of a slowpoke and like to “sleep on things” before making any comments. So I’ve got a few thoughts regarding your post.
    Firstly, your concern about promoting yourself or your idea. I see no problem with that, even if you were making money. These days you have to promote, advertise, brag out (if you will) about your skills, experience and expertise. The idea of reflective groups is unique, particularly for Ukraine so there is nothing wrong about telling people about it.
    Secondly, when you introduce yourself at the beginning of your talk, presentation, workshop, I call it ‘establish credibility’. You tell people who you are and why you are credible to talk about this or that.
    When I attended your session during Kyiv Teacher Training Day I knew exactly where I was going and why as it was clear from the abstract. Perhaps there were things I questioned, disagreed with, admired or took at face value but that’s my perception of things overall. It seems to me you’re thinking too much into it, especially when there was just one attendee not happy about the session. (Don’t get me wrong, everyone counts but…)
    Finally, I like your comment about publishers and institutions and I feel the same way about those presentations. For some reason nobody ever questions their products or projects. Perhaps the fact that reflective groups are organized by an individual or a group of individuals is what bugs people.
    And last but not the least, reflective groups are for teachers who want to look at themselves or their teaching style from a different perspective and not everyone is ready to question their way of doing things and admit their weaknesses.
    Good luck with TESOL application!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Zhenya says:

      Dear Irene

      Wow, thank you for this conversation! Please don’t say that you are a slow writer: I remember promising to create a post based on the obstacles to starting new reflective groups, and it is still sitting in my Drafts 🙂
      It is important for me to read that you see the idea of such groups being new and unique in Ukraine. I noticed that IATEFL (with British Council?) offers TAG (teacher activity groups) and I wonder how similar or different these are. Perhaps the idea of not having an ‘official’ expert as a group leader makes teachers careful. Just as you mentioned that we (in Ukraine) need to establish credibility before we share ideas (and without the credibility, we might not take the speaker seriously…)
      Now, haha, yes, fully agree with this note: ‘It seems to me you’re thinking too much into it, especially when there was just one attendee not happy about the session.’ Maybe it is a curse of reflection and ‘practicing’ it 🙂 Will stop now!

      As to the point about publishers and ‘free’ resources, I want to continue this conversation further. I think there are a lot of positive aspects in the new(est) books and materials being available to our public school sector (compared to what teachers had 10 years ago, for example), and a lot of presenters are respected professionals. At the same time, there is a flip side of this kind of training. A topic for a separate post (shall we co-author it here or on your blog?)
      Final thought: comments like yours make me want to write more, as I feel we are connecting on the professional level and personally, too 🙂 Thank you very much!
      Zhenya

      Like

  4. Lina says:

    Hi Zhenya,

    Just wanted to say that the abstract was crystal clear. I understand that some people have certain expectations and get disappointed if these are not met, but let’s be honest, if you don’t like something you can simply leave (no one locks the doors during presentations, right?). However, if you choose to stay then behave and be polite. What I want to say is that that attendee’s behaviour is rather questionable.

    I personally love reflecting and do it all the time! Unfortunately, my new schedule does not allow me to attend RP meetings offered in Tokyo 😞

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Lina
      Thank you for reading and leaving this supportive comment! I agree with the idea that it is a choice to either stay at a session (being polite/silent/active, depending on the style and situation) or leave and join a different presentation at the same time slot. I try to have a ‘plan B’ session while planning my conference day. At the same time, I don’t always feel 100% to stand up and leave (always think about the speaker, or imagine myself being in his/her shoes) It is very hard to say which is ‘better’ in such a case though!
      I hope we gradually create an alternative to face-to-face RP meetings (was wonderful to ‘meet’ you online this past Sunday!)
      Warmly,
      Zhenya

      Like

      • Irene says:

        Call me disrespectful but I see no problem leaving the room during the presentation. Sometimes the abstract is misleading or the trainer doesn’t meet your expectations or perhaps you want to catch another session at the same time. Both the speaker and the attendees should consider such options and don’t take it personally.

        Like

        • Zhenya says:

          Hi Irene
          Thank you for the comment! No, I can’t call you disrespectful 🙂 Isn’t it about respecting our own time and aims, and professional development, after all?
          I don’t have a clear solution to this ‘leave-or-stay’ dilemma to myself, actually. I think I have done it either ways (stayed till the end or left), and have been a presenter in a session where people were leaving. Just once though, and it did not feel comfortable.
          Sounds like another post, actually 🙂 Twitted a question about it just now!
          Thank you for the thought-provoking conversations, as always.
          Zhenya

          Like

  5. Pingback: Starting a Reflective Practice Group: Obstacles | Wednesday Seminars

  6. Pingback: Learning from Failure: Session Rejected | Wednesday Seminars

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