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.
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! 🙂