As someone who believes in the importance of trying a task you set out to others (students or teachers), I would like to share my answers to the Discussion Forum Questions for CoP (Community of Practice) Group Leaders based in Libya. Each of them is an experienced teacher and trainer, passionate about CPD and eager to contribute to the community of teachers around them. My role in this pilot project is to help them gain skills and confidence in being the leaders of their own groups. Most of them have already started and even had several meetings, and some are still in the planning stage. (if I get a permission, I will share more information about this exciting project, I promise!)
In my answers I am focusing on our group in Ukraine which paused in 2020 (and is still on pause in this time of the war in Ukraine). One of my (secret?) goals for posting my answers here is to perhaps get us re-unite and re-start the group, in a new look and with a new(er) purpose. If I have the courage to share it with the group members in Dnipro, I will.
- What motivates (motivated) you to be a CoP Group Leader? > > My strong belief in the power of reflective, creative and critical thinking, and the idea that teachers can be autonomous in their development and growth, teaching their learners to become independent thinkers.
- If you have started your own group, tell us about the members. Who are the teachers? How many of them are in the group? Where do they work? > > In the meetings, we had about 4-10 teachers, and in our group on Messenger, there were about 20 people. Teachers came from very different contexts: some taught in private language schools, some were self-employed, or working in a specific company with employees. Here is an older post sharing more about the group.
- What motivates (motivated) the members to join your group? > > I think it was curiosity, desire to develop, the idea of having meaningful focused conversations with colleagues, and a desire to belong to a cool community.
- How do you see the aims/goals of your CoP Group? > > Actually, my answer is similar to what I said in #1. In other words, we were trying out a different (alternative) form of CPD, where teachers have more time and space to think about the ideas (as opposed to having more ideas or ‘content’)
- How do you imagine your CoP Group in a year from now (that is, in the summer of 2023)? > > This is a tough question for me now, as the Ukrainian educational context, or anything in Ukraine now, is very different during the war time. There is no certainty if the new academic year begins online or in person (although the big plan is to have kids back to school on 1 September), and many of our group members are abroad at the moment (saving their families, kids and parents from the war). Many (if not all?) keep teaching distantly, but most likely, they don’t have energy or space for the active professional development right now. For a lot of them, helping Ukraine is priority # 1. Having said all this, I wonder if the year ahead can be crucial for us all to see the role we can play in the Ukrainian education in these circumstances, and how (if at all) a group like this can be helpful. I imagine our group meeting again in the summer of next year, in an open-space cafe in our native city on the beautiful river Dnipro.
- How many meetings have you already had? What were the topics of those meetings? How did you come up with the meeting topics? > > We were meeting for 3 full school years once a month, and you can see a summary of all the topics on this page (scroll to Discussion Topics, linking to a more specific list in other posts). The topics were often suggested by the members, and we took turns in facilitating the meetings. The first year (about 10 meetings) I facilitated all of them myself.
- What have your successes as a CoP Group Leader been so far? > > Even though the project is on a pause, this experience was something I am genuinely proud of. We had amazing discussions, we bonded together as a community, and we ended up offering teacher gatherings for colleagues from our city and beyond. Most importantly, people keep in touch even now, even though many of us are in different parts of the country, or the world.
- What challenges have you faced working with your group? > > At first, it was harder to explain the idea of the group for someone who joined. It did not work for everyone, and sometimes, the attendance was not ‘perfect’. There is a summary of more obstacles in this post. Since the post was written before 2020, it does not mention the pandemic and the need/push to switch online. We only had a couple of online meetings, and realized it was hard to spend yet another hour in front of the screen. So this was one challenge which our group did not overcome.
- How can our CoP Community here help you overcome the challenges, learn to be a confident, successful CoP Group Leader, and bring your group to the vision you shared in question 4?* > > This question is very specific to the project. In 2016, I did not have a ‘formal’ community to work with, but had several colleagues who were leading similar groups in a different part of the world. They were kind to share the process of their meetings, the topics they came up with, and useful tips for getting started.
- (ask your question) > > I’d like to ask my blog readers if a similar initiative/community of practice (reflective practice group) is something they have tried in their contexts. What worked, and what did not? What advice would you give yourself if you were talking to yourself in the past and helping to create a group of this kind? And if you would like to share your answers to some or all the questions above, it would be an amazing learning for the wonderful colleagues I am starting to work with.
Thank you for reading!
P.S. Members of RP Dnipro, whenever you are reading this post, I am wishing you strength, resilience and energy. Ukraine will win. Слава Україні! (and big hugs!)