I recently had the great opportunity to do a “remix” of my friend and colleague Josette LeBlanc’s great presentation on The Experiential Learning Cycle (The ELC). Click here for slides/materials and reflections and here for her pre-presentation thoughts. In the presentation that I did a few weeks later I mostly followed her format but I added in some personal stories and details. I’d like to share one of these stories below. This is sort of how I imagined saying it.
I have been in this field for just about 12 years and more than 7 of these have been in Korea. I first started working in Jinju, which is a city in the south. It is a pretty small city and back then there weren’t many foreigners around. This was over 10 years ago, remember. Actually, for the first few weeks the only non-Koreans that I knew were the two guys that I worked with till one day I bumped into, actually literally bumped into, an American lady from California. She was nice enough. She was quite friendly and she told me that I should join her and her friends for a drink sometime. I was excited because I liked the occasional beverage. I also thought it would be nice to meet some different people. I was excited and then she said something that I have remembered and thought about for a long time. She said, “Yeah you should come meet us at _____ bar, because we all get together and bitch about teaching every Friday night.”
I had only been teaching for a few weeks and this sounded just terrible to me. I mean, why would they bitch about teaching? What was there to bitch about? Why would I want to sit around and listen to people bitch? I thought I’d be happier just having drinks with happier people. This is what I thought after three weeks. Well, after three years and more it became easier and easier to bitch, but I don’t think it became any more productive. I think it is just too easy to complain but I really don’t think it helps much. Maybe we feel better for a moment but we don’t really get anywhere with it.
Though I taught for nearly 8 years till I got into reflection I don’t think I really developed much till then. I always liked teaching. I enjoyed it. I liked seeing students’ progress. I liked interacting with students. My students seemed to like my class and they seemed to improve. I got rehired. I got better jobs. I got good evaluations. But again, I don’t think that I really improved much until I started reflecting and thinking about what was really going on in class and how the choices that I make might impact this. I’ve found using the ELC is one of the best ways for me to do this.
(End of story)
To be honest, I can’t really say that I have totally quit bitching! I can say that when I get started on a solid roll of complaints I am much more aware of it. I can unload my feelings and I can push myself into the description zone and try to recall and think about what really happened. I find that going through the ELC and creating action plans pushes me behind simply complaining and being bothered. I find it to be much more productive and also easier to handle the real difficulties that might arise in teaching.
I find myself wondering if teachers complain more than those in other jobs. I feel like it is all too easy to get caught in the circle of complaining. I find that the ELC is a good way for me to avoid this. I wonder what strategies other teachers employ.