Tagged: ELC

Reflecting vs. complaining

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.”

Bitching or reflecting or neither?

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. 

Reflective resolutions

I recently had the great pleasure of facilitating a reflective practice meeting in the KOTESOL Reflective Practice Special Interest Group (RP SIG). The main topic was resolutions, reflecting,  and plans for reflecting in the new year.

To start the meeting I asked the group about what they usually think of when they hear the phrase “New Year’s Resolutions.” As I expected, they laughed and said things like:

They don’t come true.
I do them just for fun.
I don’t believe in them.
We always forget about them by February.  

I asked the group why these resolutions don’t often happen. The answers included:

They are not specific enough.
They are unrealistic.
We don’t really care about them.
They are unclear.
We don’t really believe that we will do them.

It seemed to me that the answers were related to typical resolutions not being SMART. I was happy and somewhat surprised that most people were not familiar with the acronym SMART. In any case, I think the concept behind SMART objectives makes a lot of intuitive sense.

Another focus of the RP SIG session was to think about how using the ELC can help us make better, more useful and more personally important action plans. After thinking about how to make their resolutions SMARTER I asked the more experienced RP members to present the ELC to the new members.

I then asked group members to walk through the ELC and share how it played it role in the creation of their resolutions. From my perspective it was like doing the ELC in reverse because we had already created the plans. I really enjoyed hearing the descriptions and analyses that led up to the resolutions. My feeling was that by sharing the background we all got a better sense of why we made the resolutions that we did.

Some members mentioned that they had automatically gone through the ELC in their heads without thinking of it while others said they just came up with resolutions almost automatically. I am still continually curious about how “natural” the ELC is and how much training, practice and awareness is needed to use it effectively.

My personal experience leads me to believe that by starting with an event/concrete experience and working our way through the ELC we are more likely to come up with more suitable action plans. I wonder if others have similar or different thoughts and experiences.

Just as I was about to publish this I came across this blog post which I think offers a lot of wisdom. From this I was reminded of the importance of writing down goals. I also think that publishing/announcing/stating goals can be helpful. So, with that in mind, my blogging related resolution is to do at least 25 blog posts this year. That is just under a post every other week. I hope that you will keep coming back to this blog and feel free to nudge me if I don’t keep up with it!

Finally, one book related to goals and making changes that I found very helpful and interesting is  “Switch” from the brilliant and accessible Heath brothers.