Tag Archives: teacher training

A Cool Community Building Day: group created norms

I must say, I feel a bit strange not blogging about “cool things that happened today”. Facebook and Twitter are ablaze with the challenge Mike Griffin started early last week. Although my post isn’t about a cool thing that happened today, it definitely is a cool thing that happened in the last two weeks. For cool things that happened in the last 24 hours (and a bit), please check out these posts by teachers from around the globe: Ratna Ragunathan-Chandrasegaran (Malaysia), Icha Sarwono (Indonesia), Laura Phelps (Georgia), Ann Loseva (Russia), Kevin Stein (Japan),  Carol Goodey (Scotland), Gemma Lunn (Korea), Ava Fruin (USA), Tyson Seburn (Canada), and Tom Randolph (Korea)… did I miss anyone?

And now my cool little story…

The first week of March began the first week of training for our newest group of in-service teachers. Like any group of people meeting for the first time, the teachers are trying to figure out how the fit in, who they click with, and how everything comes together. Since last year, we’ve been been dedicating a day to helping them understand each other. We want them to start seeing that they are in this together. The program can be intense and it’s important they know that they are not alone.

One activity that we’ve done in the past is ask the teachers to think about what kind of support they need from each other, and also what strategies they might have to deal with possible conflicts and challenges that will come up. In the past we just asked them to discuss these points and then create a poster with their ideas. We then put this poster on the wall so they are able to refer to it throughout the semester. It’s based on the similar concept of getting students to create rules/norms for themselves. *For more ideas on this topic please check out #KELTChat summary: Classroom Rules and Implementing Them.

As you can see from the pictures above, we changed it up a little. In collaboration with my colleague Darryl Bautista, we asked the teachers to think of their time in our course as a foundation (school building metaphor), on which they can rest their hopes, fears, expectations, and ideas for resources available to them. This was the final result.

However, before they knew about this metaphor, the parts of the school (hopes, fears…) were only pieces of a puzzle. To start, all they had to do was individually write their ideas on the parts. Once the white-spaces were filled, they worked together as teams to find out what the pieces created when put together. Once the figured out it was a school, the final task was for them to sign the school’s steps and stick them to the foundation.

And voila! They created their norms for the semester.

These are the reasons I like this puzzle/metaphor activity better than the posters we used to do:

  • Collaboration is implicit in the activity. They have to work together to figure out what the pieces create.
  •  It’s focused on feelings and possibilities, and not conflicts. I think this gives space for everyone to feel heard. One strategy that used to come out of the “how-to-deal-with-conflicts” segment of the poster was “go out for drinks together.” Although I get it, I know not everyone in the group is a drinker and I always felt it excluded some. *As I write this, I think I still saw “alcohol” somewhere on the house. At least it isn’t front and center like it was before. I’m learning to let it go. :)
  • There was a lot more participation and action going on: they had to think creatively to put the pieces together; they had to negotiate with each other; everyone had to write a few times; they had to move to play with the puzzle pieces.
  • It was just a lot of fun to collaborate with Darryl on this one. :) We had a few reflection-in-action moments during the process I thought made the activity that much richer.

I look forward to tweaking this activity a bit next year. One idea that one of the teachers in relation to working with the final product was to brainstorm ways to deal with the fears they wrote. What modifications would you make? I’m also curious to know what community/team building activities do you do in your school or training programs?

Final thoughts and thanks:

  • A big thanks to Darryl who craftily designed and cut out pieces of the houses. :)
  • I’d like to thank Mary Scholl and Centro Espiral Mana SIT TESOL course for inspiring this idea. :)

Websites for community building activities:

Although the following site is geared towards businesses, I thought there was a lot of value here for educators as the site refers to learner-centeredness in many of their links. I’ll definitely be browsing this site in the future.

Week 1 at Centro Espiral Mana, SIT TESOL

Centro Espiral Mana - February 2013

Fourteen teachers from Chile, Panama, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Costa Rica are at the Centro Espiral Mana in El Invu, Costa Rica working to achieve their goal of receiving the SIT TESOL certificate. We’ve been here for two weeks. My journey is different from theirs. I’m here training to be an SIT TESOL trainer. Training here has been a dream of mine for a few years now, and I’m happy to say that the experience stands up to that dream (see my last iTDi blog post to read more about this dream). I’m grateful for all the learning and would like to share a bit of it with you.

Looking back on my first week at Centro Espiral Mana, there are three sessions that stand out, and that have set the tone for my time here:  Amanda Rossi’s session on ECRIF (Encounter, Clarify, Remember, Internalize, Fluently Use – a learning framework created by Mary Scholl, the founder and director of Espiral Mana, and Joshua Kurzweil); Roger Ramirez’ session on the experiential learning cycle (ELC); and Mary Scholl’s session on Compassionate Communication (see Nonviolent Communication/NVC). Not only have these sessions set the tone for me, but I now realize they are the foundation of the transformative process participants experience from day one at this center. The themes that run through all these sessions are a focus on the learner and learning, and an integration of this focus within the community of practice that is cultivated here. These themes hinge on the positive regard that each of these trainers hold for the participants and the content of this course.

“You are being ECRIFed.”

“You can ECRIF it.” – referring to other methodologies we may be familiar with.

“You’re going to ECRIF your ECRIF.”

Amanda

Experiencing Amanda’s processing/explanation of ECRIF (see chapter 2 and 3 in Understanding Teaching Through Learning) was when I realized the depth of this learning/teaching framework. It isn’t only about planning a language lesson; it’s a way to approach learning on a larger scale. As I type this, a tinge of embarrassment flows through me because it seems so obvious — but the fact is that it wasn’t. Yes, when I first studied this framework, I understood how this framework focuses on the learner, but for some reason my image of that learner was a student in a language classroom. Perhaps I just put ECRIF next to other frameworks such as PPP and PDP. These are frameworks that have long been promoted in language classrooms, but I have never made the connection between these and real life. Once Amanda said those quotes above, something clicked within me: ECRIF goes beyond the language classroom. It is a model for learning in general, and this is what we experience each day, almost each moment, at this center. We encounter new information. We try to fluently use it, and come back to a place where we have to try and consciously remember what we’re doing. We may internalize a few things, and at some we may come to a place where we can fluently use the skills we learned here. Unlike a language lesson, we won’t experience this within a 50-minute timeframe. Some of us may not even see the end of the ECRIF pattern until we have left these plush green surroundings.  But some day, with enough doing and reflecting, we will finish the cycle, and of course begin it again when we encounter another experience. The cycle never truly ends.

“You’re becoming Deweys. You’ll become your own theorists.”

“You decide where you’re going. We just provide the container.”

“We try to create an environment where feedback is a gift.”

Roger

Roger’s ELC session was the missing link that I had been looking for quite some time. Hearing such confidence and wisdom behind these beliefs helped me understand what I had been so curious to see in action for the past five years. Coming out of my MA studies, and having done the online section of this training up process, I created my own ideas around reflection and the ELC. I tried my best to implement this into our teacher-training course back in Korea, but I always felt I fell short. Making the connection between what Roger was saying and the session on ECRIF, was eye-opening. The ELC gives us the tools to look at the learning process from a bird’s eye view: we hover above an experience, get a clear picture, and from here experiment with ways to swoop in. In this TESOL course, participants experience ECRIF from many different perspectives, and by taking these experiences through the ELC, they are able to create their own theories of learning and teaching. By combining these two frameworks, a transformative process of learning begins.

Roger also helped me see is that the ELC is part of everything that happens at this center – and this center is its community. When we integrate the ELC with community, this is when experience is celebrated and instigates real change. Participants explore their experiences by bouncing observations, theories and objectives off each other. Through meaningful and compassionate feedback, they learn to see themselves in new ways. The community helps them see things they couldn’t see before.

~ Seeing through the lens of compassionate communication ~

Mary

Mary’s session on compassionate communication was a sweet gift. My biggest reason for coming here was because I was curious to learn how she managed to integrate compassionate communication into teacher education. I saw glimpses of it in the first three days of this course: in the way Roger approached the education of this center; in the way Amanda helped me see the community of Espiral Mana; and in the way Mary spoke to participants. But when I saw how she connected the ELC to compassionate communication another light bulb went off. Because the participants had three days implicitly experiencing the ELC, I think connecting it to compassionate communication created a space for the participants to feel open to the concept. Having already experienced feedback on their teaching, and the empathy and positive regard with which trainers here facilitate the process, participants may have started seeing how compassion is part of the program at this center. As teachers, they also have a sense that being present to their students’ feelings and needs is an important part of teaching. However, they may not have had many opportunities to purposefully see through these lenses. They may not have been given these glasses. Mary gave them these glasses and has set up the space for compassion to come through all they experience here.

I’m excited about getting to the “F” of the learning that Amanda, Roger and Mary have scaffolded for me in these three moments and in all that they do. I am incredibly grateful for their guidance and support.

Related articles:

Carol Rodgers – Defining Reflection: Another Look at John Dewey and Reflective Thinking 

Carol Rodgers – Seeing Student Learning

Stop Blaming: Develop Emotional Literacy

In last week’s post, Taking Responsibility for My Emotions, I asked:

When blame is seen as the only way to deal with feelings, as teachers what can we do? What is our role? How can we help our students understand that they are responsible for their feelings?

Interesting comments ensued via Facebook and email. Within these comments, questions were raised. To recognize my readers’ willingness and interest in keeping the discussion going, I am dedicating this post to them and to their questions.

Two readers wondered how I would answer my own questions:

- What can we do to help students/participants not blame others?” Are there strategies teachers can take? I know you opened it up to the readers but… what do you do? What might you do? Are there specific things you have tried? Would like to try?

- so what was your answer to your own question: what is the teacher’s role and responsibility?

The third reader questions another facet of this concept of taking responsibility:

Thanks for posting this. It seems healthy to build a kind of immunity to memes which can otherwise disturb a peaceful emotional state. I like the comparison to people able to create a zen-like tattoo experience. Still, it seems a focus on the one with the disturbed peace of mind lets the one who “threw the rock” off the hook. It seems to me that the bullied need emotional armor while the bullies need….what? Besides, sometimes people just don’t have a strong immunity system against what are harmful memes to them–maybe because they have an immature ego–and the triggering of emotions can cut like a knife. Do we really want to blame the person who correspondingly cries in pain for not controlling his emotions?

I will attempt to address these questions.

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Taking Responsibility for My Emotions

Have you ever blamed someone for making you feel the way you do? Maybe your student swore in class, so you blame her for the frustration you feel the rest of the day. Maybe your colleague vehemently disagrees with your teaching beliefs, and so you make a direct link between his response and your encroaching rage.

can you take responsibility for how you feel?

Some of you may have read the above paragraph and thought,

“Well, aren’t they responsible? If they hadn’t done that or reacted in such a manner, I never would have felt that way. “

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Where Our Reflective Practice Came From: SMAT

Two weeks ago, I learned that the MA TESOL grad program I love dearly will see its last summer. In honor of this program and all its alumni, I wanted to write this post. My hope is to bring the alumni together so that we understand the program lives on in all of us. At the end of this post, I’ve posed questions and would be grateful for your comments and participation. There is also a sweet video treat waiting for you :)

Experiential Learning

We first learned about experiential learning and reflective practice during the summer of 2007. The learning continued throughout the fall and winter, and culminated during the summer of 2008. Of course, the learning continues.

We didn’t learn about the concept of experiential learning from a textbook. We experienced it. That’s what was so special about our masters in teaching program: the Summer M.A. in TESOL, Class 26 (SMAT26) at the School for International Training (SIT), a program of World Learning.

Learning through experience - fishbowl teaching of Smattie Cakes

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The Doubting and Believing Game

Korean teachers of English have the need to be heard, to be understood and to be valued by their employers, especially by the Ministry of Education (MOE). The MOE seeks to create English communicators of its students, but principals still ask classrooms to remain quiet; test scores still take priority over being able to carry on a conversation. Many of these teachers feel limited in their English ability, and can’t imagine how they could be role models of English communication. But we press on; we ask them to reform their ways, and so they feel exasperated, confused, and alone.

So how can we ask these teachers to change when it seems that they receive so many signals saying they should hold on to their old ways? This question has been haunting me all day as I attempt to plan a lesson on teaching techniques, namely on the concept of “eliciting“.

And the clincher is we can’t ask them to change. They have to believe that this change will work out for them and for their students. This is the only way that they will reform the way they teach.

A successful implementation of any educational reform is closely related to how teachers perceive the reform, and their perceptions can be influenced by their beliefs about English language education. Therefore, the success of reforms in English language education is contingent upon ESL/EFL teachers’ beliefs. (p. 2)

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“How Do We Learn?” Isn’t This a Good Question for Teachers to Ask Themselves?

“Wow, that shirt simply screams, Josette.”

“Oh, those earrings are so you!”

Your friends may have qualified you with a certain look or style, and depending on your personality — or maybe just the time of day — you might feel annoyed by such comments as the ones above. Yet you may even feel pleased that your friends openly associate you with such good taste :P

I never thought I would receive a similar comment associated to my beliefs around teaching and learning. I’ll get to that comment soon, but first a little context.

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Learning No. 1: Confidence=Fuel for Teaching

My first year as a teacher trainer has now passed. It can undoubtedly be defined as one of the most rewarding and challenging years of my professional career up to date. Writing and researching my MA thesis throughout the year definitely compounded my workload, but the arrival of my diploma in October mitigated any memory of academic exhaustion.

Yes, last year was quite the learning load. My lesson planning creativity was flexed and stretched to multiple degrees. My understanding of teaching and learning magnified due to the “meta” nature of teacher training. My confidence as a teacher dropped a few steps, and in the end found its way back to the top of the staircase. This is where the list of my top 5 learning moments of 2010 begins.

1. Confidence = Fuel

Teachers need confidence. Confidence ignites our drive to utter the first word at the start of a lesson. It fuels our ability to keep pushing through when a student/trainee asks a question you just can’t answer. At the core, confidence is what allows teachers to stand in front of a class of individuals and be vulnerable.

I say this because I had a few memorable bouts with confidence last year. It mostly came into jeopardy at the beginning of each semester, a sensitive time for everyone. Participants (students) are trying to figure each other out, and they’re also testing the trainers (teachers), to see what they know. It was during this storming stage that I most frequently questioned my skills as an EFL teacher, and as a teacher trainer.

Why did I question myself this way? It’s dreadfully simple. Participants asked me questions I just couldn’t answer off the cuff (detailed questions about grammar and sentence structure), and I believed I should be able to answer right away. I know I put too much pressure on myself, and that it is impossible for teachers to know everything off the top of their head, but I couldn’t help hearing that little perfectionist’s voice inside my head saying,

“Come on Josette! You should know this. Can you really call yourself an English teacher if you can’t answer this question right now? What kind of example are you setting? Why would they want to keep learning from you if you can’t answer these kinds of questions?”

Harsh right? But this kind of self-talk is all too common.

When a participant asked me that type of question, luckily I mustered up enough confidence to tell them,

“I’m not sure about that. I’ll look it up and get back to you tomorrow.”

So I went home, plopped down on my office floor, and surrounded myself with reference material. I figured out the issue to the best of my ability, and I came back to the participant the next day with what I discovered. This is how I saved my confidence.

Yes, we can debate whether or not teachers should admit that they don’t know the answer to a student’s question, and I know this is debated in the teacher training world. But if this is what you need to do in order to keep a hold of your confidence, I believe it is an essential maneuver.

This belief was brought home when I was told on a few occasions during both semesters (semester 1 = 57 participants; semester 2 = 37 participants), that my honesty about not knowing all the answers was refreshing. Some participants were relieved to learn that they could respond this way to their students, and still maintain confidence from both the student and themselves. In the end, the way I responded to my drop in confidence fueled confidence in my participants.

There isn’t a magical way to create self-confidence. The way I know how to hold on to it is by reflecting on what I don’t know (what went wrong), and making sure I understand it at the end of the day. From here I can create an action plan. This involves getting up to date with teaching methodologies, studying grammar, reading books about sentence structures, listening to Grammar Girl, and collaborating with colleagues. It isn’t easy, but I know that since I need confidence to teach, I need to spend extra time building it up. Anything that kills the little perfectionist’s voice in my head is definitely worth the extra work.

 

Let Creativity Flow

“When teachers’ knowledge of themselves, their students and their professional skills do not align with the contexts in which they work there is little energy or psychic space left for being present to the learner and his learning. Both teacher and students are then deprived of creative exchange and connection between themselves, subject matter and context. (Carol R. Rodgers* and Miriam Raider-Roth)”

My dear friend and colleague Kevin Giddens posted this quote to his Facebook status a few weeks ago. It resonated with me on many levels. When my beliefs are not supported by the system I teach in, then I feel blocked; I feel frustrated. On this level of emotion I recognize that my needs for freedom and creativity are stunted because I do not feel heard by my educational community. If I am not heard, if my teaching beliefs are not valued or seen, then my creative energy cannot flow. When creativity does not flow, both teaching and learning are in jeopardy.

As a teacher trainer in Korea, I hear a version of this sentiment on a regular basis: “We don’t have the time to be creative and make new material because we have so much to do beyond teaching our classes. Not only do we have to teach, but we also have to take care of after school study classes, as well as tonnes of bureaucratic paperwork. Sometimes we’re at school until 11pm! How can we be expected to be creative?”

These teachers crave creativity.  They want to connect. They want to help their students learn. They want to be passionate teachers, but where does the “energy or psychic space left for being present to the learner and his learning” come into play in such a reality?

The energy and space comes from knowing that they are not alone in their quest for creativity and connection. It comes from knowing that there are teachers out there who have the same aspirations. As teachers, “we are our best resources”, but this does not have to be a solitary affair. “We” includes our community. This is a community of like-minded colleagues. It is a community in search of a better way. You can create this community.

We find these community members by speaking out, and sharing our fears and desires. These members may be at your schools, at training courses, and in professional organizations such as KOTESOL or TESOL. Once you speak out, you can be heard. You have taken the risk, and you realize that you are not alone. You invent your own personal peer support network. This is where creativity is possible. When your aspirations align with those of others, creativity can flow.

Creativity = Change

You make that change happen.

Teacher Autobiographies – KIETT Spring 2010

During the first session of the Keimyung Intensive English Teacher Training program (KIETT), trainees wrote a one-paragraph teacher’s autobiography. Here are some of the results:

I Am a Traveler

By Kang Shinho

As a teacher, I think I’m a traveler. When travelers fill their bags with things needed for travel, I fill my heart, soul and brain with continuous studying so that my students will be able to use it when they’re in need. In addition, when travelers want to have a cozy and comfortable place to take a rest after a long walk, I, as another traveler, feel comfortable when I teach, play and be with my lovely students. Moreover, as travelers recall travels they’ve just finished, and as they develop rolls of film, I automatically recall and think how to develop my own classes better for next time. With all mentioned above, as a teacher, I am, indeed, a traveler who’s looking for the destination, which makes me a professional traveler.

Who I Am As a Teacher

By Son Young ju

To respect one another is my creed in class. Before meeting students, I usually begin to memorize their names, and pray for my relationship with them. When I first meet my students, I give them a letter, which conveys to students and their parents a brief biographical introduction, and the basic principals of education in my class. Secondly, I always try to understand who my students are and what their needs are. Then I prepare appropriate measures to satisfy them emotionally and academically. I make a constant effort to carry out the plans as far as I can. Also, I acknowledge my weaknesses in front of my students and ask their assistance. Because I am a single-mom with three children, I really need their support all the time. Lastly, I think I can learn from my students. I believe learning, as well as teaching, makes me mature and enriches my life. A scholar of the Jo-seon dynasty said, “If you love, you get to know and see more what is different from what you saw in the past.” I believe that honesty, caring, modesty, and love are the foundation for mutual respect.

Feeling Happiness As an English Teacher

 By Heo Jung Won

The reason I became an English teacher is because I enjoy studying English. When I entered middle school, the Seoul Olympic Games were held in Korea, so many foreigners visited our nation. With the hope to communicate with them, I studied English hard, and began to take to it; I never had the chance to talk to them, though. By the time I became a high school student, English was my most prominent subject on tests. Therefore, I decided to apply for English education department in University, and this choice proved to be right. Truly, I took a delight in English novels and poems. After experiencing failure several times, I became an English teacher. Ultimately, I realized my dream, and I really love my job. The best thing about being an English teacher is that I feel happy when my students enjoy my English class as I enjoyed studying English when I was young.