Last week, I lost my cool. Upon reflection, I reacted in a way that does not correspond with my values as a teacher. However, instead of hiding in shame, I have decided to use this as a learning and teaching moment.
In this three-part series, I will be exploring the connection between reflective inquiry and nonviolent communication. In my opinion, these are two forms of communication with the self, which give teachers valuable insight into how to move forward, especially when events are linked to strong emotions.
Using the experiential learning cycle as one of my bases, I will be moving through these three stages of reflection: What? So What? Now What? Today I’ll begin with, What? (see Burton, Kolb and Gibbs). In my view, the What? stage corresponds to the Observation stage of my second referential model, Nonviolent Communication (NVC). What? asks us to describe an event without judgment or evaluation, as does NVC observation.
Part 1 – What? and NVC Observation
Because I knew we were going to have a heavy schedule of peer reviewing ahead of us, I wanted to start the class with a fun group-building activity. We all got in a circle and held hands with arms crossed over our own chests. At the end of this activity we are supposed to still be facing each other in the circle, but this time with arms uncrossed. But there is a trick. You can’t let go of your partners’ hands! The group-building aspect is that circle members need to work together to figure out the solution, contributing to a lot of negotiation, and trial and error.
Remember, I’m teaching English to Korean teachers of English, so I begin such activities under the assumption that they’ll be conducted in English. However, as soon as this activity begins, deliberations happen in Korean.
In a normal tone – not yelling or whispering – I express, “Please use English.”
My plea is met with continued discussions in Korean. I haven’t been heard, or understood.
I don’t protest again because at this point, I place more value on the group-building aspect of the activity than on language learning.
We get untangled, and are finally facing each other. We clap with glee, and congratulate each other for our creative problem-solving.
Fast-forward to the peer review groups. Members are reading each other’s paragraphs and giving advice to their peers. At one point, I’m helping out one of the participants, so I’m totally focused on her: kneeling down at her desk, engrossed in her questions.
Then all of a sudden I’m distracted by a disconcerting buzz from the other groups. They’re all speaking Korean! I can’t focus anymore. I apologize to the participant I was helping, and I stand up:
“Excuse me everyone! I’m noticing that you’re all speaking Korean, and that you speak Korean quite often in this class. If you speak Korean in class, what does this mean for your students when you go back to teaching? Will you let them do their English work in Korean?
You come to this program disappointed about your English skills. You say you want to improve. That is why you are here! You are here to improve your English, and you are expected to use English in class.
I feel very uncomfortable having to say this because I feel like I’m scolding you, and you are all adults. You are also English teachers!
From now on, please use English in class, and save Korean for after class if needed. Is this reasonable?”
As I was ranting, the participants — men and women, aged 27 to 57 — nodded with wide eyes, while some verbally expressed, “yes, yes…I’m so sorry.” I sensed embarrassment and possibly shame.
I went back to the participant with hands trembling. I felt upset and confused.
Following the So What? segment of the experiential cycle, as well as the Feelings and Needs part of the NVC model, I will be exploring these questions: What was the cause for my outburst? Why were they speaking Korean and not English? Do I really believe they must speak English in class?
A few words of Gratitude
This past weekend was the 19th KOTESOL International Conference. Among the invited speakers was Thomas S.C. Farrell, well-known for his research into the concept of reflective practice as it relates to teaching. As a presenter, he never disappoints, leaving the audience in stitches while also teaching us about the seriousness of reflective inquiry, a topic clearly dear to his heart. A great deal of learning about reflective inquiry is happening in Korea thanks to him.
I am grateful that the concept of reflective practice is finally coming to the forefront of teachers’ minds because in my opinion, reflection — when clearly executed — is the most effective tool for a teacher’s growth. During the weekend, reflective teaching was on the lips of almost everyone in attendance. This buzz can also be attributed to the Reflective Practice SIG, who shared their goals of helping other teachers use reflective inquiry.
Inspired by what I experienced this weekend, I believe I have a bit more courage to share this series of posts with you.
- Making the Link: Nonviolent Communication & Reflective Teaching (throwingbacktokens.wordpress.com)