During the three years that I’ve taught in this teacher training program, I’ve managed to find a comfortable balance between the two roles I play: teaching Korean English teachers how to improve their writing skills, and also teaching them how to teach writing. Although this division may seem clearly defined, the teacher-trainees have different needs compared to their students, so making space for these two contexts has always been something I’ve been conscious about.
However, my level of consciousness seems to have shifted this semester. Due to my position in the pecking order, I’ve become the lead trainer/teacher (the previous lead trainer moved back to England), which means I have new responsibilities and courses to teach.
Today I realized how much this has put me off balance.
In the hallway between classes:
“Josette, I feel like a mess and I’m depressed. I’m really not comfortable with this essay assignment due next week. I’ve never really seen an essay until this week and now I have to write my own by next Thursday. When you asked us to write a paragraph last session, you taught us step by step so I felt like I could do it, even though I still thought it was challenging. But now I don’t really understand the different elements in an essay and I need to write one so fast. My ideas don’t feel organized. “
In my head:
“Wow, ___ ‘s right. Could she/he have said that more clearly? That’s amazing feedback. I usually take them through each part (introduction, body, conclusion) much sooner than this. I usually spend a whole class on just one of these parts! I also usually ask them to read a few essays so they can get comfortable with the format. This time I just showed them one essay. Then in the second class I introduced all the parts of an essay and said “write.” Barely any support.* What was I thinking! This is so not cool. And I’m supposed to be a model for their own teaching? Man.
- Maybe I did this because during next session (starting in one week) I won’t be teaching my usual writing methods class, so I tried to compensate for that loss of hours by combining that syllabus to this session. This took away some of my usual essay intro/teaching time.
- Maybe I read their abilities wrong.
- I haven’t asked for my usual feedback so I really don’t know how they feel about my course so far.
- Maybe I took into account the feedback I got from last semester’s participants when some said the course was “too slow”.
- Maybe I just thought that was enough exposure for them to be able to write an essay.
- Maybe this person is the only one who feels this way.
- Maybe I’m super tired and have been spending too much time staying in the office writing observation feedback and feedback on other writing assignments. I’m not giving myself space to plan and reflect as usual.
More possibilities? I’m sure.
- This participant and I have sent texts back and forth. We are going to work through this together. They will send me an email this weekend with what they’ve come up with and we’ll go from there.
- I’ve written this post. I really needed the space to think about this interaction. Typing this description and interpretation has given the relief and distance I need to look forward.
- I still need some time to think about how I approached all this and how I want to change things in the future.
All I know is that I am grateful for this moment in the hallway. Lately I’ve felt like I’ve been so focused on tasks and projects beyond the classroom. I’ve also sensed that I was becoming complacent about my roles in class. I felt these things, but haven’t been doing anything about it. This little hallway feedback was just what I needed to start.
*I consciously avoided the term “scaffolding” thanks to the reflections in my first iTDi class with John Fanselow. :)
Note to self and whoever out their cares about such geeky things: This was the fastest blog post I’ve ever written: 30 minutes.