A Final Learning Statement at Centro Espiral Mana, SIT TESOL

On Friday, the February 2013 SIT TESOL course at Centro Espiral Mana ended. When a course closes here, participants are asked to create a final learning statement, summarizing what they have learned over the four weeks. Some participants wrote songs, poems, or essays, some created visual representations, and others recorded narratives. Each of these creations highlighted the inspiring process that goes on at Centro. Tony Paredes — a teacher from Tarapato, Peru — created the comic strip below. I asked Tony if I could share his learning statement  because I thought it was a great example of how some experienced teachers feel after taking this course. As Tony shows us, it’s truly transformative.

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The difference between love and a stick

Each semester, I get to know our course participants via dialogue journals. I’ve written about my apprehension in giving this assignment in past (The Bittersweetness of Dialogue Journals – Take 2), but this journal entry, written by Mr. Go Jong-hyun, is another wonderful reminder of why I keep doing it.

Mr. Go was kind enough to let me share his entry with all of you. This is especially meaningful considering the topic of my last post, The love stick that motivates (I highly recommend reading the heart-wrenching, yet enlightening, comments).

In response to the question, Who was your favorite teacher? Why was he or she your favorite teacher? How would you like to be like him/her?, Mr. Go writes:

I was asked those questions in the test to become an English teacher several times. Whenever I think about it, I cannot help remembering my old home room teacher whose name was Kyoung-hwa Kim in the middle school. I was second to last in the elementary. I even had to have the supplementary classes for the students of underachievement in the elementary school. I was beaten with sticks, even slapped in my face by some of my home room teachers because I couldn’t do my homework. No teachers complimented me because I was poor at studying. However, I took the head in cleaning up the classroom. When I was a first grader in the middle school, most students shirked their duty during the clean-up time, but I steadily cleaned up my area. One morning, Ms. Kim spoke high of me because I cleaned the classroom diligently in front of the all classmates. She also said I would excel in study. I was panicked for a while, but very happy to hear that. Her compliment changed me. Her positive reinforcement and trust in me got me not to let her down. I studied and tried to be the best student to rise to her compliment. Finally, my score improved very much, and I became a class leader. I can’t forget her, and am in debt forever to her. Kyoung-hwa Kim was and is my favorite teacher always because she was the best example of the teacher.

The compliment and belief of a teacher have wonderful and compelling power to change and motivate students. I teach where there are many naughty and low-level students comparing with the other academic high schools. However, I always try to look on the bright side of them, and believe them. I always made zealous effort to have trust in my students; they can be changed. I believe the power of optimism and trust. I will compliment my students on every efforts, unique talents and strong points as well as good scores like my great teacher, and then students will rise to my expectations.

Thank you so much Mr. Go.

The Creative Joy of Final Learning Statements

In three days, our training course will be over. In these final days, it’s time for participants to look back over their four months together and reflect on what’s been meaningful and what they’ve learned. To help them do this, I asked them to respond to a list of questions Mary Scholl (SIT teacher-trainer) created and kindly shared with me. Below are a few examples:

  • If you were to choose 10 words to describe your experience in the course, what would they be?
  • If your experience in the course were like weaving a beautiful cloth, what would be the threads that hold the cloth together?
  • How would you explain your experience in this course to a five year old?
  • What would your ideal motto be in the future?
  • If you had to sell this course, what would your slogan and ad campaign look like?
  • Go through all of your journal entries from the course. Choose the ones that are most meaningful to you. Why are they meaningful?
  • Make a metaphor for how the course has affected you. Be juicy and deep in your description.

With these questions, they created final learning statements that would then become the front cover of  their learning portfolios. They kept this portfolio throughout my writing course.  I encouraged the participants to be as creative as they wanted, and as you’ll see, they didn’t hold back. During our final learning statement gallery walk (gallery walk explanation coming soon), I was inspired at each turn. I hope you feel inspired too.

Please enjoy the artistic exhbilition of learning!

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Privacy tip: Notice the funky, random strips on some of the statements? To keep the anonymity of my participants, I used the smartphone app Labelbox to cover their names.

Linking Experiences: How We Learn to Teach

What do Penny Ur, Willy Cardoso, and James E. Zull have in common? They all presented at the 2012 IATEFL Conference, and they all referenced the connection between reflecting on experience and learning.

If you know me, or my blog, you know that I’m quite passionate about the subject of reflective teaching. I’ve done a few presentations/workshops on the subject, and will soon be doing another at the KOTESOL Reflective Practice Symposium in Busan on April 21. I’m very excited about this, especially since I’ll be in the good company of friend and reflective practitioner, Michael Griffin.

This shameless plug is simply to say that when I saw these three speakers on Glasgow IATEFL Online, my mind quickly made links to how their individual takes on teaching and learning connected to my understanding of the experiential learning cycle and reflective practice. Here are the links I noticed.

Continue reading “Linking Experiences: How We Learn to Teach”

Celebrating Creativity: Acrostic Poetry & Summer Vacation

Acrostic Poetry Teaching/Learning Tool

There is some kind of magic in acrostic poetry. Each semester, when I teach this poetry, I am always impressed by the creative ways with which my participants play with their words. This semester I was particularly taken aback by this poem.

What struck me when I read this poem in Lim Seungcheol’s reflective journal were the multiple layers of understanding he had created. He used the acrostic poem as a medium to reflect his understanding of this type of poetry. But the beauty of it is that not only was it a tool for deepening his understanding, now it is also a teaching tool for when he goes back school. He will be able to share this poem with his students to help them understand the basic rules of an acrostic poem.

Continue reading “Celebrating Creativity: Acrostic Poetry & Summer Vacation”

What Reflective Blogging Means to Mr. Giddens

Inspired by What the Word ‘Blog’ Means to Me, Kevin Giddens comments:

R – Remembering
E – Experiencing
F – Feeling
L – Learning
E – Educating
C – Creating
T – Trusting
I – Inquiring
V – Venting
E – Exploring

B – Building
L – Loving
O – Opening
G – Growing
G – Generating
I – Illuminating
N – Naming
G – Grappling

What does reflective blogging mean to you?

Is the Reflective Process a New Concept for Teachers?

I realize that I take the process of reflection for granted. When I experience something new – especially if that experience was confusing or didn’t meet my expectations in a positive way – I work it through the reflective cycle.

I go through this cycle out of habit, and this habit began while I was studying for my MA in TESOL at SIT. When I go through the process, I find solutions to problems, and this is crucial to my future success in teaching a lesson. Finding a solution is much more beneficial and rewarding than doing it wrong all over again.

I realized how much I take reflection for granted after spending the day with a group of reflective practitioners during the KOTESOL National Conference on Saturday. We practice reflection on a daily basis either in our personal lives, or when we teach it to the teachers in our training programs.

After my presentation, Blogging: Creative Interaction, one of the audience members posed two inspiringly, inquisitive questions about reflective practice:

Is reflection a new concept?
Is the reflective process and the practice usually taught in teacher training and MA programs?

He asked these questions because this was the first time he had ever heard about it. To the first question, with the help of founding members of the Reflective Practices SIG, we answered that according to what we knew this pedagogical idea has been around since John Dewey’s work on experiential learning in the 1930s.

To the second question, we shrugged. I almost wanted to say no because until I had heard of SIT, I had never heard of the reflective process as being an integral part of programs for educational studies.

So to get a bit more clarity, I did a quick Google search under “reflective practice in education” and “reflective process + university curriculum”. It seems that reflective practice is used in the education of health professionals, but I’m still unclear as to how, or if, it is introduced to teachers-in-training. People are writing about it, but I’m not sure if these are individual educators following their passion, or if they are speaking as representatives of educational programs.

So I put these questions out to you:

If we know how beneficial the reflective process is to learning, why isn’t it a part of every teacher’s education?

Was the reflective process a part of your training? If it was, what profession were you training for; where were you training; and what did the reflective process look like?

By helping me answer these questions, we can build a clearer picture of where teachers can go to study in institutions that values experiential learning and reflective practice. And if these places don’t really exist, maybe we can build that program together.