Giving and TAKING credit where credit’s due

A few years back, a colleague and I were asked by our director to write material for a potential teacher-training course. It was going to take a lot of our time and energy, but we were excited about what we could come up with. At one point I mentioned we should credit it, “created and developed by Josette and (insert colleague’s name).” He winced and said something along the lines that he wasn’t in it for the recognition.

I get it. The ego is a strange beast. But at what point are you standing up for your voice, — for your good work — and at what point are you stroking your ego’s pride? What I heard my colleague say is that there is a link between putting our names on our work and being egotistical; I heard that playing big and celebrating my voice is something to wince at; I also heard that it’s more acceptable to make myself small, or better yet, invisible.

Two questions came out of this: don’t we risk giving away our confidence, power, and self-trust by making ourselves small? And, why is recognition a bad thing anyway?

Making myself small

This has always been a challenging topic for me because there are so many mixed messages about what’s considered positive behavior around putting ourselves out there. It’s more acceptable for me to be modest, but if I’m too modest how am I going to stand out? It’s less egotistical to let someone else praise my work because if I talk about myself then I’m full of myself. So what if no one ever talks about my work? Am I just going to wait in the shade until that happens?

When I gave the first draft of my chapter to our editor (and prolific writer in her field), she sent it back saying I was giving too much credit to one of my references. She told me to rewrite a whole section by owning the work I had done with his work and by taking him out of that part of the equation. He wasn’t the one in my classroom experimenting with his ideas: I was. At that point, his work had become mine.

I was confused about how much credit I could take because I believed it wasn’t acceptable to shine. I thought it wasn’t my work to celebrate. The line between his work and mine was so blurred I couldn’t even see myself. It took longer than it probably should have because my confidence was put to the test, but I finally balanced out that equation.

Recognition vs. celebration

I understand why people cringe at the idea of recognition. I think it has to do with the intention behind it. Do I want to be recognized because I want to take a step up the ladder, not caring about what others think? Or would I like recognition (acknowledgment, appreciation) because I value connection and learning with others, especially in relation to my soul’s work?

One way I make sense of this idea of giving and taking credit is by putting myself in the position of the person who created the technique/activity/research I’m using. I imagine the hours they experimented, observed, and assessed their area of interest. I ask myself, “how would they feel if they read my work, saw themselves in it, but didn’t see any reference to themselves?” I imagine they would feel hurt and disappointed.

Maybe I’m influenced by Byongchan‘s work. When I see him labouring emotionally, creatively, and physically over his art so he can come up with a signature piece, I imagine the joy he might feel when it’s seen and celebrated for its beauty. I can’t speak for him, but I know I feel quite happy when others acknowledge his work.

You can substitute his work as an artist with any other creative endeavor, which I clearly connect to teaching. The joy of my craft comes from the process of creating what I feel called to and then sharing that creation. And while my sharing doesn’t guarantee it will be acknowledged — and I don’t do only to be acknowledged — there is a sense of encouragement that comes when my work is celebrated. It gives me the courage and energy to keep doing the work. Looking at it this way, it’s helpful to substitute recognition with celebration.

I understood my colleague’s intentions on that day. And maybe my ego was more in control than my gentle inner artist/teacher. Maybe that’s what he sensed. But as I look back on this moment, I now understand I’m not interested in lowering my voice or the voice of others for fear of being seen as egotistical. I want to celebrate the good work I do, as well as the good work I see around me. This is part of the way the world keeps evolving in a positive forward motion. As long as I’m in the business of creating and collaborating, I plan to give credit to the voices of my community. I’ll gladly take that credit as well.

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A little something about me: tagged by Rachael Roberts, Kathy Fagan & Vicky Loras

I’m not sure who started this “11” blog challenge, but it has been a fun way to get to know a different side of my friends and colleagues. Whoever started this, thank you. And thank you to Rachael RobertsKathy Fagan and Vicky Loras for tagging me! I haven’t met any of you — yet — but I have a special place in my heart and mind for all of you. I “met” you all when I began my Twitter journey in late 2011. I’m grateful for this connection, and to learn a bit more about you. And thanks for giving me the space to talk a bit (a lot?) about myself, and to continue the connection with other bloggers.

So here is the tagging mission:

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me

(PS. I’ve been working on this post for a few days):

  1. My favorite new podcast is Welcome to Night Vale. I can’t listen to an episode without busting a gut (which will give you insight into my humor). My longstanding favorite podcast is CBC Radio’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi. The perfect blend of music, politics, culture, and thoughtful discussions about the current  media landscape.
  2. I played varsity volleyball. In high school, our team almost never lost a match. We had amazing coaches. They shared great defensive strategies. However, when I moved to university varsity, it was a different story. I can’t remember if we ever won. But we had fun. :)
  3. 11 was my jersey number. 11 is a good number. :)
  4. I have lived in four Canadian provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Alberta.
  5. After graduating from university, I spent the summer planting trees.  For more details on what this might look like: Tree planting: hard way to make a fast buck. I didn’t make a fast buck. I barely broke even.
  6. I have meditated 206 days this year (not in a row and not all day of course). And yes, I have an app for that: Insight Timer.
  7. In 5th grade, I had my first run-in with linguistic rebellion. For French class we had to write a diary and hand it in to our teacher. In French, diary (journal) carries the masculine form and so you should address it, “Dear diary” with its rightful masculine greeting, “Cher journal.” This made no sense to me. There was no way I would share my deep thoughts with a male journal, and so I addressed it as, “Chère journal.” When my teacher approached me about the grammatical error, I had my theory to back it up. He didn’t buy it.
  8. I’ve worn glasses since I was seven. I started wearing contacts at 13 or 14. The deciding factor was when a volleyball hit me in the face (glasses) during our finals match.
  9. I’m worried that this all sounds like I’m showing off somehow, and find myself wanting to delete everything I just wrote. :P
  10. I’m taking Korean classes with other teacher-trainers in the area. Actually our teacher is a teacher-trainer, so after each class we help her reflect on the lesson. One of the best Korean language classes I’ve had. I had almost given up learning.
  11. I just finished watching The Borgias and enjoyed the insight into history I got.

Rachael_Roberts_headshot_square11 questions  from Rachael:

1 Why did you start blogging and how has differed from your expectations? I started blogging because I wanted a place to reflect about my teaching, and also hopefully share with others. I hoped to have a reflective community that I had at SIT. I did that for a few years, and I think the only people who read my blog were people I had physically met, or knew someone I knew. It wasn’t until I met Chuck Sandy, that I realized there was a whole world out there doing the same thing as I was doing. Back when I started in 2009, this kind of tag game would have been an incredible surprise.

2 What’s your earliest childhood memory?  Hmmm… being pulled in a sled in the snow by my pet Siberian husky. I loved that dog.

3 Tell us about someone you admire, and say why. I admire my mom. I think I was a tough teenager. She never gave up on me. The same for my dad. They supported me through some hard times in my 20s. I’m not sure I have that kind of love in me. I admire that kind of love.

4 What was the last book you read and what did you think of it? I read many books at the same time and never really finish them. The last book I read and finished was Cloud Atlas. READ IT! David Mitchell is an artistic and linguistic genius.

5 Do you prefer walking or running? Why? Walking. Something about running gets me down. I try, but always end up walking. So a while ago, I decided I would just walk, so I walk. I walk in the mountains and around the track at my university. I walk while listening to Q.

6 What was your first paid job? Part-time grocery clerk/check out person/shelf stocker when I was 16 years old. Good ol’ Comeauville IGA.

7 What five famous people would you invite to a dinner party, and why? Tough one. Dalai Lama, Eckhart Tolle, Ken Robinson, Brene Brown, and Sugata Mitra. I think if I put all these people together in a room, we could really make amazing things happen for education in this world.

8 What’s the first website you check/go on each day? Why? Facebook. Why? Perhaps a good mix of addiction and curiosity. :) I like seeing the world through the eyes of my Facebook friends and colleagues. Much more interesting than picking up a newspaper. Healthier too.

9 What can you remember about the first class you ever taught? I can’t really remember details. Maybe it was substitute teaching for 5th grade in a small school in my hometown. I just remember feeling strangely calm about teaching math (I really have bad memories of my own math classes ). I got a sweet class card from the students telling me they didm’t want me to leave. I still have it.

10 Flowers or chocolates? I really enjoy flowers. I love how the colours and fragrance just bring a magical quality to a normal room. But of course, I have to choose chocolate. I could have chocolate every day.

11 How do you feel about reality TV shows? They’re fascinating. Like Carol Goodey, I like watching how people interact and communicate. I especially enjoy reality shows that encourage people to create. I don’t watch any these days, but I used to love Project Runway…. and dare I say, America’s Next Top Model. :P

eslkathy111 Questions from Kathy

1. What is one book, blog post, article, presentation, or research paper that really changed how you think about teaching?  How? It’s really hard to choose. I think the books that had the greatest impact on my concept of education was Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life and Life-Enriching Education: Nonviolent Communication Helps Schools Improve Performance, Reduce Conflict, and Enhance Relationships. These books helped me see that we don’t have to teach using the old violent paradigms. There is another way. A compassionate way to educate.

2. Which season of the year do you like the best?  Why? I think it has to be spring. See all those colours pop after having bare winter is a wonderful treat from nature.

3. How many languages (other than English) can you use at high beginning or higher?  If any, what are they? Acadian French – fluent. Korean – beginner (Not your question, but I had to put it there. I need to motivate myself!)

4. The bartender says “What’ll it be?”  What is it? Red wine or pina colada.

5. What is the most recent musical performance you have attended? Wow, you got me digging here. Since I moved to Korea, I haven’t made an effort to watch many concerts. I guess it was the mariachi band that played on the last day of the SIT TESOL course in Costa Rica last February.

6. Which age group do you like teaching best: youngsters, teens, adults? Adults. It’s easier for me to connect.

7. Have you ever been the recipient of a surprise party or gift?  How did that go? Yes! For my first visit home to Nova Scotia after living in Korea. It was so sweet. My parents picked me up at the airport and when we got closer to our house, my dad called someone. I could hear my friend, Natalie, on the other end, but he was addressing her as his friend, Guy. I immediately knew what was up, but I didn’t say anything. When we rolled up to our house, there were cars everywhere! Friends and family were in the kitchen enjoying conversation and food. It was an amazing feeling.

8. What’s one time where you really had to think on your feet during a lesson? Hmm… I often do this because I over plan. I can’t think of a specific moment, but my over planning allows me to discard or move activities around if I notice the vibe of the class is going a certain way. Over planning is stressful though. It often means I’m trying to put too much in a lesson.

9. Tell about a pet — past, present or future. I’ll tell you about my first pet, the husky I mentioned above. Her name was Bossu. I guess my dad had her before I was born. She was precious but also wild. She always ran away, and it wasn’t uncommon for my dad to find dad cats or birds around the house. I think he had to give her away after she almost pushed me down the stairs.

10. Have you ever been on TV? Yeah, I was randomly interviewed by a provincial news reporter in Canada a few times. Does that count? ;)

11. Hot sauce: yes or no? Not really a choice in Korea, so yes. I never used to crave it, but now I need it with certain meals. Bibimbap and pizza are a must. :)

Vicky11 questions from Vicky

1. If you were not an educator, what line of work would you imagine yourself in? I’d love to work in film editing. I don’t have any experience, but I’d love to learn. It’s on my bucket list. :)

2. Which person in ELT would you like to meet in person and why? Hard to choose. There is not just one such person. I’m just going to have to  choose a community:  ELT community in Brazil and Turkey. ;)

3. What new activity / hobby would you like to start? I really want to learn how to use Photoshop and film editing software. I have visions but I can’t put them together yet. I need time.

4. Which is the best book you have recently read? Why? See my answer Rachael’s question. Cloud Atlas! :)

5. If you could change one thing in the world, what would that be? I loved Anne Hendler’s answer. I would also change the way education seems to be approached all over the world. I would add Anne’s idea of tolerance, and I would make sure that foundation of education is based on empathy and compassion. Before learning how to multiply, students would learn how to identify all the emotions they feel and relate them to something they are needing at the moment. That is the beginning. :) Thanks for asking this Vicky. :)

6. Which is the nicest destination you have visited so far and why? Tough. I’m going to have to say the jungles of La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Seeing all that nature and wildlife first hand and not in a book was an incredible gift. I feel grateful to be able to see so much of this amazing world.

7. If you decided to write a book, what would it be about? Maybe something in relation to question 5. :)

8. What is your favourite song this period? I’m really enjoying this song. It’s the last one I bought on iTunes.

9. What is your favourite and least favourite food? Favourite – Rapure; least favourite – Sea Squirt – (멍게)

10. Which is the next conference you plan to attend? Maybe the same Anne. We’ll see. :)

11. With whom from the PLN was your first meeting in person? What was it like? In Korea, I think it was Anne, or Alex Grevett. And internationally, Kevin Stein. It was amazing!Like old friends. I’m still in awe of the phenomena of being so close to people I have never met.

Here are my 11!

Like Anne — she really inspired me in this post :) — I am trying to tag people who may not have been tagged… and that I also want to know more about. :)

  1. @ChopEDU
  2. @BarryJamesonELT
  3. @bucharesttutor
  4. @wilma_luth
  5. @_divyamadhavan
  6. @GemL1
  7. @AlexSWalsh
  8. @dawn_wink
  9. @datEnglish
  10. @yitzha_sarwono
  11. @LauraSoracco

My 11 questions – if you don’t have time, don’t worry about answering. Only do this if it’s fun for you.

  1. Why did you start blogging (stealing this from Rachael)?
  2. What keeps you teaching every year?
  3. Do you have a pet peeve? If so, what is it? If not, have you ever had one, and how did you get over it? Tell me something about pet peeves. ;)
  4. Do you prefer planes, trains, or automobiles when traveling?
  5. What’s your favourite movie?
  6. Has a complete stranger ever showed you kindness? What happened?
  7. Tea or coffee?
  8. What was one of the sweetest moments that ever happened in class – between you and the students, or between the students?
  9. You have the whole day to yourself. What are you going to do?
  10. If you could spend a year focusing on research, what would you research? Why?
  11. What’s your favourite word? :)

Wordless Wednesday: What a way to start the first day of class!

Happy Birthday Josette!

Bloggers go wordless on Wednesdays. Join the fun!

The Mirror That Sees Me (a short story)

The following tale was inspired by my experiences at Centro Espiral Mana; in and near La Fortuna, and Liberia, Costa Rica; and during the SIT TESOL course. I hope you enjoy my attempt at creative expression. :)


There is a mirror out there that has great clarity. Once you look in this mirror, you’ll see your truth reflected. When you first take a look, you may not believe what you see because your heart is too clouded. I have a remedy for this cloudiness.

First you must go to the rainforest. Visit the sloths, the iguanas, the tree frogs, the vultures, the howler monkeys, the flying fish, the scorpions, the fire ants, the toucans, and the blue butterflies.

Eat papaya, pineapple, rice and beans, lemons, mangos, and avocado. Drink the coffee. This is all prepared by loving hands and you will taste the essence of pura vida

You may meet a lovely Mexican woman who shares her traditional dishes with you. A kind lady from Honduras helps her prepare these meals. Accept their food with gratitude as they blend it with love. You need this love in order to see your reflection.

Walk to the river. You’ll meet a dog with no name. He will teach you about unconditional love. All he wants from you is your presence. Be present. Breathe. Feel the earth beneath you.

Swim in volcano water and cleanse your doubts. Make a detour at the healer’s house. It is deep in the jungle. Listen to her words and accept her healing hands.

When you you’ve done all that I’ve mentioned above, you’ll notice that some of the haze has lifted from your heart. But there is still a bit more clearing to do.

After a while  you’ll come to a place at the end of the road. Here you’ll meet four teachers. Listen to them. Observe them.

the four guides

They’ll hold up the mirror and show you ways of looking at yourself. These ways may seem unconventional. They are. Trust them.

Now, look into the mirror one more time. The fog has lifted. Do you see? You are more than you knew. You are you.

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!














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.