This time I have honor and pleasure to talk with Josette, my colleague, friend, reflection peer, e-mail buddy and ptec member, my true inspiration in more than one areas: in being a generous sharer and giver to the ELT community through blogging (check here and here) and Twitter.
Besides all the above, Josette is working at Keimyung University, writing curriculum for a new course (and preparing to run it in July!), and coordinating Daegu Reflective Practice (‘RP’ for short) SIG. The latter is the focus of our interview today. The interview might be very interesting for teachers loving to reflect on what happens in their classrooms, and especially so for the teachers who are seeing themselves as creators and/or potential leaders in their own reflective communities. This post may also serve as support for people who want to start their own SIGs (like myself!) They can learn from Josette’s experience.
We talked with Josette on Skype: she was in a hammock in the garden in her home in Korea, and I was at my desk in Ukraine. We chatted about our working schedules, and Josette shared how many exciting things she is working on at the moment. We then continued in more or less ‘Question and Answer mode’ for the remaining part of the interview, so below you will see my questions marked ‘Zh’ and Josette’s answers as ‘J’. Let’s start.
Zh: In 2015, are you planning to be involved in the Daegu RP SIG meetings? How are you planning to combine your already tight schedule with the weekend sessions? [Zh’s note: the meetings take place monthly on Sunday afternoons]
J: Some time ago I had a feeling that I burned out a bit in relation to coordinating our Daegu RP group — lost ability to kind of ‘go for it’ and enjoy the process. That was the time to create a ‘coordinating team’, so last year I asked Jien Ra to help out, and together for about year now we have been sharing the responsibilities. It was a huge relief to know I could step back sometimes. Recently we expanded the coordinating team to include David Harbinson and Kim Mikyoung, and now the four of us work to keep the group going. They all have been strong contributors to the RP community and I am so grateful to have them on board.
Having more people on board helps to reduce stress of doing it by myself, maintains the community, and allows me to be a part of the process during the meeting itself (participate and enjoy it!) After all, as much as the meetings are a place for professional development, they are also a kind of social interaction. We like to keep the meetings informal in this way. On a more serious note, involving more people into coordinating means integrating more community leadership — and I consider this to be one of the goals for the group.
Zh: What does coordinating an RP SIG involve?
J: Well, “coordinating” is a relatively new term for us. We used to use the term “facilitating” but it didn’t really cover the various responsibilities involved in running an RP meeting [Zh’s note: the groups have been operating in Korea since 2011] Coordinating involves brainstorming topics, notifying members about the meetings, making sure that there is someone to facilitate, and also holding the space of the meeting (ie: introducing facilitators, closing the meeting, etc…). If no one is willing or able to facilitate from the general RP community, then the coordinator steps in. Coordinating and facilitating can be a lot of pressure if done by one person.
Zh: Do people often say ‘yes’ to the idea of running a meeting?
J: So far people have been very positive and willing to do it. I have been really impressed. The most recent example is at our meeting on April 19. Bryan Hale, who came from Gwangju (about 4 hours from Daegu), facilitated our SIG based on a presentation he did for KOTESOL and a workshop he did with the Gwangju RP SIG. Including Bryan, we had a few newcomers, and one of them volunteered to facilitate our May meeting. This was unprecedented and very exciting to see someone step up like that at the end of their first meeting. So on May 17, Shin Jung Hwan will be leading us.
Zh: To me, this sounds ideal: even through you are not always running the meetings, they are still going to happen and the community of reflective leaders is growing. This also allows you to relax about the need to be ‘prepared’ and meet your inner standards as a facilitator, or teacher trainer.
J: Yes, those standards sometimes felt too high (to the point of being unhealthy). I wanted to make sure everyone had the best experience possible. People travel long distances during their weekend for our meetings. But this was just an unrealistic expectation of myself, and I couldn’t maintain that level.
Zh: When you spoke about standards and trying to keep the meetings ‘on the level’. I remembered reading this post from last year, where you are sharing your Reflective Practice (RP) Mission Statement. One part I like is this: ‘I reflect because I want to create moments that bring optimal growth for everyone, including me. The word reflect, for me, is synonymous with “write”, “meditate”, or “discuss with friends and colleagues.’ Somehow this sounded ‘easier’ or ‘lighter’ than a more formal session on a course, or a lesson to me — but also more intimate and genuine. The sessions I attended felt that way to me.
J: I appreciate you saying that. It took me a while to get to a place where I could see this lightness as you say. I think this has to do with trusting the natural evolution of the group. People come to reflect on their teaching, but they also come to be part of a community. On top of this, they come during their weekends, which we know are very precious to fulltime teachers. The combination of all these elements really requires a sense of lightness. I think this matches nicely with the support and learning that occurs at the meetings.
This is the end of this post, but not the end of the conversation we had with Josette. I am grateful that she found the time to sit down with me and share her learning and insights about creating and managing and participating in the local reflective community, and I am hoping that one day I will be able to start something similar in my country/city in Ukraine.
This post by Josette tells more about the reflective community
This is a (closed) group on Facebook where coordinators, facilitators and participants communicate and share ideas.
posted by Zhenya