Reflective Practice Mission Statement 2

In my previous post, I tried to analyze the concept of so-called Reflective Practice Mission Statement (RPMS). After having read another post of John Pfordresher’s, my outlook on the issue has narrowed down. The author was so kind and this time he offered a practical example, possibly to make things easier for anyone eager to take up the challenge:

This is a fun ice breaker I use in class. It’s also a great way to get an RP meeting started.


strongly disagree               disagree                      agree                   strongly agree

1) Teachers must teach grammar explicitly if learners are to acquire language effectively.
2) Teachers who don’t utilize technology in class are doing a disservice to their students.
3) Teachers have to understand the correlation between student emotions and student needs to be effective.

I have no clue if the author wants us to ponder about the statements and elaborate on them in our posts, or whether he plans to discuss them on his own. It may be a coincidence but the second statement is actually expanded on in his subsequent post, which, at first sight, has nothing to do with the RPMS challenge (at least it is not stated explicitly). By the way, I can’t agree more with the following quote:

“The job of a modern English language teacher is to help students navigate their world through the medium of English. It isn’t about using technology to teach students, it’s about teaching students how to understand, decipher and decode English when using technology”.

Anyway, back to my case. It often happens that ideas and solutions suddenly dawn on me. Well, I admit that this is often a result of a previous analysis and contemplation. This ‘awakening’ usually occurs when I concentrate on something unrelated to the initial problem. Yesterday I was watching the Downton Abbey series, which a friend of mine had kindly recommended to me a while ago, when a new Reflective Practice Mission Statement sprang to mind.

Being a non-native English teacher has a lot of drawbacks, but it can also give me an advantage.
 
This may sound like an attempt to find an excuse but I’m about to explain it. As a non-native speaker of English I am constantly learning – both consciously and systematically in order to keep up with whatever I need to, and unintentionally (learning is just a side effect). Mind you, I’m not saying that native speakers aren’t learning and refining their mother tongue all their lives. But my bonus is that I’ve gone through all the phases of getting a grasp of the foreign language (as opposed to acquiring it). What is more, I’ve tried various learning styles and I was a witness to a plethora of teaching methods when I was a student myself. I strongly believe in learner autonomy and my contention is that if a student acquires the right approach to learning, he or she can achieve almost anything. The method is the key.
 
What on earth then does Downton Abbey have to do with my RPMP? It’s simple; when watching the first episode, I found it somewhat difficult to understand some of the British accents. However, as the series went on, I felt more and more comfortable. Was it because I got accustomed to the accents? Maybe. But more importantly, I got more and more context as the plot and characters developed. With more context comes a better understanding. This applies to listening and reading in general.
 
This insight is something quite obvious for me as a teacher but it can be truly valuable for my students. I’m not implying that a native speaker can’t provide the learner with the same piece of advice, but having experienced something, one undoubtedly sounds more authentic.

 That’s it for the time being – I’m passing the baton…


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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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6 Responses to Reflective Practice Mission Statement 2

  1. lizzieserene says:

    Great post! I love this part: “if a student acquires the right approach to learning, he or she can achieve almost anything.” Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher.
    I agree with you about the advantages of being a non-native English teacher. The writing of Medgyes captivated me during my MA (did you see that Vicky Loras interviewed him on her blog?) and first got me thinking about the distinct advantages, disadvantages and roles of teachers in different settings. Sometimes I wish I could relate to my students on that level, but the best I can do is do my best to learn their L1 to better understand how to teach them.

    Your comment “With more context comes a better understanding.” called to mind two things for me: first was watching Shakespeare plays as a student. It always took a few scenes for it to sound like English to me. The second is that the more context we get in the Reflective Practice challenge, the better we will understand how to participate. I've really been enjoying your participation so far!
    -Anne-

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  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Thank you so much for reading, commenting and all the support, Anne Well, learner autonomy is a popular term nowadays but I truly believe it's the key to successful learning. And I base this assumption on my own experience. There were times when I had to learn something quickly and on my own (for example German) and knowing how to do it saved me a lot o trouble. Anyway, I have to check out the interview on Vicky's blog. Thanks for the tip.

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  3. Hi Hana,

    I'd like to second everything Anne wrote above. In addition, I think it's important for us all to remember that there is no right or wrong to reflective practice.

    The point of RP is to think more deeply, more critically about our values, our methods and the decisions we make. In this post you are doing just that. And it is truly enlightening. Thank you.

    Additionally, as Anne has said, the more context we get the more comfortable we will be in sharing our views. I think its truly fantastic that you have stepped right up and allowed us all a window into your teaching brain. RP can be extremely daunting and scary, and I think your are a courageous example of how much we can learn from each other when we let go of our inhibitions. There is no judgement in RP, only learning.

    It's been wonderful to have you on board the RP train so far, and I truly looking forward to hearing more from you in the future!

    John

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  4. Hana Tichá says:

    What a nice comment, John. The fact that RP can be extremely daunting and scary doesn't put me off me in the least. On the contrary, it motivates me! I'm really happy to have stumbled upon this challenge. I wish there were more opportunities like this in the blogosphere because everything that diverts our attention from the sometimes mundane daily routine of our stressful job helps us survive. And not just that – a challenge like this helps us grow through collaborative reflection.

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  5. Hi Hana, it's really interesting hearing your thoughts and your point of view from the perspective of a non-native speaker. I totally agree that as a non-native speaker you have a lot to offer your students because you have been there.
    I also like what you say about the different learning methods and styles, and while I know there is quite a lot of debate about 'learning styles’, I do believe that everyone is going to learn differently. For me, I often base how I teach on my own experiences as a language learner. In school I did three years of French and four years of German, and I can barely string a sentence together in those languages. I have also tried unsuccessfully to learn Korean over the last 6 years. I say unsuccessfully because I cannot hold a conversation other than the basic day-to-day encounters I have. In all three of these language learning experiences I was taught through formal instruction in the classroom.
    However, when I was 6 years old, my family moved from England to West Wales, to an area where 70% of the population are Welsh speakers. I was put into a school where learning Welsh was not an option, so for a year I went to a Welsh language centre two days a week. In the language centre we were only allowed to speak Welsh, but were not taught Welsh – we were instead taught the other subjects through the medium of Welsh. Obviously I was young, and didn't really have that much concept of the whole language learning process, I just did it. I haven't spoken Welsh properly in over 10 years, but I can still understand quite large portions of conversations. I think this relates to your comment on my post about the amount of input that learners receive in the language.
    There are probably quite a few factors that affected my language learning (2 hours of German first thing on a Monday morning was probably one of them), and I think as a language teacher I need to think about what I found worked for me and what didn’t and try to apply that to my own teaching.

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  6. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your detailed comment, David. I strongly agree with everything you say. What struck me a little while reading your comment, though, was the notion that 'as a language teacher I need to think about what I found worked for me and what didn’t and try to apply that to my own teaching', as you put it. Not that I disagree; I actually imply the same in my post. The thing is that when you enthusiastically try to apply something that worked for you, you may easily get irritated that it doesn't work for your students. By the way, this relates to another interesting point you make about learning styles: that we all learn in different ways. I don't like this to sound like a dead end; we'll never be able to distance ourselves from our preferences and they will always be reflected in the way we teach. What I mean here is that we should first and foremost take into consideration what our students need than what we think works best….

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