RP3 – the story goes on …

I believe it’s high time to roll up my sleeves and start analyzing the negative classroom interaction I described in my previous Reflective Practice post. If you’re a newcomer, I recommend that you read the full story first.

I decided to chunk the story and then put the chunks into two separate categories: facts and feelings. I did so to unveil the true nature of the whole incident. However, it was not as easy as I thought it would be. Not all facts are mere facts.

Facts:

  • I enter the classroom at 12:30 pm.
  • I hand out the corrected film reviews.
  • Most of the students nod and shake their heads to indicate that everything is clear (my assumption, not a fact really, that’s why I’m deleting it).
  • All of a sudden a hand shoots up (I used this verb to indicate the rude manner = subjective, I’m replacing it with a girl puts up her hand) and the girl snaps at me in Czech (snaps = a subjective feeling, I’m replacing it with ‘asks’).
  • I ask for clarification dispassionately (not really sure about the adjective now, I’m deleting it).
  • How on earth should I know which version is correct?” she raps out again (a subjective feeling, I’m replacing it with ‘responds’).
  • “Could you read the sentences for me so that I know what you mean?” I ask calmly (not sure about this adjective at all).
  • The other students have noticed by now and quiet down so that they can watch the bull fight (my assumption, exaggeration, hyperbole).
  • The girl is ready – she’s got both essays in front of her and starts reading the sentences, in a triumphant manner (my assumption).
  • Just before she finishes the second one, she pauses and realizes that the sentences are not identical.
  • She immediately withdraws her ‘accusation’ (she actually does nothing of that sort, I’m replacing it with she indicates that she understands now).
  • She doesn’t apologize verbally but waves her hands to imply that she understands now (my assumption, maybe she just wants to end the discussion). 
  • The class is quiet.
  • “Next time think twice before you ask in such a rude way”, I say.
  • She remains silent.
  • We go on with the lesson.


My feelings:

  • I’m a bit hungry.
  • I’m looking forward to this class.
  • I feel pleased with myself because I managed to correct the film reviews overnight.
  • I’m puzzled (when the girl asks).
  • I feel a little alert.
  • I strike the defensive pose (because the girl tends to ask tricky questions).
  • I feel my nerves vibrating.
  • My pulse and blood pressure go up (I didn’t have a heart rate monitor, of course, that’s why the feeling category).
  • I’m already red in the face (I didn’t have a mirror to check)…
  • … and that’s a bad sign (a bad sign for whom?).
  • I feel unfairly accused and thus offended (what was I actually accused of?).
  • I expect her to apologize verbally.
  • My eyes are glowing with suppressed fury (again, no evidence to prove it was visible),
  • even though I feel relieved that I wasn’t caught in the act this time.
  • I can feel the everybody’s eyes aimed at the two protagonists.
  • I feel aggrieved.
  • The oppressive atmosphere lingers for a while.
  • I feel guilty and unprofessional.

At first sight, there are too many emotions involved – mostly my negative emotions, I should stress. Some of the emotions emerged unexpectedly, but I suspect they were based on my previous experience with the class (I knew the class was challenging and I was aware of the fact that some students, perhaps unintentionally, occasionally threatened my authority by asking tricky questions). Other feelings fall into the ‘self-indulgent’ category, e.g. I looked forward to the class or I felt pleased with myself. Unsurprisingly and inevitably, I felt disappointed when things suddenly changed their course. I simply expected everything to be perfect.

Based on the foregoing analysis, I decided to rewrite the story, but this time only using the facts. In other words, I ditched all the subjective emotions and I’m serving the interaction in its pure form as it might have been seen by somebody totally uninvolved, and maybe the students themselves.

I enter the classroom at 12:30 pm. I hand out the corrected film reviews. Most of the students nod and shake their heads. All of a sudden a girl puts up her hand and asks: “Why did you correct this sentence in my film review and left the same thing uncorrected in my previous writing assignment?” I don’t understand and so I ask for clarification. “How on earth should I know which version is correct?” she responds. “Could you read the sentences for me so that I know what you mean?” I ask. The other students have noticed by now and they are quiet, listening. The girl has got both essays in front of her and starts reading the sentences. Just before she finishes the second one, she pauses and realizes that the sentences are not identical. She indicates that she understands now. The class is quiet. “Next time think twice before you ask in such a rude way”, I say. She remains silent. We go on with the lesson.

If I could turn back time, I would definitely do things in a different way – I’d try to be attentive but unemotional and calm. Maybe I’d talk to the girl after the class rather than try to solve the situation in front of the whole class. But to be able to act impartially and have a detached view in the future, I need to stop doing several things now:

  • I need to stop having all those expectations.
  • I need to stop feeling that I’m the one who must always be perfect.
  • I need to stop thinking that things will always go the way I’ve planned them.  

In other words, I need to be kind to myself, no matter what happens. Thank you Josette 🙂

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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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11 Responses to RP3 – the story goes on …

  1. lizzieserene says:

    Dear Hana,
    What an amazing post. I really love the way you dissected your original story.
    More than that, though, I love that you told the story in the first post and waited until this post to separate the feelings and judgments from the pure facts. What you've done paints a wonderful picture of the power of nonjudgmental description and really puts the situation in perspective better than if you had started out this way. I really love this post.

    Like

  2. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks for your comment, Anne. Although it's a wonderful, sunny Sunday afternoon, I can say that it's you who's made my day. You always do, by the way 🙂 I must confess that my vision is often blurred by emotions and judgements and it's really difficult for me to see clearly at the given moment. It's much easier for me to look at things in retrospect and dissect them later, when the emotions have faded away. And I'm often surprised at how much the perspective has changed suddenly. I hope that this is the right way of reflection for me. And I believe that next time when I experience a similar situation, I will stop for a second, recall and change the course of events.

    Like

  3. dayisnight says:

    Wow, excellent post(s). This is going to give me a lot to think on.

    Like

  4. Hana Tichá says:

    Thank you, Dayisnight. What a lovely nickname 🙂

    Like

  5. Hana, I will be using this post as an example whenever I need to help teachers understand the difference between observations and evaluations. Seeing your process first hand (the deletions) shows how challenging it is to remain descriptive. What I also like about the striking out is that it permits the person reflecting to get their emotions out. This is especially valuable when feelings are charged. Of course I wouldn't suggest doing this face to face with the person in question. 😛

    Happy to se “Day is Night” found this blog too! Good people/teachers here. 🙂

    Happy reflecting!

    Like

  6. And thank you so much for the #redthumbforlove mention! ❤

    Like

  7. Hana Tichá says:

    Thank you Josette. Yes, there's a wonderful bunch of people around. I feel really flattered to have your comments on my blog and I'm honored to hear that I also have a small impact on somebody who's been doing reflection for much longer that myself. 🙂 But we can learn from novices as well as from our students.

    Like

  8. Zhenya says:

    Hi Hana,

    Just a short note to say that I really enjoyed reading the two descriptions, and seeing how reflecting further and seeing a 'wider perspective'. I liked how you worded it 'If I could turn back time' – would like to use this metaphor with the teachers who are learning to reflect. You set yourself a goal 'to be attentive but unemotional and calm' – I like it, and would dream to achieve such a state of mind in class (and in life!) I only wonder if/how it is possible. Perhaps working on mindfulness and being connected to the group like our #RPPLN is a helpful idea 🙂

    Like

  9. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks Zhenya. It's definitely helpful to be in this company of wonderful reflective people who ‘push’ you in the right direction. Well, I don't think I can ever become totally unemotional in class (let alone life) because I'm a very emotional person. What I might achieve, though, is to always take a few seconds before I react (if this is possible). This short slot devoid of any thoughts or judgements can do wonders in communication. You simply postpone your reaction, which in consequence makes the negative energy weaker. It's not easy but it works! But I’m sure you know this.

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  10. Hi Hana,

    completely echo the sentiments above from Anne. Also, you could be speaking for me when you commented in reply, “…my vision is often blurred by emotions and judgements and it's really difficult for me to see clearly at the given moment.” I think this is the exact reason that I so thoroughly relish the reflective process. It's one of the few things that allows me to better handle that blurriness when it comes.

    As Josette and Zhenya have commented, I think you have produced something here that is truly useful to each and every one of us.

    Keep up the great reflecting!

    John

    Like

  11. Hana Tichá says:

    Thanks John. I'm excited to be part of this RP challenge. You all inspire me and give me a reason to write about something meaningful.

    Like

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