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For me, the end of a calendar year and the beginning of the next comes a distant second to the beginning and ends of academic years in opportunity for reflection and goal-setting. I may be in the minority that way, but a different type of reflection organically comes then: one of classroom-based pedagogy. Having said this, with some lovely time off from work, I intend to do some broader humanistic reflection and goal-setting also, the first foray of which has transformed into a little experiment I’m going to do as I write.

To begin, over the past week I read a few reflections on 2015 from the PLN, various reflective practice texts, and boards of education. I collated probably around 25 questions that piqued my interest, but ultimately remixed, mashed-up, and pared these down to 4 that arguably elicit perspective from four corners of my professional life. The aim is through reflection about these four areas, a cohesive dimension to my 2015 may be illuminated and direct me towards areas I can work on. The questions are:

  1. What do I consider to be my most important professional accomplishment? (directly from Millin, et al #21)
  2. How did I handle a struggle this year? (modified from Millin et al and combined with NSW Education)
  3. What critical incident has had a significant impact? (Inspired by Farrell, 2011 and Ayres, 2013)
  4. Are the relationships I have with people in my life conducive to creating a collaborative culture focused on learning? (directly from Clements) 

Through this question discovery, I came across the idea of summarising my year which though not a question per se, I’ve always found a challenging task to do clearly. Consequently (and to add another layer of reflection here), I’ve decided to bookend my answers to these 4 questions with the same task to see how my beliefs and my answers compare: summarise 2015 in a five-word sentence. I conclude with a question I created to bridge reflection to goal-setting: Where do I want to go from here?

I share this with you more for my own exercise than for your reading pleasure. To be honest, I’m as anxious as I am excited. Maybe this post will elucidate this apprehension. To put it in replicable order for you if you want to try:

Here’s the reflective journey to be taken…

Task A: Summarise 2015 in a five-word sentence.
Task B: Answer the four following reflective questions:

  1. What do I consider to be my most important professional accomplishment?
  2. How did I handle a struggle this year?
  3. What critical incident has had a significant impact?
  4. Are the relationships I have with people in my life conducive to creating a collaborative culture focused on learning? 

Task C: Summarise 2015 in a five-word sentence again, based on examining answers to Task B. Compare.
Task D: Consider goal-setting: Where do I want to go from here?

Follow me on mine if you want…

Task A: Summarise 2015 in a five-word sentence.

  • Long-term goals became reality.

Task B: Answer the four following reflective questions:

  1. What do I consider to be my most important professional accomplishment?
    As I sit here writing, then rewriting my answer here, I’m already facing difficulty answering for a couple reasons. 2015 was a banner year for me, hence my initial summary above. How does one pick which is the most important when the ripple effects from each aren’t yet equal? How does one talk about multiple accomplishments while minimising conceit? I’m very proud of finally reaching these long-term goals and the confidence doing so has built in me seems unshakable. Famous last words, I know.
  2. How did I handle a struggle this year?
    I have to begin with a light chuckle: When I typed the last sentence of #1, I accidentally typed ‘guilt’ first instead of ‘built’: perhaps a telling slip… This year I’ve struggled with my concept of confidence/pride/arrogance/ego/influence/authority. What is perceived? What is truth? The more goals I reach, the more I wonder if this internal struggle has visible outward effects.  For example, I admit that I sometimes catch myself in an authoritative, dismissive tone when a discussion is on a topic I’m passionately for or against. I even surprise myself about what topics these are. When I hear myself this way, when I feel I’m dominating discussion among colleagues, or when I think I may be overstepping boundaries of authority, I have concertedly stepped back and quieted myself. At least I think I have. Thus, this is my struggle.
  3. What critical incident has a significant impact?
    I had a conversation with a colleague a month or so ago about writing on social media, Facebook specifically. I mentioned that several years ago, I decided that I would write with the same attention to grammar, punctuation, and general mechanics of English there as I would anywhere. I came to this conclusion partly because I felt that as a language teacher, it was my duty to be vigilant in my own writing; and partly because I’d seen some appalling language from Facebook friends that I felt compelled to counter with my own examples. I didn’t expect my colleague’s sympathetic reaction: “that must be such a huge burden to shoulder. It’s not your responsibility.” I’d never considered it to be a burden, but it was. I remember in my 20s that I enjoyed playing with language more online–spelling, poetic usages, inference–but since my profession had concretised, that liberty was replaced with attempts at cohesion and concision. Now I’m less certain about what I feel is an acceptable voice on social media for me. It may begin a process of self-examination about truths I’ve held for many years. I’ve probably needed this shown to me in this way, but it came completely out of the blue.
  4. Are the relationships I have with people in my life conducive to creating a collaborative culture focused on learning?
    On this, I’ll give myself a A- in professional contexts (and a C+ in more personal ones). I think I’m good at valuing teachers on my course team and involving them in informing decisions I have to make about the course. I also think on a wider professional context, my involvement in TESL Toronto, TESL Canada, and IATEFL TDSIG, helps create this type of culture. On a management level within my department, I try to expand this to the wider program instructors but with so many individuals, there’s a balance between inclusion and counter-productivity I don’t always achieve well. Some things backfire despite intentions. This is where the – part of A- comes in.  As for the personal C+, do you really want to know about that? Probably not, but I thought it might be humbling to publicly admit I’m not the greatest there. In any case, these two groups may sometimes blur, so perhaps I average out at a B.

Task C: Summarise 2015 in a five-word sentence again, based on examining answers to Task B. Compare.

  • While goals met, perception matters.
    When I started this little experiment (5 hours ago), I thought 2015 was all about achieving my previous 5-year goals. It’s hard (and pointless) to ignore issues that emerged from my answers though. I clearly care how I am perceived. I am obviously concerned about whether my intentions are portrayed through my actions. I didn’t, however, really think these would be forefront in pretty much every answer.

Task D: Consider goal-setting: Where do I want to go from here?

At the outset, I thought I’d end with setting up a new 5-year plan for myself, as I’d done 5 years ago. That may come later, but for now a bit more localised work is relevant:

  • clearer transparency about actions I take
  • space for others to work through their ideas on their own terms whenever practicable
  • comfort level with teacher vs not teacher

 

 

Post Facebook comments here.
 

10 Responses to my (little) reflective journey today

  1. Hi Tyson, I really enjoyed the openness and humility of this post. That being said, your accomplishments are significant, and you deserve to be proud. Looking forward to to further deeper discussions with you. I enjoyed our chat in December. Your perspectives often inspire me to consider reflective questions from fresh angles. Happy New Year.

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      Thanks, Jessica. It’s always a challenge to balance the pride with humility, isn’t it? I like the possible discussions we can have, but am a little surprised you did. Upon reflection (ba dap bap, tshhh) I think you may have received the brunt of a passionate response I had to our topic in December. Glad it didn’t scare you off though. :)

      • Sometimes passionate reactions or let’s say, “challenging discussions”, do create, or should enable, the most reflection and soul-searching afterward. I think you also bore the brunt of my own raw sensitive spots on the subject, but it was well worth the discussion because I like and respect you so much so that I mulled over the conversation long after. Have a great week

  2. […] Pingback – My (little) reflective journey today | 4C in ELT TYSON SEBURN. […]

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  4. Alice says:

    Hi Tyson, thanks for writing and sharing this interesting reflection!

    To add a bit to the social media language discussion, I think the fact that these questions are being raised is a natural reaction to what social media means to us and how it impacts us everyday. And the hardest thing about this is that social media is unwieldly and constanty evolving, so by the time anyone has a decent handle on how to “behave” on social media, we’ve already moved onto the next new thing. So the language that is deemed appropriate on social media becomes…almost insignificant in a way. That said, I personally work better with clearer boundaries than not and maybe that’s something that I need to adjust…

    Here’s to more reflection in 2016!

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      Thanks for the reply, Alice, and for really being this critical incident for me. I wonder, however, if the constant evolution of and our rapid movement to new social media is overstating things. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and blogs have been fairly constant platforms now for the better share of a decade. I wonder if a certain code of language hasn’t already been established here, but rather its ubiquity is what’s more recent for a larger user-base. This doesn’t, however, account for my decision-making entirely on language use, of course. That’s my own issue.

  5. Alice says:

    And after writing that bit, I read it over and cringe at my inability to use pronouns to replace social media…LOL And this is precisely it, right? To what degree do we attend to these sorts of things when writing/expressing ourselves on social media? To what degree are we being “authentic” versus “made up” or something along those lines?

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      Good questions! I like to think I’m my authentic self across platforms, but maybe I’m kidding myself.

Post non-FB comments here. :)

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