It’s been about 7 weeks since my last post for the RP Blog Challenge, and I’ve fallen a little behind. Challenge 5 has already been posted, but I’ve yet to do challenge 4. Admittedly I’ve been a bit busy with Delta studies, but I had hoped to complete challenge 4 earlier. I think I have been putting it off in part because step 2, analysis, is quite hard, and also because of the moment I chose to describe. As I mentioned in my RPC 3 post, the incident happened around 5 years ago, so perhaps too much time has passed since then. I wondered, just like Anne Hendler, whether I should have changed my description, but I will not do so. It’s the first time I’ve used the ELC as a tool to reflect, and I will continue with it for my initial description.
Challenge 4 was set by Josette LeBlanc over on John Pfordresher’s blog. The basic gist of this stage is to ask WHY. Because I have found this stage difficult, I am going to look at the posts from my fellow group members for inspiration. Anne Hendler (whose post is linked to above), Zhenya Polosatova, and Hana Tichá.
Like Anne and Zhenya, my description is reposted again below:
I had just started teaching at my current job, where I teach Korean adults. I was about 2-3 months into the new job, and my previous experience had been with younger learners. This particular class was quite large with around 35 students of mixed ability. It was early afternoon, about 2 or 3pm, which was the beginning of my teaching day. The lesson had been put together by another teacher in the organization and distributed among all of the teaching centres in the country. In the phase of the class I am describing, we were talking about commonly confused words and phrases. The students had a worksheet with around 10 – 12 words and phrases, each with a brief explanation of when the word is used, and a space for the students to write an example sentence.
Before the class, I had briefly glanced over the list, but not really paid much attention to it. When I first started out teaching, I knew very little about the technical side of English, and in fact found the ‘grammar’ component on the CertTESOL to be the most challenging (I scored 51% on the grammar test – had I been 2% lower, I would have failed the course).
As we began to go over the list of words and their uses, one student puts her hand up in the air. She was an older student, a housewife, and was sitting at a table with a small group of other more mature students, all of whom were at a fairly high level (the rest of the people in the class were university aged). Now, I had just read out the phrase ‘everyday’ and given an example which was something like ‘everyday I wake up early’, when the student raised her hand. “Is that correct?” she queried, “shouldn’t it be ‘every day’?” I immediately came back with: “No, it IS correct.” After all, I was the ‘teacher‘, I knew how to use English. How dare she challenge me? “But…” she said, “on the other side of the sheet, it says we should use ‘every day’?!” I could feel the blood rushing to my head as I turned over the sheet, and saw the explanation for ‘every day’. I’d had no idea at the time that ‘everyday’ and ‘every day’ were different. “Well, I’m British” I said, “and I think this was written by an American teacher, so both are correct!” I quickly moved on, and continued with the rest of the lesson. I could see that the student didn’t buy it at all. Immediately after, I remember going back to the teachers’ room to search Google in an attempt to find evidence to prove that I hadn’t made a mistake. No such evidence exists, and I’ve never told anyone the story before.
I knew I’d made a mistake, I felt embarrassed and disappointed with myself. I can’t say what the student must have felt, but I don’t imagine it was good.
N.B. Italicised comments are used to indicate a ‘previous me’.
Why did I choose this particular occasion? I already mentioned in my previous post that the reason for choosing this particular interaction was because even after 5 years, it was something that I still remember, I think of it as my ‘everyday’ moment, and it helps to remind me to think before I speak.
Why didn’t I read over the materials more carefully? After all, if I had done, I wouldn’t have made the mistake. This was probably due in part to lack of time, also in part due to the materials themself – they weren’t professionally designed, and perhaps hadn’t been proofread – and then also partly due to me being a little lazy and just skimming the materials, rather than taking the time to think about the material that I had to help the students with.
Why did I act in that way? Why did I not admit my mistake when I first noticed it? I think it goes back to how I felt a teacher should behave back then. The teacher should be the person who stands at the front of the class, and should have the knowledge. I believed that I wasn’t allowed to make mistakes and that I should know all of the answers.
Why did the student ask me the question in front of the whole class, even when she seemingly knew the answer already? I don’t think there was any intention on the student’s part to cause embarrassment, but perhaps she did want to catch me out?
Why didn’t I apologise to the student privately after the incident or correct my mistake? Probably because at the time, I still felt embarrassed and that I should have known the answer. By telling the student that I had made a mistake, I would have been admitting that I didn’t know the answer when I feel that I should have, and back then, I think my position as the teacher would have been weakened (not a thought I hold now – more on this in the next post).
Feelings and Needs
Josette also challenged us, for this part of the challenge, to look through the lens of feelings and needs.
What were my feelings? My feeling at the time was of embarrassment, in front of the whole class. What did I need? I needed to maintain my position in the class as the teacher, and I felt at the time I needed to demonstrate that I knew what I was talking about. I felt that as a need because without it, how could any of the other students believe what I had to say in that class or any other class?
What was the student’s feelings? I imagine frustration, perhaps confusion? What about her needs? She needed an answer that either validated her belief or something that helped her to understand why her belief was wrong. She probably needed, as well, a teacher that she could trust to be honest and admit to a mistake.
So, that is what I have for now, for the analysis section of the challenge. I’m still a little unsure whether I have approached it in the right way, and have been successful in my analysis. The next part of the challenge, the generalization stage, will follow shortly, I hope.