Ahead of Time to Talk Day 2018 and following a recent short survey I completed on reflective practice, I have uploaded an archive video below for the first time. I talk once more about my own mental health and how it has affected my teaching. I will be spending part of the Time To Talk day volunteering with the Time to Change campaign team at The Forum in Norwich city centre on 1 February.
This is an edited version of a 30 minute experimental co-operative development group session recording during my first semester at the University of Warwick. So it dates from October 2011. It’s called ‘THE PERSONAL AND THE PROFESSIONAL’ – and came ahead of doing Steve Mann and Annamaria Pinter’s second semester module, ‘Teacher Education and Development’ (course ref: ET977). I submitted this video broken down into transcribed extracts for the assignment. I am student 1163612 and the focus is on me, not the other people in the room. Those ‘understanders’ (off camera) include fellow student at the time, Jo Gakonga and three others, who had their turns later.
Some background to this video and why the ‘understanders’ don’t act like normal interviewers (or counsellors) comes from an extract from my essay which was later submitted the following April, after attending my first IATEFL conference:
“Co-operative Development (CD) is an exploratory spoken discourse practice of dialogic character, which provides a space for teachers, MA and doctoral students (Edge, 2011) to reflect on their teaching/learning experiences as the basis for self-development. Teachers, particularly, ‘can look back on events, make judgments about them, and alter their teaching, behaviours in light craft, research and ethical knowledge.’ (Valli in Farrell, 2008:1)
According to Farrell (2007:123-4), there are different kinds of teacher development groups, which he describes as school peer groups, district-level teacher groups and virtual teacher groups. The latter are becoming more commonplace with online support groups, such as the new Twitter based #ELTchat group. Whatever the construction, a group requires four ingredients, according to Richardson (in Farrell, 2007:125). In summary, these are:
The feeling of safety, allowing each participant to be able to open up and discover who they are personally and professionally.
A connection with others in the group.
An agreed passion about what the group is trying to achieve and that it will make a difference.
A gratitude for the group’s existence and a solidarity which binds the above features.”
Now I don’t reflect much about my actual teaching here. I am bringing in my personal reflections and trying to understand why things happen the way they do, all in a supportive group setting. I talk about ‘perfectionism’, anxiety and reflect on my time in Saudi. Towards the end, I make a reference to an ELT journal article by the late Stephen Bax about putting ‘context’ at the heart of the profession. Uploading this video might come across as self-indulgent but what I am doing here is focusing on my own psychology as a language teacher and how I felt the personal and professional entwine.
I did actually write about this experimental group in a post called ‘Mental Indigestion’ on my older Blogger account on 30 October 2011, whilst I was a student at Warwick, sharing a single photograph. Here’s an extract from that post:
“CO-OPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT GROUP: Being a reflective professional is something that has already come up and with the help of Steve Mann, mentioned above, a 5 person group has been set up. This includes Joanna, Christine (the 2 other Brits), a teacher and fluent French speaker from Trinidad and Tobago, and one from India. It could lead into Steve’s optional module on Teacher Education and Development in Term 2. Although there are very interesting modules on Literature and Drama, Professional and Academic Discourse and Language Testing to choose from, I think this is likely to be the module I pick for Term 2. It leads into my long-term goal of being a teacher training (sic). I recorded a 30 minute video in the first session, during which I took the chair and spoke at length about how I came to be at Warwick and how my ‘personal’ and my ‘professional’ entwine themselves. The others generally listened and gave reflective responses only as ‘understanders’. Much like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, their role was not to add their opinions, advice or ask too many questions, but instead they would gently prompt me. I went into knowing what I wanted to reveal and this seemed like the perfect, safe place to do it. I didn’t write a script, however and I didn’t write any notes down beforehand.”
Finally, here’s another extract from the corresponding essay, where I needed to write in third person. The whole essay can also be found under presentations and documents.
“This Speaker went into the session ‘metaphorically naked’ without having prepared anything for the session. He confessed from the outset that he suffers from depression, anxiety attacks and a perceived polarised behaviour. He admitted to being a perfectionist and that he had high (professional) standards. He often compared current performance with previous better performances and suggested this was a possible reason for becoming anxious.”
Edge, J. 2011. The Reflexive Teacher Educator in TESOL: Roots and Wings. New York, London: Routledge.
Farrell, T. S. C. 2007. Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice London: Continuum
Farrell, T. S. C. 2008. Reflective Practice in the Professional Development of Teachers of Adult English Language Learners. CAELA Network Brief. Ontario: Brock University found at: http://www.teslontario.net/uploads/research/ReflectivePracticeFinalWeb%20Farrell.pdf. accessed 1 March 2012.