Reflection is the most important part of personal develop and the only way to foster a growth mindset, as I’ve written about here and here. So it’s no surprise that I jumped at the chance for a 5 day CPD challenge, which ELT.training have been running on their Facebook page. But what have I learned?
Throughout the week we were set different tasks via a Facebook live video where we were encouraged to ponder every aspect of our reaching and reflect on our strengths and weaknesses. The group interacted via the Facebook page and suggested ideas to one another, asked for guidance and generally built a sense of community meaning that members felt supported and able to pose their questions.
It all kicked off with two tasks asking us to identify how we see ourselves in the classroom. One being how we would describe our teaching style and the other being to describe what we consider to be our comfort zone, which resonates deeply with me as I believe that a refusal to challenge ourselves by stepping out of our comfort zone from time to time stagnates our teaching.
It threw up some interesting responses from those taking part and has made me wonder about the concept of “teaching style”. Teaching methodologies and approaches are a bit more straight forward to identify, it’s easy to identify whether you favour PPP, TTT or TBL for example, but style is a bit different. While we are all individuals and bring different personalities and therefore energy to the classroom, do we really have teaching styles or just a list of socially desirable characteristics that we would like to exhibit?
It’s true to say that the type of teacher who signs up to do a week of CPD challenges are probably the type who strive to improve in every way possible but is there a touch of the Dunning-Kruger effect in most of us?
I struggle to define my teaching style, one because like the language I think it’s fluid and a slippery animal that changes depending on who, what and where I am teaching. But that’s not the only reason why I struggle to define it, it’s also because the moment I try I see myself writing down a definition of what type of teacher I would like to be, but in all honesty, I’m not sure how often I actually deliver on that model.
My attempt at a definition used the word “relaxed” which I noticed made a frequent appearance in the responses but is that really a style attribute or more of an indication of experience. I certainly was not relaxed in my first years of teaching when struggling to teach advanced grammar points to bemused students. And surely again in those first few years, having stayed up all night searching for that ubiquitous perfect lesson or grappling with grammar and cursing my own schooling, I could not possibly have given off the cool, calm persona that we associate with effortless teaching.
Other tasks this week have included reflecting on key lessons in our teaching experience, including what we consider to be our best and worst and why these were successful or not. Interactions from other members helped focus reflections and offered up some interesting perspectives and good advice.
It culminated in each member of the group pledging their development goals for the short, mid and long-term, a great way to reinforce our commitments to our own continuing personal development.
I found this week fantastically useful at reminding myself about my own strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. Dedicating time to reflect on my own growth as a teacher has been both humbling and motivating and I feel reenergised for the upcoming school year.
Something I’ve decided to do is to redesign my lesson plan template to leave space at the bottom for some post-lesson reflection. Even if it’s only space for a few words or sentences I think being able to evaluate what went well and what flopped will hopefully inform the following lesson plan and hopefully will provide some important input during the course of the academic year.
Participating in this CPD challenge has been a great practice in reflection and another step towards developing as a teacher and manager.