Reflection and Self-Analysis.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
Rather early in life, I absorbed several important lessons about the teaching profession via conversations in the family, while watching my relatives, listening to them share their experiences and exchange opinions. Later on I learned that reflection and self-analysis are a requirement for teachers of all levels in the national educational system, besides being part and parcel of our real daily work. For instance, every five years we have to submit lots of documents and go through a tedious re-evaluation process conducted by LED; the package includes a written essay called "Self-Analysis". Naturally any teacher knows that it is basically a lot of bureaucratic nonsense, yet everybody learns how to compose it according to the guidelines worked out by people who probably never taught a lesson in their lives. A well-written opus is not only a good step towards confirming one's existing grade, but also towards receiving a higher one. Truth be told, when you try to systematize your thoughts, to define your methods and techniques in clear terms, you may see something new or file away a few items for the future.
There are a few dangers to this aspect of our work, which I learned from my family.
* We deal with real live human beings. Yes, even teenagers are human :)
* it is important to reflect on what we have done, on what we are doing. Our mood, our own well-being depend on that.
* Some days, we leave school feeling that we have taught somebody something, and we feel good about it. Other days, we may exit our classroom with the feeling that we have taught nobody. This is normal.
* rather than succumbing to dejection or even depression reflect, think. Why is it that you explained a grammar theme, made exercises, then conducted a test and almost everyone failed? Why is it that a,topic which seemed so fascinating to you left your class bored or indifferent?
* Do not over-analyze! One of my relations formulated it really well:"We go to bed with our students and we wake up with them whenever there is a problem". Do not let it overwhelm your own family life. Indeed, do not take your students to bed or on your vacation with you, figuratively speaking.
* Surprising though it may seem, teachers are human too. We have normal emotions, feelings, ups and downs. Like in any other activity, in teaching we may have good days and bad days. This is called Life.
And here we come to one of the most important aspects of reflection today. Teachers are often perceived as superior know-it-alls. Just think about it. At every lesson, students ask us questions, and they are sure we know the answers. They do not bring in concerns about the English grammar only. No, for them, we are responsible adults; if we are lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you see it) they may ask us about anything that worries or interests them. Are we supposed to stay above life itself? Or are we expected to be able to deal with all the issues at hand, with the heightened anxiety levels, with safety concerns? If you are a teacher with a number of years' experience, parents come to you for advice too. What are we to do? How do we reflect on that? Here is an aspect that neither our students nor their parents realize: if we have families, children of our own, we have the same worries and concerns. Yet we are to preserve a brave face and to exude calm and confidence in any situation.
The immediacy of information sharing, the speed with which any news become global news today are a huge factor in the general atmosphere we work in. We come into our classroom ready for our lesson as per the national curriculum and the current lesson plan, and any minute someone may gasp out loud while surreptitiously checking their social networks. Do we try to disregard breaking news and continue reading, writing, speaking and listening exercises?
Aye, let us be optimistic! Searching for something positive and inspiring to share with my colleagues, I came upon this wonderful invitation. On April 25, all Russian schools will hold a lesson in memory of William Shakespeare. April 23 is absolutely an ELT day, being the Bard's birthday. This year, April 23 also marks 400'th anniversary of his death. 400 years, and he is still here with us. How amazing it is that a lesson in his memory will be held in all the schools of my country. Even more amazing is the fact that in my native Siberian town, there is a street named after Shakespeare. Imagine walking along Shakespeare street, in Siberia! This is our common cultural heritage, a good subject for reflection. The national ministry of education together with the British Council invite EL teachers to participate in a contest. And here comes my reflection on the subject of competitions. Can I still write the best lesson plan on Shakespeare, his life, his sonnets and plays? Probably. Would I like to win a one-week trip to the UK, the Main Prize, all expenses paid? Definitely. Will I actually take part in the contest? ah, here's the rub. I will write the lesson plan and share it with my colleagues. I will not submit it, because I think this contest is a great opportunity for my younger colleagues.
Reflection and Self-Analysis.