A “prudent understanding of variable situations with a view to what is to be done” (McCarthy, 1984, p.2) encapsulates that moment when a teacher is met with new experiences that need resolving. Teachers are met with acts that define their personalities. While working in Asia I was faced with one such dilemma as two students had complained to my manager that I was rude to them. I had mentioned, after class on the first day of a new term, that they had entered late, ignored me as they walked in across the class and sat down to subsequently talk with friends. Contemplating Asian culture which may ignore this kind of attitude, I still felt the need to deal with it. What is called a ‘technical rationality’ (Schon, 1983), my reaction, I hoped, was a means to an end by telling them, in not so many words, that I would like them to respect the learning students and the teacher teaching. In this given situation and given they were both adults, who was right as we both had views? For this piece of writing, I would like to like to draw on Gibbs (1988) model of reflection with the hope using the six steps to examine this classroom experience.
This ‘critical incident’ (Flanagon, 1954) emphasizes a direct observation of human behavior to examine the point of myself, the teacher, keeping two students behind after class to talk about their behavior towards the learning process. This is also the ‘concrete example’ (Peters, 1984)where we have to step back and test ourselves. One test is my ‘feelings’ (Gibbs, 1988) towards the students’ attitude of nonchalantly arriving late and traipsing past me. I felt angry as the class had been disturbed, disrespected as a teacher and unsupported by my manager who told me to apologize to them.
Moreover, to ‘evaluate’ (Gibbs, 1988), the third stage of Gibbs’ model, which highlights the good and bad, is first to say that I chose a quiet moment to explain myself; this being after class. The bad would be the students’ reaction to a situation they felt was not to be worried so much about which in Asian culture may have made them lose face. So, to make sense of the situation and ‘analyze’ (Gibbs, 1988) it, I was left feeling that I was in the wrong. My manager was now telling me to apologize and forget about it although he was driven by the Asian culture and business ethics of the customer is always right and do not say anything bad.
The “conclusion” (Gibbs, 1988) is to highlight and reflect on what more could I have done, seeing as I had to apologize (or jeopardise my job). Culture was an issue, but also I think attitudes to lateness of another teacher to which they had had the previous term. My ‘action plan’ (Gibbs, 1988) is now to see if the situation arose again what I would do. Of course, there are reasons for being late, and also for reactions to bad things said about someone. Culturally, I was too abrupt and too serious. Finally, laughter and a smile work in Asian culture and also getting the students’ personal feelings as to the right behavior instead of pushing my personally held beliefs.
Peter Scales, 2008. Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 1 Edition. Open University Press.
Geoff Petty, 2009. Teaching Today: A Practical Guide. 4 Edition. Nelson Thornes.
Yvonne Hillier, 2005. Reflective Teaching in Further and Adult Education. 2 Edition. Continuum.
Andrew Armitage, 2011. Developing Professional Practice, 14-19. Edition. Longman/Pearson.
I would like to reflect on the attitude of teachers as listeners with regard to the classroom. It has made me think more about the person (teacher) I am. When I think about how I am in the class it makes me reflect on the attitude I should have towards students who are trying to speak in class, thus the crux of this is, am I a good listener and reciprocator?
I think that when people speak ideas begin to grow. These ideas growing within us is thinking of the students in the class with something to say and the teacher letting them speak but encouraging those students to expand on their answers. Thus, the teacher is the listener to the students expanding their ideas and their second language. The proposition is, how do we listen to others? I think people listen, the fact is sometimes this may not be attentive. Referring to a classroom setting, I think there could be a moment where the teacher doesn’t listen to the students as attentively as one should. This doesn’t mean the teacher is being rude; he or she might have their mind on completing the lesson or the fact that the student has answered the question, so the teacher can move on. I think here is where you should take a step back to think about your attitude. I think that when you have these moments in the class where the students have a chance to speak you can expand on those junctures because you are a courteous listener who provokes the students to speak more.
It could be said that there are lecturers (teachers) out there that love the sound of their voice and do stifle people’s attitudes that stop them talking. They may be brilliant performers, but by not giving the students a chance to talk, they do not let all involved express their thoughts and expand. I think that as a teacher one could get confused that they are doing a great job teaching, but why are the students not talking? As such the teacher never realizes that it could be them (the teachers) that are the problem. I think that this creative spark from the students has got to be given time, and some teachers may not give time to let this creativity start working. Students can be given too much work that they are not sure where to start. I think with clear and modeled instruction which specific objectives the students know what to do, they then have focus, thus they know what to speak about to which the teacher can listen with captivated attention.
The formulation of ideas has to be a task that most students find difficult to complete especially with their limited knowledge of second language vocabulary as well as those that do have a wider knowledge, for them fluently remembering all this vocabulary is still a problem. For myself, I have had times when I know the word in a foreign language, but I just forget it only to find out later that, of course, I knew it. This goes along with sentences as well. I make this point because a student talking, although their language may limited at first, when they begin to think, speak and use their English language they can show their true self. For example, I had a situation in my class where a woman student was translating everything that I said. It was, I thought, stopping the students in the class from actually understanding me. Anyway, one break-time another female student wanted to tell me she was leaving after break for some reason. As the student who wanted to leave was trying to tell me her problem this “translator” woman came over, translated and tried to tell me the student’s problem. As diplomatic as I could, I explained to her that this was not her problem, and I wanted this student to tell me herself. Being a forceful woman as she was she didn’t really listen, so as she was hearing the student having problems she again tried to help. Again, I said I wanted to hear the student. Well, the student took about five minutes to tell me her problem and after trying real hard and me being an active listener, she got her point over. I think by me listening and understanding that she wasn’t proficient in English, and that I would have to take my time to let this student build up confidence to tell me made for a more relaxed situation. Thus, she was able to speak English, and her vocabulary was enough for me to understand. I felt good because some students are not listened to because at that first moment they don’t have the vocabulary or are a little nervous, but they can actually formulate what they want to say given time.
Finally, it just makes me think what relationship you have with each student. Hopefully, by writing this, it does make me think that we should be more attentive that leads to expansive language from the students.