2018 Self-Reflection Challenge

Yes, I know, I wrote 2018 and it’s 2019 now!! It wasn’t a typo though, the challenge was set in 2018 and it’s a looking backwards, looking forwards kind of a thing – very suitable to the turn of the year. I discovered it via Sandy Millin (thank you, Sandy!) but it originated here (thank you, Monika!). Here it is:

Day 1: your favourite activity from 2018

A year is a long time and I am sure there were some good activities back in January or February of 2018 but I’m damned if I can remember them! So, I’ll pick an activity that springs to mind which I did last term, to give my flagging students some stimulating paraphrasing practice (difficult to use these three words together! :-p ).

  • I put them into groups of 4 and each group had to find and copy an interesting fact from the internet onto a piece of paper. The sillier the better.
  • Once finished, each group passed their piece of paper to another group.
  • Each group had to use a variety of strategies to paraphrase what was written on the piece of paper they had been handed and write it on a separate piece of paper. The citation used is based on the names of the people in the group who wrote the original.
  • Once finished, the original piece of paper is passed on again to another group.
  • Eventually the original piece of paper makes its way back to the group who created it. At this point, each group hands each paraphrase they have written to the group whose original fact it is based on.
  • At this point, each group has their original fact and a paraphrase written by each of the other groups. Now, the groups look at the paraphrases and evaluate them. Which strategies have been used? Is the meaning still the same? Is it sufficiently paraphrased? Is the citation correct? They give a score out of 5 and must justify their answer with comments based on the above questions.

It worked well! The students did lots of paraphrasing and evaluating of paraphrases, consolidating awareness of and practice of the strategies we had looked for paraphrasing.

Day 2: Most memorable story from 2018

Well, in final third of the January term in 2018, I had an email from my programme manager asking to have a word with me. I received the email on a Friday after I got home from work and Monday was the suggested day for this conversation. I went into complete panic mode, thinking I must have inadvertently done or been doing something wrong. Anyway, I replied saying that would be fine and that I hoped I *hadn’t* done anything wrong. Fortunately she replied fairly swiftly and said I hadn’t, far from it – and so my weekend wasn’t ruined!

Monday arrived and eventually we had this meeting, and far from being a telling off of some sort, I was actually invited to join the team of ADoS’s here, starting in the April term, for the April term and the June term. So I accepted and so far it’s gone well enough that I am still in that role and I am really enjoying it! But I will never forget the sinking feeling in my stomach when I opened that email in contrast with what a positive thing it turned out to be!

Day 3: the best piece of advice you were given in 2018

Have a proper lunch break! I think last year in the January term I always ate at my desk. Funnily enough, after I became ADoS, I became much better at taking a lunch break, as I’ve tended to eat with my co-January ADoS colleague (I ADoS Jan foundation, she does pre-masters). Then, last term, there was one day per week where I was in early, busy and then taught a class just prior to lunchtime and then a meeting during lunchtime, and once the meeting was over, I would invariably be completely zonked and not function very effectively for the remainder of the day. In 2019 my goal is to have a proper lunch break each day – yes it takes time from the day but in return you get to function more effectively = win!

Day 4: the moment in 2018 when you felt proud as a teacher

I had originally written the answer to Day 11 here, and then reached day 11 and realised that this one must be after something else! So…to interpret it differently… one thing I am proud of in terms of myself as a teacher is the amount of professional growth I can point to and identify in the last year.

In the classroom but related to development outside it, an example that particularly comes to mind is all the little changes I made as a result of doing the Futurelearn course about Dyslexia and Foreign Language Learning. Greater awareness of learning difficulties, something which was also enhanced by a number of the sessions I attended at IATEFL last year, and of different strategies for helping students who may have them, helped me help a group of majority struggling students that I had at the time. I’m not saying they all had learning difficulties but the strategies I learnt were nevertheless useful for helping them progress.

Day 5: your favourite memory as a student

Using speed review on Memrise? Thinking I would never be fast enough to do it with Polish but then, with a few practices, becoming able…

Day 6: the funniest story from 2018

Enlightening in an amusing and terrifying kind of way was looking at all the answers given to our google-form based academic writing quiz!

Here are some examples:

NB: The “essay” referred to here is a coursework essay which provides 60% of their writing progression score for AES (Academic English Skills programme, which we teach)

Day 7: your favourite course book from 2018

We don’t use course books here at USIC! We have our own in-house materials. What’s been memorable about 2018 is that I have been involved in some redevelopment of the Term 1 materials which we will be using again with January starters this term, so at the end of last term it was rather satisfying to see stuff that I’ve produced and stuff I’ve helped edit in print in the workbooks when they arrived back from the printers! 🙂

Day 8: a new idea you implemented in 2018

Something new that we introduced in the September term in 2018 was the use of Google Communities with students. They worked really well, being an attractive, user-friendly, efficient way of fulfilling the purpose we decided to use them for. If you want to know more, I have written about launching them here and evaluated their use here.

Day 9: your favourite teaching aid in 2018

Quizlet Live? I used it for the first time last term and used it several times. Works wonders in making relatively dry terms more palatable and memorable for students as a consolidation activity!

Day 10: the best joke you heard in 2018

Not a joke but this made me laugh! Shared in our scholarship circle about giving feedback on writing. Moral of the story: be direct, don’t hedge! 😉

Day 11: the moment in 2018 when you felt proud of your student

I feel proud every time any of my students are successful in the assessments they have to do while they are here! I was particularly pleased to get all of the students in my weaker January foundation group through their coursework essay assignments – some of the first drafts were abysmal but through the feedback and tutorial process I managed to help them do enough for even the worst to meet the requirements for a pass. Giving feedback on writing is something that continues to be a focus for improvement, and of course is also the focus of our scholarship circle which will continue this term.

Day 12: your favourite teaching-related website in 2018

(Slightly edited this one to clearly differentiate from day 19!) It would probably still have to be Sandy Millin – Sandy updates her blog regularly and it never fails to grab my attention/inspire me/give me something to think about/make me feel completely inadequate etc!

Day 13: the person who inspired you in 2018

A colleague of mine who was already an ADoS when I was invited to join the team and had previously been my ADoS. She inspired me in two ways: 1) by believing in me with regards to the ADoSing job – she said I’d be brilliant at it. I don’t know that I’m brilliant but at that point I was dubious as to whether I could do it at all. Having some else be that confident that I could really helped me. 2) The way that as well as seemingly always having everything under control, nothing was ever too much trouble for her and she was always on hand to help and answer questions when you needed it (when she was my ADoS but even when she wasn’t!) – that was the kind of ADoS I wanted to be for my teachers too! Still working on it, but the memory of it is something that continues to inspire me! 🙂

Day 14: the moment in 2018 when you realised why you are doing your job

To be honest, there hasn’t been a time, since I started the CELTA many moons ago (October 2009) and did my first teaching practice, that I HAVEN’T known why I am in this profession! A realisation I did have in 2018 was following suffering the loss of my equine best friend Alba who died from colic at the beginning of September. Coming back to work forced me to function again after that shock and what I realised is that my work is one of my primary raisons d’être – my horse was the other. Work was a powerful enough positive force to get me through that loss. More prosaically, in 2018 I also realised I must actually be good at what I do – as otherwise, I wouldn’t have been invited to take up a more senior role!

Day 15: your greatest challenge in 2018

Taking on the ADoS role, definitely. I’ve not ADoS’ed before so I was learning as I went – and continue to do so! The biggest shift has been from the focus being on my one little world as a teacher (my classes, my admin, etc – as long as I am on top of what I am doing, all is well) to making sure that the worlds of all the teachers in my cohort are also running smoothly and doing what I can to help with enabling that. That and writing meeting notes meaning that we ADoS’s have to be multiple weeks ahead of everybody else in terms of what we are thinking about!

Day 16: your strongest point as a teacher in 2018

Something I’m pleased with as far as 2018 is concerned is that the more EAP teaching experience I get, and the more my subject knowledge improves, the better able I am to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, and create materials to help them overcome the latter. This also impacts positively on the feedback I give for writing tasks and is something I want to keep building on.

Day 17: most motivational idea/quotation/picture in 2018

This one is motivational enough to be my mantra for 2019. 🙂

Day 18: three reasons why you became a teacher

  • Enjoyed helping out in my mum’s EAL classroom when I was young
  • Found the British Council language assistant programme I participated in for my year abroad at university (languages degree), teaching EFL to kids in France, as well as volunteer teaching kids at a summer camp in Romania, brilliant experiences
  • Discovered that you could do a CELTA and make it (teach English in this way) into a career!

Day 19: your favourite teaching application in 2018

I think I would have to say Google Docs! In conjunction with Google+ Community for ease of sharing templates with students. Using it enables me to make writing activities a much more interactive, cooperative, process-based useful experience for students. From planning to writing to editing and redrafting in pairs and in groups, or individually but looking at each others’ work as well, it really changes the game. I mean, you can do all this stuff offline as well, but when you are writing complex pieces of writing, as our students do for their coursework, the process involves a lot of changes being made, which would be somewhat of a nightmare on paper (though obviously people did it before computers were a thing!). Using Google Docs in class enables us to reflect and scaffold what we want them to do in assessment in the learning they do for it.

Day 20: a piece of advice you would give to a rookie teacher

Mistakes will happen, things will go wrong, but it’s not the end of the world! Take a deep breath, do what you can with the situation at the time, learn from it and move on. It doesn’t make you a bad teacher, it makes you a human being. Embrace it.

Day 21: the best CPD book you read in 2018

I tend to dip in and out of books rather than read them cover to cover and I am also a big fan of journal articles, so I will talk about the best CPD reading I’ve done in general. I’ve particularly “enjoyed” (when I say enjoyed, I mean I found them interesting, relevant, worth reading – purposeful pleasure: a term that may make more sense if you look at this post!) the articles we have read as “homework” for our scholarship circle, about feedback on student writing. I also found the reading I did as part of the Futurelearn course about Dyslexia and foreign language reading very enlightening, as well as a book called “Teaching to Avoid Plagiarism”, which I read as part of the process of thinking about how to teach paraphrasing more effectively.

Day 22: your greatest frustration in 2018

When other peoples’ time management isn’t quite up to my exacting standards 😉 Clearly patience and understanding should be on my list of things to nurture in 2019…

Day 23: the one thing you want non-teachers to understand

I know Friday night is a weekend night, but having been up since 5.20 (as normal) and spent the fifth day in a row intensively peopling in various ways, I tend to treat it as a school night – i.e. dinner, bath, early night rather than have any particular desire to socialise! Lack of desire to socialise also applies to marking week, which is generally mental and, being the last week of term, I’m at my most knackered anyway! I DO want to see you and hang out with you, but just really not at certain times!

Day 24: your most memorable teaching experiment in 2018

Using Google Docs for students to do writing practice individually yet collaboratively. So, I had a whole class of 20 students using the same google doc, which was a table with sentence starters and space for answers, also divided into rows according to the type of sentence, and students had to individually write their completions (with a rule of not copying anyone else’s ideas) and then proofread and make comments on (using the comment function on Google docs) their classmates’ sentences. I was a bit worried about how it would work and whether it would be too chaotic etc but in the event it actually worked out really well.

The other one would be adapting my classroom management techniques and materials for my lower level foundation group using ideas from the future learn course about teaching languages to students with dyslexia/specific learning differences. The thing is, a lot of the little techniques are very simple to integrate, don’t negatively affect students who don’t struggle but can really make a difference for the ones who do!

Day 25: your personal success in 2018

I’m going to interpret this as being a success that is not related to teaching? (As I would call a success related to teaching a professional success…) So I would say, I am pretty pleased with how I’ve managed work-life balance in the last year. I have put heart and soul into my work but I’ve also been strict about not working in the evenings or at weekends (probably 95% of the time!). Other than the odd occasion where I decided to work on draft feedback outside of work time in order to take the pressure off, the only ELT stuff I’ve done at weekends is CPD stuff like book chapter writing when the deadline got imminent and watching webinars (which is enjoyable rather than “work”!) Last term, in addition to work, I managed to do something non-work related every day after work – Monday was yoga class, Tuesday was running (mostly by headtorch after the clocks changed), Wednesday was Barre Pilates class, Thursday was running, Friday was indoor bouldering.

Day 26: one thing you plan to change in 2019

Not so much change as build on – my ADoS peopling skills, my ADoS organisational skills, my classroom subject knowledge, differentiation in the classroom. Also need to finish my book chapter – but I can’t do that til I get the feedback on the first draft, then it’s revisions and resubmission! Also want to keep blogging more – I managed to do it a lot more regularly last term than previous terms!

Day 27: your greatest discovery in 2018

That I was doing my job well enough to have been invited to take on a more senior role here!

Day 28: which superpower would make you a super teacher?

Not needing sleep? Having more than one pair of hands? Or, better yet, clones of me to put to work… 😉

Day 29: one area to improve in your teaching in 2019

I want to keep building on my subject knowledge as that has already had a very positive impact on my practice and according to a TD session about peer-assisted self-observation that I attended it is a highly significant factor. I also want to keep working on making lessons that are sufficiently challenging for higher level students. Our in-house materials are aimed at average students (by our standards) so in order to keep higher level students engaged and motivated, and develop their skills, supplementing the in-house materials in various ways is a necessity. Now that we stream students according to their IELTS scores on entry, there is a lot more scope for tailoring lessons to those students who are either above or below the average, which is a really positive thing and something I want to continue to exploit.

Day 30: how do you plan to start your first lesson in 2019

By learning my students’ names and making sure they learn each others’ names via a game! I think learning students’ names and students learning each others’ names is vital and when you have multiple large classes it might not be the easiest thing in the world. What works for me is that game where a student says their name and something they like and then the next student has to introduce that student before saying their own name and something they like and so on until the student has the job of list all the names. Then you spot pick people to make sure they didn’t stop listening after their turn (having warned them that this will happen!). Of course, when they struggle, you have to help them so you have to focus 150% as the game unfolds. By the end of it, you know their names 🙂

Day 31: the most important thing you want to remember tomorrow

To edit and send out meeting notes for next week’s module meeting! But tomorrow is now today – I answered this question yesterday!

Postscript

Happy new year, everybody! And if you decide to do this challenge too, please pop a link to your response in the comments so I can have a look 🙂 I actually really recommend it – it was a nice way to look back at the year and think about what to take forward with me into a positive new year.

Taking a leaf out of Sandy’s book (see, told you she inspires..), here are some previous new year posts that I have written in the past – some challenges, some random reflective pieces, some relating to WordPress stats:

So, if you don’t fancy the current challenge, you could always try something like any of these above! 🙂 Or look at Sandy’s version of this post and her previous new year writings to see if those inspire you more!

Here’s hoping 2019 is one to remember for all the right reasons! 🙂

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3 thoughts on “2018 Self-Reflection Challenge

  1. Guess I found this a little late! But super interesting to read, and inspiring! Thinking if ways to use these reflection points throughout the year…

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