Voices from the iTDi Community – Josette

Josette LeBlanc – Korea

Josette LeBlanc is an English language teacher and teacher trainer who currently lives and teaches in Daegu, South Korea. She’s passionate about reflective practice, compassionate communication, and the development of online and offline teaching communities. She believes learning should be at the center of the classroom, and therefore aims at creating atmospheres that allow students and teachers to realize this. Josette is also a reflective blogger (www.tokenteach.wordpress.com ), a keen life observer (dabbles in photography and video making), and a collector of cute notebooks from around the world.

What are you passionate about, Josette?

I’m passionate about helping people discover new things about themselves and their teaching. I think this is why I love reflective practice so much. I believe that reflection is about deepening your awareness of teaching and learning. I’ve been using my blog to help me get a better understanding of my teaching and the results have been rich and rewarding. I want to help teachers feel this way too.

This brings me to another passion: building learning/teaching communities. In May, we started a reflective practice special interest group (RPsig) in Daegu, which you may call a branch of the RPsig that was created over a year ago by Michael Griffin, Manpal Sahota and Kevin Giddens (learn more here Our Reflective Community).

Although we’ve only had two meetings so far, the results of the exploration and support have been inspiring.  Because reflection is about self-exploration, members are able to examine their own classroom situation, gather ideas on what to change, and come back and talk about it during the next meeting. I believe that this cycle is a great tool for self and professional development.

Another exciting community I’ve been involved in is the online Twitter group KELTchat (check out our blog #KELTChat). We came together by chance, but also by our common connection: English teachers in Korea. Twice a month, we meet on Twitter for an hour to discuss topics relevant to our context. The connections I’ve made via this forum — and Twitter in general – have been mind blowing. I’ve learned about a lot about teaching, but more importantly, I’ve learned how many incredible teachers there are in my own backyard! Without Twitter and KELTchat, I’m not sure I could have known this.

How and why did you become a teacher?

I became a teacher by accident. Really, I guess you could say life pushed me to become a teacher. After graduating I tried to find work that corresponded to my majors, criminology and sociology, but had a hard time. The jobs I did find (part-time night supervisor in a halfway house and legal assistant) weren’t satisfying. I realized what I really craved was work that was creative and made me feel like I was making a difference. Making sure people met curfew and typing out legal documents just wasn’t cutting it. But strangely the idea of becoming a teacher never crossed my mind.

Then one day my cousin who was a teacher was complaining about the work, and all I could think about was how exciting it sounded. The light bulb went off and I started taking steps to become a teacher. They may have been unconventional steps, but they got me where I am today: I started substitute teaching in my hometown; came to Korea in 2005 and completely fell in love with teaching; got my MA TESOL at The School For International Training (SIT) in 2010; and now the journey continues. Teaching is what I was meant to do. It’s incredibly creative, and I feel like I’m making a difference.

Teaching is rewarding work.  What keeps me going through the hard times is when I catch that look in a student’s eye that says, “I got it now!” It’s the look that indicates a shift from not knowing to knowing. I teach because I love learning.  Learning is what makes the impossible possible. I love the idea of helping people realize this about themselves. And one of the best things about teaching is that my own learning never stops.

What are you most interested in right now?

I’m really interested in the topic of teacher support. I want to help teachers learn how to support each other, and also learn how to personally support themselves. As an in-service teacher trainer in Korea, I meet many Korean teachers of English who feel alone and unsupported in their work.  I’ve come to believe that this feeling inhibits them from being able to really be there for their students. On countless occasions teachers have shared with me how exhausted, overwhelmed and depressed they feel about their work conditions. They talk about how they want to consider their students’ learning needs, but they just don’t have the energy to do so.

With my own personal work in learning communities, I’ve learned that teachers can gather some of that much needed energy when they feel empathy. I especially learned this from my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) practice group. I have been a facilitator in this group for about three years. NVC is communication technique that helps us listen to and express feelings and needs with greater empathy.  I think that this technique can not only help teachers understand their students’ needs, but that it can also help them get a better understanding of their own needs.  One crucial element of NVC is the concept of self-empathy. Without recognizing our own needs, we can’t take care of the needs of others. I would like to help teachers learn how to recognize the value of their own needs.

Another interest of mine is helping teachers learn how to use this tool in class when they communicate with their students. I see NVC as a way of helping teachers become aware of how their language and behavior affects their students’ learning.

What things do you do to help you get better at being a teacher, Josette?

As you’ve read above, my teaching communities are very important to my professional development. I have already mentioned the RPsig, KELTchat, and NVC, but I would also like to mention KOTESOL. KOTESOL was the first teacher’s association I was involved in. It is through this group that I first learned about teacher development, and it is also where I first turned to for inspiration as a new teacher. I’ve been an organizing member of the Daegu KOTESOL chapter for about four years, and a member since I came to Korea.

What advice would you give to a teacher just starting out on a journey of professional development?

When you first start your journey in professional development, you’ll probably want a lot of tips and advice on how to teach. Find a group who doesn’t mind giving this to you, but also make sure this group puts more importance on helping you find your own answers. The best tips come from experience, and even if your experience is limited, it is invaluable. True mentors will help you see this and guide you along the way by asking the questions you need to hear.

Is there any blog or online link you’d like to recommend? 

This is such a hard question because there are so many great blogs that I can’t give you just one. I’ll tell you about some of my favorites if you don’t mind.

Alien Teachers by Alex Walsh: Alex writes honest and profound reflections about his experience as a high school teacher in Korea. He also offers creative lesson plans and teaching ideas.

Elt-resourceful by Rachael Roberts: Rachael’s teaching tips are incredibly insightful and ready-to-use. What I also like about her blog is the personal touch she adds to her tips. When I read her blog I feel like we’re talking about teaching over a cup of coffee.

The Other Things Matter by Kevin Stein: Kevin’s talent at writing fictional stories for English language learners has moved me on countless occasions. His blog showcases his creativity and also his ability to look at his teaching in a fresh and courageous manner.

ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections by Michael Griffin: Mike’s ability to question what most people accept about teaching at face value never ceases to amaze me. His reflections and rants display an honest curiosity that leaves readers wondering and unsure: a place I think every teacher needs to stand on.

The Daily Ptefldactyl by Laura Phelps: Laura writes about her experience as an ESL/EFL teacher, trainer and now coursebook writer. Her blog is speckled with intriguing questions about teaching and learning, and inspiring examinations of what life as an ELTer is like.

What’s your favorite quotation about being a teacher?

A constant in my life:

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. Chinese proverb

Without experience, and our reflection on this experience, I believe learning is stunted. It is through experience that we grow and expand.

 

Published by

Josette LeBlanc

Josette LeBlanc is an English language teacher and teacher trainer who currently teaches in Daegu, South Korea. She's curious about reflective practice, compassionate communication, and teacher development done both online and offline. She believes learning, whether it happens in or out of the classroom, is a process of discovery and transformation.  Blog: Throwing Back Tokens  Twitter & Instagram: @JosetteLB

10 thoughts on “Voices from the iTDi Community – Josette”

  1. Great article. Great to see that you get involved with other colleagues and help each other. Keep up th good work. Too many teachers do no share with their colleagues both the good and the bad.

  2. Hi Josette!

    How nice to read your guest post, learn more about you and see you in the iTDi family! Welcome!

    I love how you are involved in many things and one of them is teacher support, which is so important and yet overlooked in some environments. Here I must say how you and Mike Griffin have been an inspiration for me to start an RPSIG here in Switzerland and thank you so much for that : )

    Your blog is one of my absolute favourites for that reason: because you share a lot of the work you do with other teachers – I see form their work how much they get from you, which is amazing.

    Thanks for being a shining star, Josette!

    Best wishes,
    Vicky

    1. Thank you Vicky! What an honor to be part of the iTDi community. I’m incredibly grateful.

      I can’t express enough how excited and happy I am to know that you will be starting a reflective practice SIG in Switzerland. To think that this all came to fruition thanks to our online connection. Another example of how online communities bring teachers amazing creative support.

      You have brought many smiles into my life Vicky. I’m very happy to have met you on Twitter. I look forward to the day when we can laugh together face-to-face. 🙂

      All the best,
      Josette

  3. Josette,

    You are the consummate ‘sharer’! Thank you for your giving spirit. Shine on, my friend, shine on!

  4. Josette!
    It was incredible to get to know you in the first place and now reading your post i sort of looked into you through a peep-hole ( invited!)) I feel deeply moved by your words, the story you’ve got behind is precious and experience, as you say, invaluable indeed. You may be sure that you’ve set an example of a level to look up to, at least I am amazed at your confidence and strong will and on the whole, the “rightness” of all that you say. It seems you feel very comfortable and know where you stand.
    I so much feel the same way that a teacher who is in harmony with his/her own needs and soul will find teaching quite a different experience. Of course it is not only about teaching, I guess- understanding yourself is key to having a wonderful life on the whole)) trite as it sounds, I believe in it)
    thanks for your story and for the links – I know I am a terrible blog-reader, but I’ll try to check the blogs you recommend!

    Cheers!

    1. Anna, thank you so much for reading and for your support. Knowing that you connected to what I wrote brings me great joy.

      I really liked the way you worded your interpretation of this post, “a teacher who is in harmony with his/her own needs and soul will find teaching quite a different experience.” Beautifully said. If I am not in harmony with myself, how can I expect to create harmony with my students? To some degree, doesn’t learning involve harmony? In relation to life, or the classroom, I don’t think this is trite at all. 🙂

      You’ve given me the inspiration I needed this morning. I think “harmony” will be the theme I use to propel some much needed writing this week.

      Gratefully,
      Josette

  5. I think Anna has it just right, Josette! Even reading your words at a distance, the harmony shines through, and I suspect that people feel more centered when they’re around you. That’s an invaluable gift to be able to share with teachers! The many forces we have pulling us in different directions–parent/administrator/student needs, desire to try new approaches, fear that we’re not doing the “right” thing in class–can easily put us out of harmony with ourselves 🙂

    I completely agree with you that teachers should find mentors who are willing to give advice, but even more willing to help teachers find their own answers. No one knows their students, their needs, and their teaching constraints as well as they do!

    I really enjoy knowing you online, I’ve enjoyed learning more about you in this post, and I look forward to meeting you in person one of these days!

    1. Dear Barb,

      Thank you so much for these words! As teachers we have so much to deal with. I am in constant awe of the balance we have to strike with all the different parts you mentioned. Harmony is not an easy thing, but with people like you and other iTDiers as support beams, it’s a much easier task.

      It’s hard to believe that since you wrote this we now have met. As I’ve said before, I am so grateful that you have come into my life. You have helped change it in so many beautiful ways. My experience with iTDi has been touching and uplifting. Thank you for this opportunity.

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