Questions on The Reflective Journey — Josette LeBlanc
The beauty of questioning is that it helps you look deeper into yourself. Questions ask you to investigate, to doubt, to grow, and to change. Questions help you learn to see.
But some people don’t want to see. For some people, there is no beauty in this concept at all. Questioning is unpleasant and scary, and something to be avoided. Questions may ask us to admit we’re wrong or bring light to the fact that we made a mistake. It is much safer to hold on to beliefs and usual ways of doing than it is to change.
Part of the desire to avoid questions comes from the fear of being judged by others and by the self. This is something I have struggled with as a teacher and as a trainer. When I was a new teacher I’d sometimes tell myself I wasn’t good enough, and that shouldn’t be an English teacher. As a teacher trainer, I often hear in-service teachers talk about themselves in the same way. They also talk about the fear of being judged by their colleagues. In Korea, English teachers must compete against each other to gain professional points. School administrators observe lessons in a way that is more focused on finding out who has the most dynamic class than on helping teachers improve. If a teacher comes from such a space, then any question asked will understandably feel like a judgment.
But these questions are so important! If I don’t question, I risk getting stuck in the world of judgments. In that world, I can’t make room for new possibilities. I become blind to my students’ creative potential or even my own. Without these questions I may not see that making a small change could have a huge impact (see John Fanselow). I limit myself to a narrow view of the world.
So how can we wake up to being curious about our teaching and ourselves without giving in to the fear of judgment?
Take a step back and ask yourself what happened. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel? Don’t interpret. Just imagine you are watching a scene on TV. Just describe the moment. Write it in a journal or share it with someone. Stay with the description and don’t interpret…just yet.
When we deal with observed facts, it is harder to get defensive. It’s just something that happened instead of an attack.
“The highest form of human intelligence is to observe yourself without judgment.” – J. Krishnamurti
This is the first point I learned in my conflict resolution studies (see Nonviolent Communication). Creating the separation between observation and interpretation increases the chances that the person I am talking to, who can also include myself, will be open to listening to what I have to say next.
From this place of non-defensiveness I’m ready for questions. I’m ready to get curious and explore in the ways John Fanselow wrote about in his last iTDi blog post, Breaking Rules. I start to look into the “why” and generate as many explanations as possible. I expand the possibilities of this “why” to my students, the context, the content, the environment, and the relationships in between. I imagine and interpret what may have happened during the moment I’m looking into. From here I can chose a new point of departure for my next experience.
From description to interpretation to your next plan of action: this is a process you can go through on your own via your blog or a reflective journal, or it’s a process you can go through with your reflective community (see my blog post, Our Reflective Community). Whatever medium I choose, through this process of reflection, I learn to see myself.
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