Josette LeBlanc

Learning to See – Josette

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?

Description.

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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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

7 thoughts on “Learning to See – Josette”

  1. Dear Josette,

    What a wonderful post this is, Josette. You really are the epitome of a reflective educator.
    You’ve reminded me on how I need to “emotionally” detach myself from a challenging situation to be able to view it objectively, something I sometime struggle to do…..

    Thanks so much for such a wonderfully “reflective” post….

    Ratna

    1. Dear Ratna,

      You are far to generous with your words, but thank you. 🙂

      Aren’t the words “detach” “non-attachment” such interesting concepts? At once, we need to be emotionally involved, but at the same time we need to be able to find space to move on in way that meets our personal need for integrity and self-compassion. Not an easy task. I often slip, but luckily I have a strategy for getting back up.

      Now part of that strategy includes you and this awesome community!

      Thanks for your support Ratna!

  2. Josette,

    You hit the nail on the head with description. As hard as I have worked over the years, personally and professionally, on reflection, description is still difficult. I still find it easy to bypass far too quickly.

    Thank you for highlighting not just the how, but the why.

    “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.”

    sums it up nicely

    John

    1. Dear John,

      Description is not an easy thing. I agree with you there. You know the “Just Describe” sticky in the picture? It’s in a very prominent place in my apartment. I noticed I was so quick to interpret when it came to certain parts of my life that I needed a blatant reminder.

      It’s only when I am reminded, and when I get back to description, that I realize why it’s part of the cycle.

      Be easy on yourself. Get a sticky. 🙂

      Josette

  3. Dear Josette,

    I love your quote from Krishnaurti even though it is in a way a judgment, suggesting that if we can be non judgmental we are better people. But in reality analysis, description, multiple interpretations of data do lead to more discoveries and excitement than judging what we and others do. The principals who want only teachers who do X are cheating their students as well as their teachers. The ads that claim learners can learn English better from native speakers do what principals do who look for teachers who are enthusiastic period.

    You refer to my suggestion about making small changes. I make this suggestion for many reasons. And I used to tell teachers why I advocate small changes. But telling them robbed them of the chance to think about reasons. Of course they came up with many I never had thought about. We all see the world slightly differently and the more we share our perceptions and judgments, yes we need to share these also, the more we can see other aspects of what we think is happening or has happened or will happen.

    Your heart is a memorable image for what we are discussing.

    All the best.

    John

    1. Dear John,

      Good point about the quote. 🙂 To be human is to judge. There is no doubt there. And as you say, when judgment is seen as a point of exploration, there is great excitement and intrigue.

      I love what you said here, “we all see the world slightly differently and the more we share our perceptions and judgments, yes we need to share these also, the more we can see other aspects of what we think is happening or has happened or will happen.” Isn’t this the beauty of collaboration. What I can’t see you may see clearly, and when I am open to listening to you, I am given a huge gift.

      As I read your comments I notice a distinction between the way the word “judgment” is used and perceived. Judging can be seen as something negative and stigmatizing, or it may simply be an observation of what we do in order to move through life ie: making judgments as a point of perception and learning. If I am not open to growth or change, perhaps I’m more likely to hear suggestions as the former. Maybe in a way, this is the “robbing” you spoke of. By giving your students the space to think about and share their ‘why’ regarding small changes, you helped them find their position and confidence.

      A lot to think about. Thank you for giving me this space.

      Gratefully,
      Josette

  4. I do agree with you Dear Josette asking questions is pretty important in our lives as human beings and as teachers and eduactors.Questions give us deep insights into things,make us able to construct ,build knowledgeand broadens imagination and critical thinking!

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