Josette LeBlanc

13 for 2014 – Josette LeBlanc

A Needs Assessment of 2013 – Josette LeBlanc

Josette LeBlanc

As language teachers, when you see the term “needs assessment” you might think of taking the time to learn more about your learners’ language needs. Kathleen Graves (2000) defines needs assessment as,

“…a systematic and ongoing process of gathering information about students’ needs and preferences, interpreting the information, and then making course decisions based on the interpretation in order to meet the needs.”

I’d like to propose a different type of needs assessment. It is more celebratory and reflective, than it is systematic and ongoing. This assessment involves looking back on your year and considering what universal needs you and your learners have fulfilled. My thought is that by doing this needs assessment, you might step into 2014’s classrooms with a bit more joy and gratitude in your heart. After having written this list of 13 met needs in 2013, I know that’s how I’m moving into the new year.

1. Rejuvenation

At the beginning of each semester of our teacher-training program, we always ask the teachers why they signed up for our course. The majority of them say it’s because they need a break. They need time away from all the demands of being an English teacher in Korea. They need time to remember what it means to be a teacher. They also need time to work on their English skills. In some cases, they just need time to remember who the are. As you read on, I think you’ll see how these teachers had their need for rejuvenation fulfilled.

2. Joy

In relation to remembering who they are, one of the teachers this semester shared her thoughts in one of her course reflections:

“I think, through this course, I can find different “myself” instead of “teacher myself.” (…) It may sound a little too much, but I think I am getting to know who I am and what I am capable of. Without this course and various activities, I could never know I can make the fancy storybook (see below). (…) Once again, I feel very lucky to have an opportunity to join this teachers’ training course.”

As you can imagine, reading this brought me great joy.

3. Accomplishment

This picture represents the culmination of 6 weeks of collaborative work done to create the storybook you see the teacher holding up on the right. This is a picture of them telling their story during the book release party. In addition to this group, five other teams not only shared their own storybooks, but also their sense of accomplishment.


4. Play!

Most teachers start off feeling worried about having to do practice teaching in front of their peers. They have to plan and teach lessons where their colleagues become their students. However, once the lesson is finally underway, it seems like all those worries melt away: it’s time to play! Let’s learn how to cook! What fun!

5. Autonomy

I usually give the teachers homework: read an article of your choosing, and report back by giving me your thoughts on parts of the reading that struck you. After a few weeks of this, one brave teacher told me she didn’t understand why she had to do homework she wasn’t interested in. I completely understood. I’ve always questioned homework, but kept up with it probably mostly due to old held beliefs. The next week I asked them to tell me what type of after class studies they would like to do. They had the choice to do what they wanted, or do nothing at all. I was impressed. Everyone chose tasks that met their unique needs and that also fit their schedule. I’ll definitely be trying this again.

6. Support

An important part of the writing curriculum that I’ve created for this program is the peer review component. When I first introduced it four years ago, I was apprehensive because I wasn’t sure how the teachers would feel about me taking a backseat. Anyone who grew up in the Korean education system is used to the teacher being front and center. However, each semester I ask the teachers how they feel about the peer review process. This year, the answer was the same: they said they got the support they needed to write the story/essay they really wanted. This is why peer reviews are still in the curriculum. My apprehension is subsiding.

7. Growth

It’s no secret that most Korean teachers of English use a form of the grammar translation method to teach their students. There are many reasons for this. However, these teachers also know it’s not the best way to help their students learn how to use the language. During our course they experience being learners and teachers. They get to feel what their students must feel, and they also have the chance to teach lessons based on methods beyond grammar translation. Our program is a place for experimentation and as a result, a lot of growth happens.

8. Collaboration

Can you see how this need has been fulfilled so far? J

9. Confidence

Confidence is one of the most important needs that I aim to fulfill during this course. Teachers often come with very low-self confidence and with deep-rooted beliefs that their English isn’t good enough. I can only imagine how hard it is to feel this way when you have to stand in front of class of 35 students everyday. Although they may not leave the course feeling 100%, through all the experiences I described above, I know the teachers who have left and are leaving this program are little more confident about their language and teaching skills.

10 & 11 Grieving and celebration

Before the end of last semester, my colleague had a fabulous idea to help the teachers look back the course and also look forward on how it would influence them. Thinking of what we had learned and experienced, we wrote a hope we had for ourselves, and attached it to a balloon filled with helium. Then we all headed outdoors. On the count of three, we let go of our balloons, letting our hopes find their own destination. Although we were celebrating our time together, and all the learning that we had done, there definitely was some grief. During this time we balanced our honor for grief and celebration.

12. Love

13. Community

Each teacher comes to the program from different schools in the area, alone and perhaps unsure. But when the program ends, they leave connected to a group that holds great friendship and knowledge.  They leave with memories of negotiations, compromise, reconciliations, experimentations, listening, laughter, and sharing. They leave with a community of learning.

I had to stop myself at 13. The needs assessment produced more results, but I’ll just have to save those for 2014. What about you? How long is your list? No matter how long it is, may it bring you joy. And may the new year bring you and your students great fulfillment.

Graves, Kathleen. Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers. Boston: Thomson Heinle, 2000.


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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 “13 for 2014 – Josette LeBlanc”

  1. That’s beautiful, Josette! Reading through the list of needy you and your student met last year, I couldn’t help smiling and thinking – they are so lucky to have such a caring and warm person like you to help them grow and shed the coat of insecurity. You’re doing an amazing job.

    1. Wow. Thank you so much Sirja. You know it’s really amazing. I think I’ve grown just as much as they have. When I first started teaching these teachers, I was very insecure. I think it took 3 years to get over that. I guess together we “shed the coat of insecurity”. I think this is the power of really trusting your community. Something that iTDi has helped me with along the way as well.

      Thank you as always for reading and leaving your inspiring and supportive thoughts. 🙂

      All the best my dear!!

    1. I’m happy to hear this might be useful and inspiring for you. Maybe “challenge” is often connected to inspiration. 🙂 Thanks for making me think!

  2. Josette,

    Thank you for this. My general emotion after reading this finally thoroughly is that of wishing (1) to get back to class (2) to try be more thoughtful about it (3) to grasp the bigger picture of it. And most importantly, (4) to enroll in your teacher training program.;)

    Also, I’m taking your amazing way to deal with home task with me into the next term. It will I believe depend on the group and maybe this type of autonomy for teenagers can be a challenge to handle, but I’ll try and see how it goes.

    Thank you so much. I’m loving this air of 2014 so far))

    1. Ann,

      After all this time, I’m wondering 1) if you are back to class 2) you feel more thoughtful 3) are looking for slices of the bigger picture and 4) are coming to Korea soon to join my classes. 😉

      As always, your comments make me smile. I am grateful for them and really look forward to reading them when I see “Ann Loseva commented on your blog” pop in my email.

      I’m also wondering if you’ve had a chance to use mu homework task idea. I’m still thinking about how I’m going to approach that with my new group in March. I think there was something powerful about me first assigning homework and then giving them the choice. The contrast made the choice more juicy perhaps? Maybe it’s time for an experiment: give them the choice right away. I’m curious if they’ll appreciate it as much. I guess I’ll have to see.

      Already into the 2nd month of 2014, and it’s still pretty amazing. Thanks for being a big part of it. 🙂

      1. Josette,

        1) I’m back to class tomorrow! 2) I feel quite thoughtful and hope classes will only intensify the feeling 3) not yet..needs time and action 4) I’m hopeful to be coming to Korea this year)

        It is indeed a very telling moment – to assign your HW first and then say there’s freedom to choose something other. I’m definitely going to try that. It sounds to me as a game now, and I can imagine students looking at me suspiciously at first)) I’ll start with this contrast I think. Then we can share experiences.

        I hope the notification about my comment has made you smile now)) thank you for this!
        2014 has been very pleasant, sweet and enjoyable to me so far!)) thanks to you as well, for sure)

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