1. Journal 2--01/29/12
What experiences have you had being observed and/or observing another
teacher? Describe any negative and positive experiences you've had. What
might be the characteristics of an observation experience that is truly helpful to
you? How should we structure the peer observation you will be doing for this
class to make it a positive experience? Think about oral feedback in class and
written feedback as well.
When it comes to teaching, I have only been observed by the directors of my school in South Korea.
When I first started, the staff would observe quite frequently, a couple classes per week. As I was
there longer, the observations were fewer and further between, probably a couple every few months.
These observations were with a Korean staff member sitting in my classroom while I was teaching.
The experience was fine, although having them in the classroom posed a challenge when the kids
would get distracted or off track. They always acted differently when being observed. In addition to
these in the classroom observations, each classroom in my school had a video feed to the lobby and
director’s office so parents or staff could monitor the classes[MEA1] . I had no way of really knowing
how often I was being observed in that way, but I ran my classroom as if I was being observed at all
When the staff did observations by sitting in the classrooms, we would receive feedback at the end of
the day. The feedback was usually just a list of observations about what they thought went well and
what could have gone better in the class observed. I found the feedback useful in that I could sort of
gauge how my teaching was meeting their expectations, but the feedback was so minimal that it did
not feel like a very productive process. It felt more about making sure I was teaching in a way
acceptable to the parents and staff, and less about making me a better teacher. The observations
through video rarely resulted in any kind of feedback. The observations that were most helpful were
ones where the observer made the expectations clear, and gave constructive feedback and discussed
ideas on how to improve upon the opportunities for growth. In my classroom in Korea, that was
primarily behavioral issues, but I think sometimes that the issues stemmed more from cultural
differences than actual behavioral problems[MEA2] .
I think the observations for this practicum class will be most beneficial if we all enter into the process
with the idea that we all have areas for growth, and this growth is one of our goals for this class. I
think if we keep this in mind throughout the process, in both giving and receiving feedback, we will
be more likely to comment constructively and accept constructive feedback when it’s given. I would
find it useful to receive both oral and written feedback, as I will be able to refer back to the written
feedback in the future, and oral feedback can be structured in a conversational manner. I think the
hardest part for me about being observed feeling vulnerable and under the microscope. While I know
it will be beneficial to my professional development, it is difficult to feel open to criticism
sometimes. I think our group is capable of providing a safe place for discussion about our teaching
strengths and weaknesses, and being vulnerable does not worry me too much overall.
2. It sounds like your experience in Korea was interesting. I would be curious to know a few examples
of specific feedback you received and how you reacted to it. How ‘on board’ were you with
classroom cultural norms that might be different, for example, or did you take the feedback and find
some middle ground where you didn’t compromise your beliefs in learning, but also worked within
the system. I too look forward to a supportive and constructive atmosphere of feedback in this
[MEA1]Interesting. I have never heard of this. Kind of Big Brother-esque.
[MEA2]I am sure part of the training was to get you on board with common classroom norms in
What are 2-4 techniques YOU use (or would like to use) to create rapport with the students in your
current class? How are these similar to or different than the strategies your mentor employs, or the
strategies described in chapter 10? What are some barriers to good student-student rapport in your
present classroom? How might you address these type of barriers in this class or a future class? As an
ESL teacher, what do you see as your role in promoting professionalism and respect for the
profession at the institution where you teach?
I find that making small talk goes a long way toward creating rapport with students, especially adult
students. Since reading the Crookes chapter on building rapport in the classroom, I have been more
conscious of my interactions with students. While I have always made small talk before or after class
with students, I have become more conscious of talking to everyone, instead of the few students who
strike up conversations regularly. At the same time, I have also become aware that not all of the
students may wish to have a friendly relationship with me or David. I think there is a balance where
the students can be made aware that I am available for them, but do not feel obligated or
uncomfortable to engage in more personal types of interactions. Overall, I think my current class has
a pretty good rapport.
The only example of struggles with rapport I have noticed in my current classroom has recently come
to my attention. One of my students told David and I that she felt like an outsider in class, that she
felt like she didn’t belong there and the other students didn’t know her name. During our meeting, we
tried to reassure her that she is not the only student in class that does not share all classes with most
of the students. We haven’t had much time to address these issues, but I think that perhaps some
small icebreaker activities when students are put into small groups may be in order. Most of the
students work pretty well together, but it seems it would benefit everyone if we (the teachers) took
the initiative to help the less comfortable students get more comfortable with their classmates.
3. In addition to trying to create a friendly atmosphere in class by making small talk with students, we
have employed the mid-term feedback survey for students to complete. While I think this survey is a
university-wide thing, I think it’s beneficial to learn what students think and how they feel about the
class overall. I think it could be beneficial to rapport if these sorts of surveys were done more
frequently, and perhaps in a future class I could implement something like that in order to give
students a sense of ownership of the class, and to allow opportunities for change to be realized earlier
in the semester[CO1] .
I found the section of the Crookes chapter about teacher-teacher relationships interesting. While
reading I kept thinking, “isn’t this obvious?” I feel like a lot of what creates rapport among teachers
is the same as what it takes to create rapport among any co-workers. Good listening skills and
nonverbal communication skills seem to be a priority for creating good teacher-teacher relationships.
From my experience working (as a teacher or otherwise), communication is key to creating a good
work environment in any workplace. I think that I have always conducted myself in a professional
manner (in whatever job I was doing), and along with that comes an expectation of voicing concerns
and opinions that may make the task at hand run more smoothly and efficiently. In my retail
experience, there were plenty of people who found simple communication difficult. I would expect
that in a teaching environment people would be more accustomed to giving and receiving feedback,
if only because of the level of education required to obtain such a position[CO2] . When it comes to
feedback, I think Crookes gives some good tips (p. 174) to making feedback effective and not
offensive. When it comes to teacher-teacher relationships, it seems to me that simply having a
somewhat personal relationship with co-workers could be beneficial. Perhaps not personal on the
level of a good friend, but personal enough where both parties know that each has the welfare of the
job at hand in mind when communicating. I think I would feel more willing to accept criticism if my
co-worker expressed a level of concern for my professional development and the overall success of
the workplace. I’ve come to realize that perhaps creating these “personal” relationships with coworkers is a weakness of mine. I’ve never really had problems with co-workers, but I have always
tried to separate work and my personal life. Perhaps it is necessary to blur the lines a bit in order to
create more rapport in the workplace and foster networking connections. It has become a goal of
mine to be more aware of networking possibilities and to be personal enough with co-workers in
order to let my professional connections see me and what my work is like.
I see my role at MELP as an apprentice, and taking a more backseat role in the workings of the
office. I don’t feel like it’s my place to take on leadership roles. That being said, I think it is my place
to communicate my opinions and do what is best for MELP and our students[CO3] . Perhaps there
should be a balance of taking the backseat and showing initiative when the opportunities arise. I also
see my role as representing our program when interacting with people outside the ESL field, so I
should conduct myself professionally and respectfully.
An interesting journal to read. I too have some of the same reactions when reading the Crookes
chapter. It sounds like you take a balanced and thoughtful approach in each of these areas. √++
is a good idea. Ways to keep
us feedback-givers can find it hard to receive feedback too, though in general I think
you are correct that teachers do a lot of self-reflection.
Describe some ethical dilemmas you've encountered in language classrooms, either as a teacher or a
student. How were these dealt with, if at all? As a language teacher, do you consider yourself to be a
political and/or moral and/or ethical agent? If so, how? If not, why not?
After reading the chapter in Crookes about the ethical systems within traditional education, I have
come to think my own teaching philosophy (regarding ethics) lies closer to the utilitarianism (the
greatest good for the greatest number) side of the “utilitarian/deontological” spectrum.
When considering the professional codes of ethics as a source of guidance, I found the NEA code
interesting, and surprisingly vague and lacking “guidance.” I see value in their two main principles: a
commitment to the student, and a commitment to the profession, but what does that really mean?
Even after reading the appendix I’m not quite sure I know. I thought a really good point in this
section of the chapter was that “the importance of the individual’s own personal judgment cannot be
subordinated to such systems, though they may sometimes be an aid.” This statement seems to make
the vagueness of the professional code of ethics a little more appropriate. If the code of ethics is
made to be a guideline or aid to individual teacher’s own discernment, it seems that even more value
is put on an individual teacher’s personal teaching philosophy concerning ethics.
While reading the section in Crookes about acting morally nationally and globally (p. 94-96) I started
to identify a little bit with all of the approaches to governing in ESL countries. I came to feel that my
view lies somewhere between the liberal and communitarian viewpoints, although I see benefits to
considering things from a democratic point of view as well. I identify with the liberal point of view
because I value personal rights, justice, and individualism (to a point), which sort of seems to conflict
with my somewhat utilitarian perspective. While I value personal rights and justice, I think these
things have to exist within a larger framework. This larger framework, to me, seems it would be
served best by a communitarian perspective that takes the cultural make-up of a nation-state into
consideration, especially in the multi-national, global world we see in the 21stcentury. Trying to
reconcile these three viewpoints leads me to place my educational ideology in such a way where
personal rights and justice is valued within a larger scheme, and teachers (and people in
general) should act as to bring the greatest amount of good to the largest number of people.
Is that possible? If studying philosophy has taught me anything it is that there is no cut and dry
answer to anything, and as teachers we will undoubtedly need to call on multiple perspectives to
navigate ethical dilemmas we face during our careers.
5. All of that being said, I think language teachers definitely play a moral/ethical/political role in their
students’ lives and their educational setting simply by the nature of language and closely it is tied to
cultural identity. I see my role as a language teacher as a facilitator of learning. I think it is important
to keep history and political motives in mind, but I don’t know if it’s possible to always consider all
of the variables that are working to create the current educational setting you may find yourself in. I
do not see myself as someone promoting a foreign policy on behalf of the United States, or my
culture, but I realize that I bring my perspective with me wherever I go. I think the most reasonable,
overarching stance to take on the issue of language teachers as cultural brokers or spreaders of
foreign policy is to keep an open mind to the new environments and cultures you will become a part
of. It seems to me that a prerequisite to being a teacher outside of your culture (whether ESL or EFL)
is to have an open mind. By the nature of TESL/TEFL, we will be faced with cultural interactions,
and it doesn’t seem that being rigid would benefit anyone involved.
I find it difficult to think of specific instances of ethical dilemmas I have faced. The only ones I can
think of right now are regarding how much personal information to share with students and coworkers. While teaching in Korea, my students loved talking and writing about themselves. A lot of
our more critical thinking tasks were meant to get students to relate the content we were studying to
their own lives (since teaching kindergarten is highly content-based). Undoubtedly students would
ask me questions about my family or any number of other topics we may have been discussing. I
struggled with knowing how to talk about my family with my students when they asked because
Korea is a very homogenous society, and my family is pretty non-traditional. I don’t think that I
struggled with how much to divulge because I was ashamed or embarrassed for myself, but because I
didn’t know how to have a larger conversation with my students about how not every family has a
mom, dad, and 2 kids (who are all Korean). I wanted to allow my students to see that diversity exists
in my culture, but I didn’t want to be forced to talk about it all the time. In the end, I determined how
much I would divulge on a case-by-case basis, and I found that the longer I taught my students, the
more comfortable I was delving into political, moral, and ethical issues.
Another ethical dilemma I faced while teaching in Korea involved discipline and classroom
management. While I learned a lot of great tips from the Korean staff and co-teachers about
classroom management, I didn’t always agree with their methods of discipline. If students (even ones
as young as five) were not behaving, the Korean staff, and often times the parents of students, would
want me to impose what I would consider harsh punishments. For example, my students were
expected to “sit nicely” at the table when the teacher was talking. Most of the students did an
amazing job (considering how young they were), but there was always a student or two who would
get distracted or antsy and “misbehave.” In those cases, I was encouraged to take away play time or
behavior stars (which lead to prizes), and in the most drastic cases, the students would be made to
stand in the corner or sit with their head down while their classmates went about their business. I
guess I took issue with the expectation that these four and five year old children sit still for half an
hour to forty minutes at a time. I don’t remember exactly, but I am willing to bet that kindergarten
students in the US are not faced with that expectation. It just seemed a little ridiculous that the
students were being punished for acting like kids. The staff and parents expected the teachers to
enforce these rules and teach their students how to behave before they enter Korean elementary
school, so it was constant balancing act. How could I teach these children in a way that is fun and
6. meaningful so they want to be there and enforce these strict codes of behavior without seeming
wishy-washy or inconsistent? I’m not sure I ever really found “the magic balance,” but the longer I
taught there, the more comfortable I was reading my individual class dynamics and trying to find a
combination of freedom and structure that appeased parents while letting the students enjoy their
time in my class. Had I stayed longer, I perhaps would be able to articulate more specific methods of
dealing with this ethical dilemma.
This is a very thoughtful reflection and you tie the reading to your real life experiences very well. I
don’t know if there are any clear cut answers to these questions either, but they certainly are
something that teachers should consider and be aware of when they are teaching.