Effective reflective practice requires the courage to transform

Frank's professional journey presented July 11, 2011

The first of my classmates succumbed to emotion yesterday as he took his turn in a group reading of tales of tragedy and courage during the women’s movement.

The story was an important one in the context of the women’s movement but not for the purposes of the account I’m about to relate. What matters is the context of the reading that took place here at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

We are an eclectic group of 16 Canadian educators who have come together to begin the long process of pursuing masters degrees in adult education. We’re in Antigonish to develop the foundations we’ll need to begin the experience. And, oh what a transformative experience it will be—if we open ourselves to it.

Right now, that feels like a big if.

With the process expected to take two to five years, all of us will probably work harder and longer at this than at any other professional endeavour. Most of us will probably succeed in obtaining our Masters in Adult Education. And that’s a big deal. Such an accomplishment will no doubt open new career opportunities, deepen our understanding of adult education, and make us experts in the topics we choose to study.

An unknown number of us, however, will find this will be a transformative experience that will forever change us as spiritual human beings. We’ll be transformed by this process of self-reflection that is encouraged here at this special program at StFX—not necessarily so much by the research we do but by what we learn about ourselves as we study and learn.

I can feel it potentially happening to me already. Right from the first class five days ago, I felt the power of this possibility coursing through me as I gave a short presentation on my professional history that showed how I became the educator I am today and what I wish to be in the future.

As I displayed this journey through a drawing of metaphorical “life steps” into the unknown, emotion nearly overpowered me (see graphic). I wanted to weep tears of joy—so energized was I by sharing the blessed career I’ve led and the seemingly endless potential for my professional transformation.

I wanted to whoop, dance a jig, do a big group hug to celebrate who we all might become.

But I didn’t.

I gulped down my euphoria. I bit my cheek against those rising tears of joy. And I stuffed my emotion back into my deep pockets. Then, after finishing my presentation, I sat down without a word—and without giving out any of those big hugs I so wanted to proffer along the way.

Not until I started writing this blog entry did I realize that that presentation was my first missed opportunity to jumpstart the process of transforming myself.

Now that I’ve recognized this, will I find the courage to give myself permission to whoop with joy, dance that jig, squeeze out some powerful hugs, or perhaps weep unashamedly like my brave classmate?

I sure hope so.


About teachingteacher

Business communications instructor, journalist, corporate communications writer and media trainer ... and Masters Candidate M.Ad.Ed.
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4 Responses to Effective reflective practice requires the courage to transform

  1. scott says:

    I think the thing to remember about this process is that it’s a stroll, where you take things in, think about them, guage them, reflect on them, and learn from them. It’s not a sprint, which is the mistake so many of us make. We want to get every ounce of knowledge that we hold, out and into our groups, maximize every last second of the first few days, etc. We have a nice chunk of time here that things will flow naturally. I too, feel like maybe I didn’t take the chance to do this, or that, but at the end of the day, I think that’s just our way of feeling out situations and reacting to them comfortably. I am often reminded of the process for success that I have know for groups. Any successful group that I’ve ever been a part of or had the pleasure of observing, that’s reached the ultimate goal, has gone through each step of this process.

    1. Forming – Coming together, getting a feel for each other and starting the process (I think we covered that this past week)
    2. Storming – Facing adversity and dealing with it. That might mean personal conflicts with each other, it could mean personal conflicts that you express and work through with the help of others in that group, or it might mean that the task seem so overwhealming that failure seems the only option (I believe we all experienced our own form of storming over the week, however, that might still come in the early stages of this next week)
    3. Norming – We have expressed our conflict and have come up with a course of action to battle it. We have tapped into the support of our BROTHERS and SISTERS in order to feel that sense of solidarity and strength in numbers to overcome this conflict. (This process has started for some, but for others it’s just on the horizon)
    4. Performing – We have a handle on our journey and are ready to complete the task with confidence and the knowledge that we have the support of others. There is no better feeling than hitting this stage as you know you’ve completed the cycle. (This is something that each of us will face in due time, but it’s a ways off)

    I hope this made sense and I think that our group has all of the necessary parts to make this work. I look forward to this cycle completing itself.

    Great job on this Frank.

    • I like your approach, Scott. Yes, things will happen as they should—as they always do for me (painful or enjoyable). I appreciate your mindfulness. I also appreciate the reminder of the Bruce Tuckman model. You’re an eloquent writer. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Pmacky says:

    I admire your courage, Frank, and the enthusiasm with which you live your life. As you have since the day I met you, you inspire me with your interesting brain and beautiful manner of expressing what’s inside it.

  3. Thanks, Patricia! You are very kind. I feel I’ve been fortunate to have you in my life as an editor, then friend and running partner.

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