RPC 4 – Analysis

It has been a few weeks since my last post in the Reflective Practice Blog Challenge. In the meantime, a lot of things have been going on and a lot has been on my mind to blog, but hasn’t quite it made it onto my blog!

This new challenge comes from Josette LeBlanc as a guest post on Observing the Class. The challenge is to analyse the description from the previous post. 

One thing I am curious about is how the amount of time and space between the original event and the description of it and between the description blog post and the analysis of it affects the process (and my memory). I’m tempted to use a new moment, actually, to sort of start over. But I’m going to give this a chance.

So the challenge is to analyse: “Considering all the facets that you discovered in your description, come up with possible reasons for the actions and reactions. Generate as many possible explanations as you can. Look at the moment from different perspectives. Consider the material, teacher, students, student dynamics, or student-teacher relationship. Recall past teaching, learning, cultural, or life experiences. Refer to the educational, cognitive, and linguistic theories you know. All this will inform your analysis.” 

A second part of the challenge asks us to analyse the experience through the lens of  feelings and needs of all the participants. 

And suddenly describing looks so much easier.

The original description: 

This scenario took place last Wednesday night. It was around 9pm and the final class of the day. The students had already been studying at our academy since 6:30 and the class before mine is a translation class. There are 12 students in this class – five boys and seven girls. One of the girls was absent. The classroom seating is arranged in a circle with all seats facing the board. The students are using Thoughts and Notions – a reading textbook. On the day in question, they were working on a reading about “Umbrellas.” This was their third day with this reading. As homework I had asked them to make umbrellas with main ideas inside and supporting details underneath (an umbrella for each paragraph of the reading).

“Josh,” the subject of this description, had not done this assignment. I selected students to put their umbrellas on the board and we checked them together. Josh did not take this opportunity to complete the homework in his notebook, nor did two others who had not completed the homework. I said, “Anyone who has not completed the homework should write down the main ideas and details in your notebooks. You don’t need to draw umbrellas.” Two other students began writing – one drew umbrellas and the other wrote main ideas and details.

Josh did nothing. He was frowning and looking at his desk. I thought his eyes were kind of glassy. I went over and repeated my instruction. He didn’t even acknowledge that I had spoken. I repeated his name until he looked at me. Then I showed him the umbrellas on the board and pointed to the sentences one by one. I repeated, “You don’t need to draw the umbrellas. Just write the main ideas. That’s all. Then write the details under.” Without verbal acknowledgement he pulled his notebook towards him and started to write. When I checked back later he had completed it and was ready to move on to the worksheet.

Throughout this encounter, I was quite frustrated. My expectations of Josh were higher than he was willing to put forth that day.

Factors I will consider: 

Student’s background:

I’ve only known Josh for around 6 months. During that time his motivation levels seem to vary. Another thing that happened during that time is his little sister was diagnosed with a learning disorder. It is quite possible that the attention to education he once got from his parents has been transferred to his sister.

Josh is a 13 year old boy. He’s at a difficult age going through puberty and just entering middle school where his workload and time in classes (and extra study) has increased dramatically. That’s a lot to manage for someone who just wants to play soccer and definitely doesn’t want to draw pictures. It’s possible as well that anything seen as “babyish” (including legible handwriting) might be anathema to him.

It’s also quite possible that Josh doesn’t learn as well this way (visually?).

Student-teacher(s) relationship:

The teachers discuss Josh as a problem-child quite a bit. My boss, who teaches one of his classes, often asks about him. It could be that because he gets so much attention in his absence, we might hold different expectations of him in the classroom – expect him to cause problems and bear down on him more. Where 80% of the students don’t pay attention, Josh is certain to be singled out. On the other hand, greater efforts are made to motivate and encourage him as well. In any case, he may get a disproportionate amount of attention and that could affect his behaviour as well as how I approach him in class.

Student-student relationships:

Who’s sitting next to Josh affects his focus in class. I’ve been experimenting with seating arrangements and the student next to Josh – normally a motivated learner – inspired a lot of chaos in class time. It could be that Josh has trouble distinguishing between time to focus and time to play, especially when there are playmates nearby. Since I’ve changed the seats, both of them have done a little better but Josh is still last to finish anything.


The book this class is using, Thoughts and Notions, is challenging for them. It is possible that they don’t know how to approach the materials and that I’m not giving them enough guidance. It’s possible that determining main ideas is quite a new task for them and I am not patient enough. It is also possible that they are bored, having dealt with the material in the book before with a previous teacher. We use the same book in different ways (they translate the readings for her and answer the exercises in the book, but they analyse the text for me and work with vocabulary in other contexts).


It is possible that my instructions were unclear. I didn’t tell the students beforehand to write the assignments in their notebooks if they hadn’t done their homework. It’s also not an activity I’d done often before. It’s possible that Josh wasn’t writing because he didn’t know he was supposed to. It’s also possible that because I was addressing him and not anyone else in the class, he felt he was being singled out. Since I’ve begun doing this sort of exercise regularly, Josh is more willing to write. Another possibility is that the purpose of the activity was not clear to Josh and he couldn’t see any reason why he should do it (and “because I said so” doesn’t cut it for him).


It’s likely that Josh didn’t make eye contact because it would be rude to do so in Korean culture when (he thinks) he is in trouble.

Feelings and needs (me):

I was feeling frustrated and a little sad.

I needed to be heard.

Feelings and needs (student):

I imagine Josh might have been feeling frustrated as well. He may have needed to be heard.

Or he may have felt bored. He may have needed mental stimulation.

He may have felt tired. He may have needed rest and to be alone.


I’m sure there’s a whole lot more that can be said and I feel like I’ve barely opened the lid of the analysis. But now I need your help, fellow reflectors. What are some questions that might lead me to find what I’m missing?

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  • Hana Tichá  On April 3, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Dear Anne,

    First of all, I don’t think you’re missing anything. I think you’ve taken into consideration all the possible aspects that might play a role in Josh’s case and I can’t think of anything else at the moment.
    Sometimes, when I’m on the other side of the barricade (the one sitting at the desk), I realize how difficult it is to concentrate when I’m exhausted, for example. It’s almost unbearable to keep my eyes open, even if I’m truly interested in the topic. It’s like feeling paralyzed, like in a dream, unable to move or open my mouth to respond. Then something happens and I feel awake again. My point is that perhaps none of it is your fault – Josh’s low motivation may be caused by the fact that he’s going through puberty, and it may well be physiological – he may be short of certain hormones, such as dopamine which plays a number of important roles in the brains.
    Also, having two teenagers at home I know something about young people’s sleeping habits. They don’t sleep enough and honestly, I don’t know how they do it that they manage to stay awake at school.
    You know, there are things you won’t change and as you say, sometimes kids just need to be left alone for a while. I’m not implying that we shouldn’t care but let’s focus on what we CAN change and improve. And I think you’ve done your best….

    • livinglearning  On April 5, 2014 at 12:17 am

      Thank you, Hana, for your kind words. There are always so many factors to consider when teens have low motivation. I find after writing this that I feel differently than I did post-description. But I still have a nagging suspicion that there is something I am missing. Maybe it is best to do as you say and focus on the things I can control. That seems to be so little sometimes!
      Thank you again for reading and taking the time to comment.

  • David Harbinson  On April 7, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Hi Anne, sorry that I have taken so long to reply. I did read through your post when you first wrote it, but only now have I had time to come back and read it again. In fact I am supposed to be studying for my Delta right now, and I have spent about 1.5 hours sat in Starbucks, reading through some stuff, but if you asked me what I have read I couldn’t tell you. Today, even though it’s Monday, and I rested all day yesterday, I just don’t feel like it. And I think that this goes back to what Hana said about sometimes, you just feel paralyzed, and it’s difficult to concentrate. But for me, it’s okay. I’ll write this session off, and do something productive (reply to your post). But I can do that because I can take responsibility for my learning.

    Josh however probably has not taken that responsibility yet. I wonder how he has behaved since your description. Has he improved or has he remained the same. I know that you say he is more willing to write now. I know that a later stage of the ELC is where we will look at planning and the future, so I wonder whether responsibility is something we can consider there? Or whether it is even the answer?

    I think you have approached your analysis very well, and would imagine that the incident was caused by a combination of many or all factors from all of your headings not just one.

    • livinglearning  On April 8, 2014 at 11:43 pm

      Hi David, happy to see you here. I remember those days of studying for my MA when I read the same paragraph six times and just couldn’t focus. Josh might need some more coffee.
      I had a brief discussion with my boss today about finding ways to get students to take responsibility for their learning and getting them to focus for more than a five-second interval. In Josh’s case, I think his improvement has held so far. Actually an interesting thing happened on Friday. I lost my temper a bit with the class when they were all chatting away and ignoring me and (I’m not proud of this, mind) I told them they needed to show some respect. Of course one of them had to say in Korean “what’s ‘respect’?” but it was Josh who translated and the whole class atmosphere improved instantly.
      Anyway, I am inclined to agree that the incident was probably a combination of things rather than one. I guess I’ll probably never really know.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  • Zhenya  On April 16, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Anne

    Took me such a long time to write to you in response to your comment (just another proof that reflecting is not that easy or fast)

    how the amount of time and space between the original event and the description of it and between the description blog post and the analysis of it affects the process (and my memory).

    I liked how you organized your post, especially the fact that you used multiple lens, or angles, for your analysis. I think it may be true that in a number of situations it is a combination of reasons (rather than just one in particular) that impact the interaction, and it is our own feelings/emotions that ‘color’ it in a certain way? – I think I am thinking aloud now and asking these questions to myself 🙂

    You said that you needed to be heard, and that probably Josh felt the same way. I wonder what happens if the teacher and student’s needs are similar?

    To support what you were saying that he might have been tired: the lesson was on Wednesday, which is mid-week, and this perhaps means that the tiredness and lack of sleep added up?

    You said: I feel like I’ve barely opened the lid of the analysis. – Wow, after reading this line I see how deep the process might become and that there is literally no limit to how much we can take or learn out of it. My only question (to myself again) is how to find out when to stop analyzing and starting to articulate beliefs and plan action? Well, looking forward to the next steps of this challenge! 🙂

    • livinglearning  On April 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Hi Zhenya,
      Thank you so much for your helpful comment. Your questions lead me to more questions and also support some of my meandering wonderings. I like the image of feelings coloring an interaction. And the question of when to stop analysing and start articulating beliefs is a good one. I have no answer, but I am sure I will continue to analyse this situation in my head before I draw on towards the next post (soon!).
      This class recently turned around for me – it turned out the interactive way I teach didn’t register to them as “study” and they thought they’d just been playing around, which is why they weren’t taking it seriously. They couldn’t see the purpose of the activities we did. So now I’m clearer with my goals and they are more receptive. It makes me wonder whether having this clarity early on would have changed the situation with Josh. I suspect it would.
      See you on the next challenge! Just answering your comment here and also reflecting further on the situation has helped me decide how I will approach the next phase!


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