2021 Vision – Two Sides …

‘Reflection’ …/rɪˈflekʃn/ . An image in a mirror or on a shiny surface ; the process of sending back energy; an indication of something’s true nature; careful thought about something; an account or description; written or spoken thoughts on a subject

The Social Dilemma wasn’t immediately something I’d intended to watch, but as one of my English language students wanted to discuss it in class this coming week, that’s just what I did. And I have to sincerely thank that student for the recommendation. Anything that encourages you to reflect on different sides to the way you think the world is has to be worth looking into. Whether it reaffirms or challenges your view thus far that’s a healthy way forward.

As an early member of what’s come to be known as Generation X , my adoption of social media has been late and relatively uninformed. I’ve been on and off Facebook, tweeted and followed, and use Instagram on occasion but with no regularity. WhatsApp has been a boon, but there I’ve pretty much drawn the line.

So this thought-provoking Netflix documentary raised many of the issues I’ve been wrestling with for a number of years. It may not have solved my own social media dilemma but it means I can see both sides more clearly and make informed and ethical decisions about how I use it in future.

A book recommendation from a different student, The Wedge by Scott Carney has similarly exposed me to different ideas. I finished it on Sunday after quite some time working through ideas on meditation, exercise, stress, breathing and hallucinogens of all things. It’s time consuming taking such a personalised approach to teaching English but rewarding too. Always two sides. Always something new.

Monday and Tuesday produced a power of work writing and personalising teaching materials and assessment. Doing this alongside teaching makes for long days but that seems less important when you’re being productive and enjoying what you do.

Also on Tuesday I received news that several years of work, and a demanding last few months on an important ‘pet project’ is finally coming to fruition, formalising agreements between some of my European university partners. Working closely with friends and colleagues to make this happen has been both a challenge and a delight as it always is when you have passionate partners. It feels that bit more satisfying coming as it does in the face, indeed potentially flying in the face, of Brexit.

For me, any movement towards greater international commitment and partnership is always progress. If all goes well in the next few weeks this agreement should help take the European Network for Studies in Sport Science on to an even more collaborative and focused future.

Another insight came this week when comparing the challenges and abilities of different students at a similar overall level with the same piece of grammar. Learning any second language is always about communication and moulding your knowledge, learning and abilities to the contexts in which you’re going to use them. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach in my opinion, although there are always possibilities to re-use material. It’s how you use that material that matters for each student. I enjoy teaching the diversity of students who come to me, each with their own challenges but each also with their own enthusiasms.

There’s a duality in everything if you look for it – two sides to an argument, advantages and drawbacks to any approach, challenges and delights in everything you do. That’s the way it should be. A dear departed Norwegian friend once told me a joke about there always being two possibilities. Long after I forgot the joke itself, his advice continues to ring true.

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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