Debriefing to Dennis

Practicum Mod 8 Reflection


Today I was in the coffee shop working on my ePortfolio and I heard a man nearby trying very hard to explain something totally complex to his friend. There was a long silence at his friend’s end, which told me he was valiantly trying to understand but actually able to merely politely listen. I heard his friend apologize a third of the way through for talking in such a complicated way but he kept trying and he even kept reassuring his friend, telling him he’d understand if he just hung in there a bit longer. I found myself feeling a bit annoyed: Why couldn’t that guy just see that his friend didn’t understand and let it go? As it happened, his friend lurched out of his chair and went to get some coffee fixings and then said it was time to go! Wow, I thought, that sounds familiar!

My mentor teacher, Maggie, has been kindly and patiently urging me to be more concise and showing me how giving students too much information can be . . . too much information . . . and overwhelming – and steadily training me to aim for my target audience – our students – and meet them accurately, where they are! And I’ve been getting it but not entirely, until I overheard the tones of this particular coffee shop conversation.

And then it hit me: What I was hearing was exactly the problem I run into in life so often – quite constantly, in fact! I’ve gone through so much and thought and felt so deeply about so many things, but I’ve been alone through most of it! I’ve been desperate to be understood for what I am understanding almost forever! And I keep looking for people to understand me and regularly overwhelm people with what I am trying to say! And no matter what it is, if my desperation to get my voice heard and my self understood is greater than my desire to honor my potential listener’s boundaries, it just ain’t gonna happen!

No matter how clear or patient or detailed I am I will not be able to get through to this person if what I have to say is not something they’re open to hearing.

My annoyance with this guy stemmed from my reaction to his not understanding his audience. I was in fact saying to myself, Why doesn’t he understand his audience? And then I remembered and it all fell on top of me at once. I don’t understand my audience often, either; in fact, it’s been a major blind spot of mine – because I’ve been so desperate to be heard and understood, I haven’t been able to always understand the needs of my listeners!

I tried to talk to the guy but he was leaving with his friend so I asked them both if I could talk to them and they said yes. So I walked outside with them and told them how through hearing their voice tones (I didn’t really ever hear what the guy was talking about, just the tones and interjections) I could "see" what was happening and how I had learned something very important about myself as a teacher – why I hadn't been able to always know my audience!

Here’s the kicker: I’ve never truly been able to know my audience until I myself was heard. When you’re traveling through outer space, “boldly going where no [wo]man’s gone before,” it’s kinda hard to turn around and tell others about it if they're not there to tell – isn’t it? How are you going to shut up about the discoveries you’ve made on your lonely but adventurous expeditions until you find someone who can debrief you? Isn’t it true that until you find someone to witness your process you’re not going to be able to truly turn around and witness another’s?

Well, this is what Dennis has done for me. I have called my reflections “Debriefing to Dennis,” because debriefing is exactly what I have been doing. As a budding professional I have needed to be mirrored by a professional's professional to fully grow into the role. And I couldn't become a real professional until I had been accepted in this mirroring experience. I have been allowing the overflow to spill out onto Dennis – hoping against hope and asking him every step of the way if it’s okay. Because, really, I wasn’t going to be able stop looking for someone to hear me until I really found someone to hear me, was I? I was going to have to keep trying to find one person to mirror me back to myself until I could finally see myself! Because you can’t really see who you are in a vacuum, can you? You have to know who you are in relation to other people.

Truly the basis of social constructivism!

So Dennis did that for me. He gave me one of the greatest gifts anyone’s ever given me by witnessing my magical - and often painful - eLearning online learning process. Because, indeed, we've been learning online learning through eLearning! This stuff has been so important to me; it's taken all my skills and experience to master this graduate certificate process and it gets me to the bottom of my soul because I love eLearning so much. It’s so important to me. That’s where Dennis met me. Molly helped, too, mirroring me with patience and kindnesses.

And now I’ll be able to meet others there, too – now that I know I’m not alone in my perceptions! Now that I’ve been met, I know what that feels like and I can now pass along that experience to my students! Since I’m not looking anymore for somebody to hear me – because I’ve already had that experience! – I can now see my students as others with whom I may share the same gift.

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