Reflection on a one-day-workshop “How to Write and Publish Reflective Writing”

Muna Rai*

I received the information about reflective writing workshop in the messenger a few days before the event through Jeevan Karki. We were asked to be there with our laptops. Finally, the day came. I and my friend headed towards the program venue. Before we reached there, many of the participants had already been there. Mr Jeevan Karki and Dr Karna Rana were busy arranging furniture and other stuff in the hall. We exchanged our greetings. We were approximately 20 participants there.

The first activity was the opening session. One of the facilitators welcomed us and talked very briefly about the topic and its objectives and the benefits for the participants using power points. Then in the next activity was the introductory session and scene setting, led by the next facilitator. We all became excited when the facilitator came along with some pieces of paper on his hands. He told us to pick one piece of paper each and find our pair. Everybody became busy to find their pair. I happened to pick the digit 9 and began to search my pair but I couldn’t find anyone. When none of them in the hall had the digit 9. Then the facilitator asked me to pause as someone was on the way. I waited for a while. I could see all the participants were seated with their pairs. After a few minutes, a young gentleman with a shiny beard appeared at the door. I guessed he was my pair. Fortunately, he was placed next to me as my pair. The climate setting was over. One by one the peer began to introduce their partner. We did the same.

After that, the facilitator asked us to reflect on ‘self’ and select the best wearing of our own. We were provided one minute to reflect on. The facilitator threw some questions: What do you like the most? Why do you like it most? How do you feel on that particular wearing? We had to answer those questions. Everybody began to reflect, and so did I. The facilitator asked us to share the idea we had on our mind. At that point, the environment remained quiet. No one spoke. Later the facilitator himself reflected on his wearing. On his reflection, he found the muffler the best on his body. He described it and he focused on its colour and comfy quality. After the demo, many voices came aloud. Many hands were raised to share their ideas. I listened to them attentively. Their choices were varied as jackets, shoes, scarfs and so on. It sounded really interesting.

The next session was the discussion on ‘why to write?’ The facilitator raised the same question for the audience. Everybody started thinking about the question. Suddenly, the facilitator asked me “Why do you write, Muna?” I simply answered, “To express myself, my ideas…” He took more responses from other participants too. There was a variety inside varieties. Some of the responses were like to express ideas, to connect with others, to improve writing and many more. Finally, the facilitator presented some ideas that were taken from other renowned scholars. Their thoughts were stimulating for us to make habit of writing. Then the other facilitator discussed on the difference between academic writing and reflective (non-academic) writing. He discussed the differences between the two terms regarding its structure, language and flexibility. Then we had a short tea break.

After the break, the other facilitator distributed a sample of reflective writing. It was about the ways of improving children reading habits in early grades. We were asked to read and find a few strengths and areas of improvement in it. Everyone started reading it. The text was so long that I couldn’t catch it. I was unable to understand it though I read it twice. Perhaps, my eyes just ran over the unintelligible text. After some time, the facilitator started collecting responses. I completely remained silent as I didn’t have to say anything. The fact was that I didn’t understand the whole text. Likewise, the second sample was given to us. It was about the author’s experience of learning the English language. That text was clearer and easier than the previous one. I enjoyed while reading it. I also noted the strengths and areas of improvement regarding the text.

Then, the facilitator presented the context setting for writing. He talked about the possible context i.e. striking moments, habits, college, and profession to reflect in writing. He told us that our lived experiences in those contexts can be turned into a good piece of writing. The context can be created around what, when, who, where, how and why structure. Further, another facilitator talked about the frame of the reflective writing. He mentioned it into three facets: action, reaction and reflection. The framework was figurative and expressive which I liked a lot. Further, he also talked about how to write a reflective essay. He said that a good piece of writing requires a rigorous furnishing. According to him, good writing possesses several steps: write, self-review, peer-review, review and finalise the writing. I came to know that writing is an art which is possible through devotion. He also shed light on the three major aspects that the writer should be aware of viz, issue, language and style. He said that before writing any piece of text we need to choose the issue/area on which we are going to write. The issue should be unique and draw the attention of readers. Then we need to make a framework of writing and read the related literature to collect ideas. At that moment I thought that a good writer is a good reader; a reader who can make of the writing and sees a frame in writing so that she can develop a piece of writing herself. Then it was the time for a short break. We had some snacks during the period.

After the break, the facilitators highlighted the eight habits of a good writer. A good writer is also a good reader and a good listener is the striking one for me. A writer can write effectively after reading enough, listening carefully to others and observing the context. Then he asked us to transform the theory into practice by writing a reflective essay in the workshop itself. They asked us to reflect our own past and remember the most influential event that had happened in our lives and turn it into writing. Everyone opened their laptops and began writing something. I was still busy to recall the past and choosing an issue to write. Many things came in my mind, but one incident drew my attention. The incident was about saving a mother cow from sinking. I began to write, ‘last year…’ After forty-five minutes, we were asked to submit the writing. Then facilitator taught us how to make comment on others’ writing in an electronic copy. He displayed that on the projector and we were asked to follow the process and practice. I became happy to learn about the practical knowledge which I was wondering before. Finally, the facilitators collected the feedback from us and the event was formally closed.

Finally, I concluded my day as a productive one. The best part of the workshop for me was the introductory part. In this part, we had a pair to introduce each other. It sounds simple but that thrilled me a lot that day. Next is the graphics. I really liked the design of power points. The power points were full of pictures and drawings that caught my attention. Likewise, I also liked the feedback collection method. That was really wonderful. Most of all the workshop stimulated me to write something and hence, you are reading this piece now.

To sum with some feedback for the workshop, it would be more effective if it could start on time. We were in a sort of rush towards the end, which could have been avoided had it been started in time. We were many participants in the program. It would be more interesting if different activities like pair work and group were organised. For example, the session ‘sample of reflective writing’ was so pressurising for every participant, I think. I could see that all the participants were feeling hard to find the ideas. I myself was feeling empty. Had that work been done in a group, it would have been easier to discover many more things. In the same way, it would have been better if the writing of the participants was exchanged among the participants to get constructive comments. Critical comments and exchanging ideas are essential parts of good writing. As a whole, the motive of the event was praiseworthy. It brought ELT students and ELT practitioners together to equip them with some skills of writing and motivate them to reflect and write.

*Rai is the Master’s student at the central department of education, Tribhuvan University, Nepal. She is also a life member of NELTA since 2015.