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A Reflective commentary high lighting my personal development during the first year of this module. I will start by writing a bit about my background, then proceed to making a brief comment on my experience at the University, reflecting on topics we did in personal development and interpersonal skills 2009/10, such as, values and beliefs, giving and receiving feedback, self-awareness, group roles, Culture and so on. Theories and my own examples from lectures and elsewhere will be used to illustrate my understanding.
You would have thought that I had overcome the culture shock after moving to England four years ago. But no, I still sense a bit of homesickness from time to time. The term culture shock was introduced by an anthropologist Kalervo Oberg to describe this situation. According to Oberg, culture shock is defined as a psychological disorientation that most people experience when living in a culture clearly different from one's own. A difficult part of this process for adults is the experience of feeling like children again, of not knowing instinctively the 'right' thing to do." (Piet-Pelon & Hornby, 1992, p.2).
Coming to England has been the biggest and longest culture shock I have ever experience, even after four years , I still sense a bit homesickness. Born in Uganda, I moved to Sweden at the age of 9, where I spend the next 14years attending Swedish school and adapting to their culture, values and beliefs. The culture chock of not speaking Swedish was short-lived, as I made friends quickly and mastered the language easily most probably because I was very young at the time. Culture is defined by Mohamed C as a social concept encompassing values, attitudes and behaviours common to a group and socially transmitted. Adapting to a different lifestyle in Sweden at that age was not a problem. I had absolutely no trouble adjusting to the new culture and getting used to the different climate and food.
Four years ago my husband and I decided to move and settle in England, a year later we became parents to baby boy. After two years of being a stay at home Mom, I decided to join University, to accomplish my dream of becoming a counsellor.
Reflecting on my first week at university, the first week was induction week, which started on the 21st to the 25nd of September 2009. During this time we got an official welcome to the University, had a tour of the campus, which was really great , as it helped me find my way around University easily and quicker during the first few days and also made some new friends. I registered for library and IT services, and also joined Students Union, I also got the opportunity to meet staff within the school of human and health sciences including my Tutor and lecturers, I got information regarding my course and lecture timetable.
During this time I also met my course mates, a group of twenty students. I must say, I didn't expect my class,counselling group, to be that small and did not expect so many matured students, for some reason. I thought I would be the only matured student but it was not what I had imagined or had in mind, but all the same, I was happy with the size of our group and really loved the diversity of our group and the mixture of the student who are now my classmates. Relationships among the classmate in the first few weeks was somehow everyone to themselves trying to get a grip of the situation. But somehow we were also forming a group. We were at the 'forming' stage of Tuckman's map of the group process. A group has been defined as two or more individuals interacting and interdependent, who have come together to achieve particular objectives Thenmozhi (n. d.). In the 1960s, psychologist Bruce Tuckman observed how groups form and he developed an influential model of the four stages of group development namely, Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing, he added a fifth stage, Adjourning in the 1970s (Burnard, 1992) .
Tuckman said that to be most effective, a group needs to go through all the stages. At the forming stage group members meet for the first time with a sense of excitement and anticipation, trying to find out what is expected of each other and what behaviour is acceptable and which is not, the main purpose of this stage is about forming a group, both in terms of relationship building and in task development and implementation. It's also about accepting each other and avoiding conflict. I found it a bit difficult getting to know others in the group, at the start of the course. I think much of it had to do with being in a new place, not knowing what I had in common with the rest of the group and not being sure about how receptive my course mate would be.
At the Storming stage conflicts and tension over leadership emerges, after roles and rules are developed in the Norming stage. Group members are trying to assert themselves and this according to Tuckman can be a painful period. It is also the time when certain individuals will opt out and leave the group. (Burnard,1992).
An example on storming , during a group session the topic for discussion was gender issue, just for clarification there are three men and about 18 ladies in the group. The discussion started nicely but soon developed into an argument, some of the group members took sides, the discussion intensified and it got louder and louder. What I did observe during this time was the way that the group members communicated, their body language, rolling of eyes, shaking of legs and head and just staring at each other.
The lecturer did not take sides of course, but was in control of managing the discussion, by letting one person speak at a time. The discussion really stormed up, and only ended when one of the classmates changed the subject, the student wanted to know our thoughts and beliefs regarding homosexuals and lesbians. We had a great discussion regarding this subject, Some people were of course against homosexuality and others, like myself had no problem with it.
I'm a strong believer of equality, I believe that we are all the same and everybody deserves respect no matter what believes or sexuality. The discussion we had was very good and helpful, in terms of understand the different personalities of my course mate and also learning and knowing more about one another in the group.
In Norming, roles and responsibilities are cleared and shared . At the performing stage, members concentrate on achieving goals. Adjourning is the ending stage, this is the stage where groups reflects back at the group work and celebrate their accomplishment (Burnard, 1992). We currently work together as a group and consult one another when ever needed. Previously I had not disclosed much information about myself. I was in a new group with strangers, people I knew nothing of, I did not feel I could trust anybody at the start of the course. But as the group moved forward to the 'Norming' stage of Tuckman's group process, trust began to develop among us. We had got to know one another better and I gained confidence in myself and in most of the group members. This was form due to active listing and positive comments others had given and received when they had imparted or disclosed something personal or helpful to the group. This gave me confidence to open up to the group and share information about myself and my life. For example, during one of our many helping skill session, I shared what was a very upsetting event in my life, the group listened attentively and I could see the sympathy and understanding on their faces. I appreciated that they asked for clarification, their questions showed that they were interested and that they cared. I appreciated that very much and told them. After revealing something so personal, the group has since opened up and we talk about everything. The act of self disclosure as Thompson suggests can allow you to use people who you trust and respect as a mirror to reflect aspects of yourself that you cannot see. (Thompson, 1996). As a group we interact and communicate very well, we have learnt to listen and appreciate what others have to say, understanding that we all learn at different pace, we are comfortable discussing difficulties and concerns, as a team and group we also encourage and collaborate with one another by giving suggestion on books to read for an assignments, sharing information and asking opinion. I have given some of my group members feedback, but the experience was so overwhelming ,I did not want to constantly give only positive feedback, nor did I wish to be harsh with negative comments., I believe a few of us felt this way about, giving negative feedback. Hopefully by second year I would improve on giving feedback on both negative and positive, I will become more challenging with the group members, because it is one of the tools that will help in developing our self-wareness.
Overall I have very positive experiences of others in the group, and from some of the feedback I have received from group members, describing me as, very caring and friendly, they also described me as a very quiet person , but great listener with a lot of confident. I do not really see myself as a quiet person and people around me ( family members) certainly do not see me as a quiet person. Maybe it is just a display I use at university without actually knowing.
Self-awareness is whereby one understands their feelings, values and attitudes. It is also about understanding how we impact others. Once one is aware about this position, then one can be effective in the helping profession Burnard (1992) in Thompson (2009)
My self awareness is still developing and by using the concepts of Johari's window I will try to make sense of it. It seems that in the area known as blind self, unknown to self, known to others is apparent, it represents the things that others know or see about us which we are unaware of. I have gained insights to self awareness from the comments of group members. The hidden is all about our secrets which we keep to ourselves. The unknown window is our unknown area or the unconscious - everything about ourselves that we and others do not know. I think by doing a self-disclosure session would be a way of becoming self-aware, by taking risks revealing parts of one's self to someone they trust and ask for feedback on our behaviours and reaction to others. If not, then One can try tape-recording themselves and playing it back.
At the very start of our course we were also introduced to the use of a reflective journal especially to assist in the production of this reflective commentary. I did not go for the idea in the first place only to discover it was a brilliant idea when I could not remember the slightest thing we had done the previous three weeks.
The Kolb's (1984) Cycle in Action is widely recommended in the process of the journal entries. The cycle in Action is very important here as a theory in understanding the importance of maintaining a reflective diary. Kolb's cycle consist of four stages namely experience, reflection, conceptualization and experimentation, It is a continuous way of learning where we transform experience into real knowledge.