#30GOALSEDU:Interview a Colleague – An interview with Josette LeBlanc

One of the reasons why the 30 Goals Challenge means so much to me is because it has given us all the opportunity to connect with amazing educators from all over the world and share our passion for teaching. This goal in particular is a chance to acknowledge these wonderful teachers, to thank them for being part of our life and help more people know about them.

Josette is one of those teachers who epitomises what an educator should be about. She’s someone who speaks from the heart and teaches to the heart. I’ve always admired her insight and the way she manages to voice feelings, needs and desires we’ve all had as teachers through her writing. It’s easy to see what makes her so special once you read her inspiring posts on her two blogs:



Thank you, Josette, for taking the time to answer my questions and giving me the chance to learn more about you!

Tell us a little bit about yourself as a teacher and a blogger.

The longer I teach, the more I learn that I have a great deal to learn. These days I’m learning more about the competitive Korean education system, and how I fit into it. I’m currently in the English education department at Keimyung University in Daegu, South Korea whereI teach students who hope to become English teachers one day. As I keep working with these students, I see how challenging it is for them to achieve this dream. My work seems to involve helping them gain the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in this competitive atmosphere, as well as helping them not get overwhelmed with it all.

As a blogger, I am still evolving. All I know for sure is that I must write about what touches my heart. This often has to do with how humanity is either excelling at or missing the mark on supporting the basic human need for learning and growth. I believe it is a basic human right to learn what we desire to learn. I also believe it is a basic human right to learn in an environment that is safe and supportive. Although my teaching may not always reflect these beliefs,my blogging gives me a space to dream this up until it becomes real.

What was the moment you realized teaching was your call?

I can’t recall the exact moment, but it was during my first year teaching in Korea back in 2005. A mixture of factors seemed to help me realize that I’d be teaching in some capacity for the rest of my life. The first clue was that I enjoyed meeting my students each day, and I looked forward to what would happen in the classroom. I felt very energized going to work.

Then when I went to my first KOTESOL conference and met other professionals who seemed to feel the same type of energy, I started thinking that maybe this was something I could commit to. At that conference I met a professor, Melanie Van Dan Hoven, who told me about the MA program she just graduated from.  It was on that day that I decided to save money to go to the SIT Graduate Institute (SIT), and since my graduation, I’ve been working on becoming the type of teacher I’d appreciate learning from.

What’s your teaching super power?

I think my superpower may have something to do with helping students see they all have their own unique and valuable superpowers. It’s important to me that students believe in themselves, and one of the ways I can help them see this is to believe in them. I try to give them as much one on one attention as possible in case they can’t see this for themselves. This type of attention can be in the form of supporting them during class activities, giving them detailed written feedback on assignments, or talking to them in between classes. The aim is for them to see that someone cares about their ideas, their challenges, and their successes.

Who/What inspired you to start blogging? What has blogging taught you so far?

I remember the exact night I started my blog, Throwing Back Tokens. It was after a Nonviolent Communication (NVC) workshop. As with most workshops, we had been discussing what needs guide our life. I learned that I had a deep need for communicating and connecting on topics that are important to me. Since I had just finished my final semester at SIT, I was missing the depth of reflection and community that happened there. And while I had colleagues with whom I could share my teaching experiences, there was something about writing that gave me an even deeper meaning.

After blogging on and off for seven years, I’ve learned that through blogging I can connect with many others who share the same interest in topics that once felt obscure. This helped me see I am not alone, and there is a great deal to learn. However, the most important point I learned is that there is a supportive community of bloggers out there. My blog has given me the chance to meet people I may not have met without it. You are a wonderful example of this Maria.

Your #redthumpforlove blog focuses on self-compassion for teachers. How do you practise self-compassion?

One of my favorite ways to practice self-compassion is through journaling. For me, self-compassion is about acknowledging the feelings that are alive at the moment; it’s not about pushing them away. In my journal, I try do just that. If I feel anxious or sad, I freewrite about my thoughts and feelings until I have nothing to write about anymore. By the end of a writing session, I usually feel a weight lift from my shoulders.

Sum up in a sentence/quote what teaching should be about.

Teaching should be about supporting curiosity and facilitating growth, by helping learners develop the skills and knowledge they crave.

What are the 10 words that come to your mind when you hear the phrase “embracing mindfulness”?

Attending to what is even when what is isn’t pretty.

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