Upon reflection - most things are easier, make more sense, have a better comeback, are more enlightening or more worthwhile. Reflection gives us the chance to stop, think back and put things into perspective. To think of things we may have done differently given the same chance again. Reflection can be heartbreaking, soul-destroying, hope-giving, exhilarating or anything in between. Reflection gives us something that never exists in the actual moment – the chance to stop the clock and really think.
Have you ever done something that really tested you – physically, mentally? I remember completing a 50km walk years ago with some great friends, and although completely under-prepared, we found ourselves lost and tired in the darkening night. It was anything but fun. My feet hurt, my bones were tired, I was hungry, cold and running out of positivity fast. Upon reflection, those hours were amongst the most valuable bonding times I have spent with those friends – we now reminisce on our experience and double over in laughter at the times we had whilst wandering around the hills, wondering if we would ever finish the course!
Professional reflection is important too. As a teacher, I have NEVER stood back at the end of the day and said to myself “Wow, I really nailed it today. I did everything perfectly and it all went to plan!” It just does not happen. Sure, there are times at the end of a session when I feel like the kids really “got it” or we made some good connections or discussed something really valuable. But that is invariably followed up by someone poking someone else in the eye, calling someone a baby or another disaster of such magnitude.
In all seriousness – reflection is the way that I plan my way ahead. Looking back to look forward – if that makes any sense?! I learned about a great theory from Wiggins & McTighe – whose theory of Backwards Design is incredibly wise: It seems so simple – where do we want to finish up? Start with that. Then, plot my way there. What do I need to do for the students to achieve success at that end point? How can I support them to get there? What have we done before that has worked well? How much can they achieve in the time allocated? The cycle of action and reflection is literally endless.
And I wonder why I find it hard to still my mind at night! What could I have done differently for those students who just didn’t get it? How else could I have said that? What activities could have been richer, more engaging, better structured?
If I let my thoughts run away, I would never think about anything else, and in all honesty – that’s one of my biggest challenges this year. But reflection is important for my development as a teacher, and I think as long as I use reflection as a tool to keep pursuing more engaging, more relevant, more authentic learning – I guess I am heading in the right direction. Reaching for continuous improvement is giving my students the best chance of success. That’s what it’s really all about.
At the end of a particularly rewarding session last week, I was rewarded with a golden comment from one of my students – one that will remain with me for a long time: “Mrs D, you made me so smart.” To which I replied, “no I didn’t – you did that, I just helped you to ask better questions.”
Upon reflection – I hope that gives you the same warm fuzzy it gave me…
Until next time – tell your reflection that it’s special.