Friday, April 1, 2011

Week 25: Reflective Practioners

Y’know how there are phrases that you need to drop during job interviews to let the interviewer know you are up with the “biz”? In teaching some of these phrases are “I don’t teach, I facilitate learning,” “I take a child-centered approach” and most important “I am a reflective practitioner.”

One of the unique things about teachers is that we are hard-wired to reflect about our job. Now you may be thinking about how you have written reflections during goal-setting meetings but it’s probably not to the same point that most teachers do.

From day 1 of my educational classes in college we wrote reflections.  In almost every single assignment there was a reflection part and all of the teacher experiences we had from a five-minute demo to student-teaching experiences required written-out reflections.

Honestly, this was really annoying. Part of it was that the format of these reflections were often too structured and they didn’t seem to have a point.

So when I got out in the field and started teaching without thinking I left space in my lesson plans for reflections. Sometimes I would write something down after a lesson but a lot of times I didn’t bother. Regardless my brain, having this idea of reflections drilled into it, would think back on lesson and try to figure out what went well, what needed improvement and how this informed future lessons. It only seemed natural that I write my thoughts down.

After teaching for five years, I’ve worked up a system in which I make bullet point after every lesson in a notebook, about five per lesson right after I teach.  It helps a lot in planning for the future and remembering what to plan for the next class.

Beyond the pragmatic purpose of being a “reflective practitioner,” thinking back on ones work this often changes the way you view the world. This level of constant reflective creeps into your personal life and you start thinking twice about the way that you talk to your friends and plan events in your life. While at first this is a little odd, I find that it’s made me a more patient and thoughtful.

This practice of reflecting also goes deeper as teachers constantly think about their experiences as students. Every day I think about what it would be like to be a student in my class and delve deep into my memories from childhood.

How often do you really think about what it felt like to be a kid? I think about this every day and I can’t quite articulate how this affects me, all that I know is that when you are surrounded by people who do this every day, there’s a feeling a humbleness and perspective that informs every decision in my school.

Are all teachers “reflective practitioners?” No, but they really need to be and education majors out there, I know it’s annoying but just write the reflections. It is the reflective approach to teaching that is the most profound way that we can improve our craft.

If you are at a job where you don’t reflect very often, try it. Every day write down two sentences about how you though the day went. Think about what it was like to be kid yourself at “work” in school and slowly you’ll start to see the your world through the eyes of a teacher.

It’s like looking into a window.  When you think back on your actions and your life you have can see your reflection in the window but at the same time you can look through through the window and find amazing things deep within yourself.

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