During my first Educon in late January, I was lured into Jennifer Orr’s “Reflecting on Reflection” session because I am incredibly passionate about reflection. Personal and professional reflection. As Jen shared the following quote from John Dewey, I suddenly cleared a long-blocked channel of thought that became congested upon my first introduction to John Dewey’s work during my senior year of undergrad.

“Reflection is an active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in light of the grounds supporting it and future conclusions to which it tends.”

I loathed studying John Dewey and reflection. I was 22 years old and not yet a teacher. I didn’t care about John Dewey or reflection. My desire was to teach kids. I did not want to reflect on something I had yet to experience. I definitely did not want to reflect on reflecting when I thought I had nothing to reflect about. I was not yet aware of the value of reflection. How could I be?

john-dewey2Since I had to succumb to the credentialing requirements in order to teach, I read the mandated books, participated in the discussions, and wrote my papers adequately enough to receive an A. But I was still not a reflector when I left the course. I don’t blame John Dewey or my professor; I was not ready.

I did not consciously begin to grasp the value of reflection until the very next year, when I started a year-long internship required for the graduate program. I was immersed with questions after observing a masterful teacher and starting to practice teach. Not only did I want to reflect; I felt it essential to reflect.

This made me think of a discussion during lunch at Educon one day. David Truss mentioned how much he grew as an educator during the time he was completing his masters program and simultaneously teaching. He posed a great question: should teachers attend graduate school prior to teaching?

He made me question my five year program. I learned a lot in grad school, but, I’ve learned a lot more that’s been valuable and applicable through the professional development programs I’ve selected to participate in while teaching, like Powerful Learning Practice.

Reflection is essential for teachers & for students

Each year in the classroom I’ve become a better teacher because of my wonderings. I am who I am because of reflection. I attribute all of my professional and personal growth to the self-reflective process.

During Jen’s Educon discussion, a few teachers indicated that they do not reflect because they do not have time to reflect. I understand how precious time is and that it is impossible for teachers to adequately accomplish all of the passed down requirements. But I will never give up reflecting myself or encouraging my students to reflect.

I asked the group how they got their students to reflect. I was astonished to find out that many teachers feared their administrators wouldn’t allow them to spend class time on reflection because it’s not in the curriculum. One teacher even implied that she was scared that she would get into trouble with her administrator if she had her students reflect during class time. I loved Jen’s response, “Don’t ask. Just do it!”

I was outraged by the teacher’s fear! I tweeted:

Reflection is priceless. Reflection has made me a better person and a better teacher. How do teachers stay sane if they do not reflect?

And how do students learn anything deeply without reflecting? I think it’s so important for teachers to model their own reflection process to their students. I wish my teachers had modeled their reflections to me. I wonder how many of my teachers reflected on their practice? If they had reflected, and modeled their reflection process, perhaps when I first read Dewey I would have found initial value in his brilliant insight.

Positive professional growth and positive student growth will not happen without learning and practicing the art of reflection. It’s a process we must trust. It’s time we must invest.

 

About the author
Rachel Small is a teacher in Seacoast New Hampshire. She believes in fostering deep thinking and a love of learning in her students. To achieve these goals, she employs modeling and connected learning strategies and encourages her students to collaborate and create projects that enrich their lives beyond school. Follow her on Twitter at @rvsmall.