The Power of Reflection

Here are some quick thoughts on the power of reflection.

The 2020-2021 school year has defiantly been a challenging one. One that has, for me, caused me to lose focus on thoughtful reflection at times. Our classrooms have been turned into a rough lunar landscape compared to spaces usually envision and create. I know sometimes I have taught and listened to my students but have not truly reflected on my teaching or student thinking. It makes me think about what Martin Nystrand call “uptake.” The process of taking in, responding to, and growing someone else’s ideas. This process works when only when we allow another’s thinking to affect our own. We need to apply this idea of “uptake” to the time we spend teaching and reflecting.

Are you continuing to take in children’s thinking, colleagues thinking, and any others thinking with an openness to do more than listen, nod, and then insert your thinking. We have to be willing to reflect in the moment for our students, but also after those moments have passed. We need to be reflecting in silent contemplation. Then other times out loud in the presence of others. Herbie Hancock once said, “In life, as in jazz, there is great beauty in collaboration.”
Silence can be a decisive reflection move.

Try sitting in silence and listening for your breath. Then notice the thoughts that are coming forward. Break them into two categories, ones you can change and ones you cannot. Focus on the ones within your life or teaching practice, you can change and effect. Reflect on what happened, what you wanted to happen and what you can change. One great aspect of working in education and with kids is that we can reteach lessons, we can grow and learn and change right along with our students. There is no growth without reflection. Memorization only gets you so far. John Dewey reminds us, “We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on an experience.

Teaching is an art, we cannot rely on only our reflexes to the content we are teaching. We are teaching humans who are growing and changing daily.
I am reading a book called Building Bigger Ideas: A Process for Teaching Purposeful Talk by Maria Nichols. I recommend it! She is featured on the Heinemann podcast also talking about the book. I feel a lot of the processes she recommends for teaching purposeful talk in our classrooms can be applied in specific ways toward reflection. She says, “In the dialogic classroom, feedback spurs reflection, and helps children become aware of the breadth and depth of meaning they constructed and the role of purposeful talk in the process.” We can grow ourselves and others on our teams and our whole school with reflection and Nystrand’s “uptake”. I think we also need to teach our students to reflect. In all of the classroom scenarios Nichols describes in her book, the students are in careful reflection. They are in reflection of their thoughts and their classmates thoughts also. The process of “uptake” is happening.
Let’s keep reflection alive, and part of our daily routines, folks, our growth, and our students’ growth depends on it.