the power of reflection

Let’s face it, reflection can be hard. Really hard. For some it’s challenging to look back at yourself and face mistakes, flaws, challenges you can’t figure out…just yet. Sometimes it’s a struggle to even recognize what is going on that keeps you continuing in an ongoing cycle that you are trying to move forward from, and at times, it can even be difficult to even know what to reflect on; what to keep, what to change, and what to part with…and then there are those among us that are very reflective and sometimes over-reflect without a next step.

Taking all that into account, let’s add pushing out your thoughts and sharing your personal reflection with others. Stress, anxiety, fear, apprehensiveness. All feelings that one may feel on this thought. We naturally reflect each day. Some more than others. But why? For betterment? For blame? For ego? What we typically don’t take time to do; is to reflect with intent.

As an educator, we more than likely “reflect” during our days, naturally through teacher “self-talk”, displaying our mistakes and “talk – alouds” to direct student thinking to guide them with “things to stay, things to part with, and things to change.” Teachers can build reflection into their teaching that they display outward, as above. Teachers can even build in reflection into their students’ learning, by providing space and opportunities for the students personal reflection, typically after an assignment etc…and that’s where is mostly, almost every times ends. A reflection check on the rubric and assignment closed, marked, and onto the next.

Where I am beginning to place more value on myself as a teacher, and with my students in not just the reflection, but why we are reflecting. Kids are really good sometimes at just telling a teacher what they think the teacher wants to hear. Why? They know it’s a mark and will affect them directly, but what I’m stressing here is the bigger picture.

Full disclosure. When I started reflecting with purpose and intent, I was naturally good at it. I’m a naturally reflective person, but I never thought much beyond that. I know my flaws, I know what things are not working for me, and I try to adapt and change them for me. Like the students; me, me, me. Sounds egocentric, but we are typically told and moulded that, that is what reflections are; for a better you.

But, what if, just what if, your reflection could support someone else? Help someone you don’t even know? Provide and document your journey not just for you, but for others? Just…what if...

So here is the messiness of this; it’s scary. Sharing your flaws with others. Being vulnerable and being accepting of who you are, for the whole world, (or who you decide to share it with) to see.

I, myself was scared. Very scared. Starting this blog (which started out on a more unlisted platform) was a big hurdle. One of my first blog posts, documents this. I’ve grown so much, and I am seeing, feeling, and appreciating the value of pushing your thoughts outward.

So how do you get kids to buy into this? With intent! The intention I had (which has changed, and will always continue to be fluid) was something another blogger and professional shared with me; If others do it for you, you do it for others”

I have begun “teaching” reflection in my math classes. Not just giving time to reflect (which I do) but providing purpose and reason, which supports our school’s transition into creating a culture of critique. This doesn’t mean, getting your work “picked a part” or negative comments, but more sharing your struggles and thoughts, what worked, what didn’t etc. with others, to yes, better yourself, but also, and more importantly, support someone else have support, strength, and figure something out. It’s ironic at times, that one of the number one influencers in a student’s life in 2020 is YouTube and tutorial videos. Mostly what? How to videos. Know what is also on those tutorials? The mistakes the person made and how they fixed them. Students flock to these to get better at something. It’s a common everyday thing. So why the resistance around making one themselves? It’s new, it’s taking a risk, there is right or wrong way, and more importantly, it’s them on display.

It’s definitely a process. A process that I’m beginning to teach, (yes in Math class) and not just asking students to complete as a requirement and expect. It builds confidence, it gathers and documents growth, it provides small and long term goals, and it builds courage to try new things and work through situations, (#dontstealthestruggle)

Here are two current real-life examples from my students.

Grade seven was given a very complex and challenging assignment this year to build their Order of Operations skills. It was hard. It was long, and it wasn’t very well received at the beginning.

“I’m never going to finish this.”

“This is too hard.”

“I can’t and won’t be able to complete half of these”,

…and more often (almost each year) “Can I not have to do all questions?”

Move forward a month, assignments passed in, and meaningful reflections with intent were in! Not only did students reflect on their learning, math skills, and strategies, but also their personal outlooks and mindsets. Quite impressive and thoughtful. Now, they want more challenges and have a better mindset to push through and work thought a struggle, knowing, feeling, and reflecting on the process. Take a peak!

Exams. Exams are new for the grade six students in our middle school. Exam bring forward an entire slew of emotions and feelings. I wanted to capture this process with the students, for the intent to learn and grow from the experience. But where should they be held? Grade seven did personal reflections on paper, which some chose to share orally to the class, but I wanted to go a step further with grade six. Our grade sixes have been working on their own personal blogs. What a great platform to share a reflection on. FULL STOP! Resistance overflow! “Why?” “Do I have to share it” “What if I want to keep it private?” “I don’t want everyone to read it.” This example is the purpose and intent behind this post, and my reflection. I felt these exact same things. EXACT! The difference: 30 years! It took me 30+years to get to this point. To have the opportunity to challenge myself and my reflection feelings, and here 10 year olds were learning this for the first time. Imagine the power in that. The potential power they have and will continue to have. With some encouragement, time, and small steps, here are some examples; YES, examples of the grade six before, right after, and then after receiving a mark on their exam, reflection.

It’s hard, really hard to be honest with yourself and put yourself out there. I did it. My students are starting to do it. Hopefully more will continue and begin to do it.

No insightful words, no words of wisdom, I will just end with this:

…you are in control of what you put out, what you share, it’s your choice: try, leap, make time, take a risk, look inward…and push outward: with intent.

There’s so much you can do, so much power…with your reflection.

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