I have been fascinated by the Throwback Thursday concept on social media for quite a while. Admittedly, I have also been slightly horrified as I imagine friends from high school or college posting awful pictures of me online. But what I have loved watching is the collection of small moments that each person posts that give us insight into how they became the person they are now. That wasn’t an awkward sentence at all!
But, seriously, it got me thinking about teaching and how when we look at a teacher, we see them right now. However, each teacher, just like each student, has a collection of memories and moments that have shaped every single decision they make in the classroom. So…I am going to take each Thursday to reflect on a moment – big or small – that has helped to shape who I am today. And, yes, I know that some of the moments that have had the biggest impact on me are probably ones that I haven’t (yet) recognized. But, hopefully, with thought and reflection, I can unearth those moments as well.
Like many teachers, my teacher education program has (obviously) had a profound influence on everything I do. No shock there. But I would like to focus today on a specific area of my program – on reflections.
Teachers College – or at least the Elementary Education program, is big on reflection. As a student teacher, I wrote a reflection every day. Every single day. And then at the end of the week, I reflected on my daily reflections. And at the end of the semester, I reflected on my daily and weekly reflections. At the time I was slightly overwhelmed. I imagined myself in a kind of hall of mirrors where I just kept staring at my reflection in various combinations of shapes and sizes. How much reflection can I do? What else was there to say? What deep dark secrets lay beneath my sweet, young, fueled on social justice and coffee student-teacher exterior?
I learned that in my effort to empower girls, I was leaving out boys. I learned that I really love working and chatting with families. I learned that even though I thought I was comfortable with kids who were somersaulting across the rug during story time…it drove me crazy. I learned that I had more stereotypes embedded in my being than I care to count and I learned that I had to face each one head on. I learned that because I was panicked about boys not reading, I tended to chose read-alouds that featured boys…and forgot about girl main characters. I learned the power of asking children what they want. I learned that the world was heartbreaking. I learned that children were miraculously fragile and resilient at the same time.
To this day, I still take fifteen minutes at the end of each day – even if it’s the last thing I do before bed – and write a reflection. When I am short on brain space, I simply answer the following questions:
- What went well today?
- What challenged me today?
- What am I going to do to make it better?
- Who do I need to think about / talk to / love on tomorrow?
And everyday, I learn things about myself – some of which hurt to think about. But it is those very discoveries – the embarrassing ones, the “how can a progressive educator think like this” ones, the ones I would prefer to pretend did not exist – that propel me forward as a teacher. That send me on a research mission to learn more about my students. About their families. About the experiences of other classroom teachers facing the same challenge. About the research on this topic.
Without this constant pause in an otherwise hectic teaching day, I may miss so many vital little moments. So many doorways into better supporting my students. Our days as a teacher are full and emotional and hectic and exhausting. We witness so many details and think a zillion thoughts. Reflection has been the tool that has allowed me to capture – if but a snapshot – of my thinking each day.