After teaching a number of years, I began to recognize the importance of daily reflection. Each day, I would look back and go over the positive and negative parts of the day in my mind. I’d think about lessons, behavior management, interactions with colleagues and parents….the things that went well and would do again, and things that didn't work and needed to be discarded or changed.
In my early years it was easy to blame those factors that were beyond my control such as, lack of parent participation and discipline, poverty, and class size for the failure of a lesson or poor behavior management. However, I eventually realized that although many factors in teaching urban children were beyond my control, I needed to say to myself, “If this is the reality, what am I going to do in the classroom to change the situation?”
Some changes were easier than others: initiating parent contacts with a positive comment about the child, documenting all behavior issues, swift parent communication as soon as problems arose, keeping professional conversations with colleagues as positive as possible to avoid too much venting my frustrations on one or two people.
However, changes in other areas such as lesson planning, behavior management, and classroom management were much harder and took much greater effort on my part. Sometimes, change came from learning something new each year: taking a workshop on a behavior management strategy, learning about and being mentored in cooperative learning strategies, and visiting other classes to view reader’s workshop in action. Implementing each one took extra work and planning on my part. However, with each new thing I had learned, I had grown as an educator. Ultimately, my class benefited from my efforts. Also, by implementing each strategy gradually into my classroom routine each year, my workload was more manageable.
Ideally, daily reflection should be part of every teacher’s routine. It helped me set goals and provided an opportunity for growth. Some days, I felt like the worst teacher in the world, but those days made me work harder and/or change. Other days, I felt like I had “nailed” every lesson and was on top of the world.
At one of the workshops I had attended many years ago the presenter left us with something that has always stayed with me. He said, “The name of the game is WORK!” That really says it all.
A Note from the School Counselor:
Daily, hourly, in the midst of an individual session, in-the-middle of a small group, during a meeting, or during a phone call, self-reflection is so, so, so very important. I always teach my graduate students that the ability to accurately reflect on your actions, take responsibility for your actions, and then making necessary changes will be the keys to becoming a great school counselor. No one said it would be easy, but it sure is a necessity. We have all met folks who seem to lack the skill of self-reflection or the ability to self-reflect. We have all been faced with the nay-sayers, the folks who always say "I've tried everything," and those who blame the lack of progress on the student instead of figuring out how to improve instruction and management, how to intervene in a different way, or how to reach a student by building relationships.
For me, I feel my self-reflection abilities are on hype-drive. I sometimes consider it (and my perfectionism) my weaknesses. Funny to say, but many times I have to reign it in a bit and remind myself that I am human. I will always be my own worst critic...
I have often felt that the ability to self-reflect is somewhat innate - you either have it or you don't. Again, because we are in the people business, we witness this first hand daily. Think about some of the student's you've worked with...for me, some of my most difficult cases have involved students who lack the cognitive skills to self-reflect and take responsibility for their actions. Because of this, they rarely recognize that the choice they made was a poor one and in turn, are unwilling explore alternative behavioral choices. Think about some of the adults you've worked with...for me, my most difficult consultation situations include those times when the adult isn't willing (or able?) to reflect on their choices or alter they way they are currently doing things for the benefit of the child involved.
I found this interesting article in a recent search. It doesn't answer my question if the ability to self-reflect is innate, but it sure does offer a bunch of information to think about.