Reflection is necessary and very beneficial, but hard to do.
Why is reflection hard to do? Time and Screens
Many times as a teacher, husband, and father I either do not take the time to reflect or simply do not have the time. As a teacher, I am often busy grading papers, entering grades, preparing lessons, working with students, teaching with an overload, or working on preparing a presentation. This means I do not always have the time to ponder on what is going on. I have no time to ask myself “How is each class going?” or “How can I improve the student learning in my classes?” Once in a while I have time to reflect at school but I often choose to talk with a colleague or go hang out with students instead of reflecting. Both of these are important. Positive relationships with fellow teachers are helpful and encouraging, while relationships with students can often be enjoyable, as well as educational. Outside of school I have family responsibilities with kids’ activities, household duties, and the never ending “to do” list.
So why would I say “screens” keep me from reflecting? When I am at school and have time I may check my email, the weather, or Twitter for interesting educational ideas. All of these activities and apps take place within a screen. When I am at home and have time to reflect, I may hang out with my family or just want some down time, so I turn to a screen (TV with Netflix) to relax. All this can be good but it keeps my mind occupied so I can’t reflect. When I am sitting waiting for my son to get done with soccer practice, I pull out my phone to check email instead of just sitting there and reflecting on my teaching or personal life.
Why is reflection important?
When you reflect you are able to see what is going well, what is going okay but could be improved upon, and what is going poorly, definitely needing to be changed and improved. I recently had the pleasure of having some time to reflect. I was at a conference and took the advantage of spare time to reflect with colleagues. Conferences are normally great times to network and learn new things, but at this conference I had the joy of reflecting with two of my co-workers. I had the pleasure of driving three and a half hours to this conference with one colleague which was a great time to talk. For us, that meant discussing our classrooms and our schools. Talking about what is going well, what we are doing, why, what we would like to change in our classrooms, as well as many other topics. After three and a half hours we arrived and joined a third colleague. The three of us continued to reflect on how things are going for a couple more hours. We normally meet and talk one hour a week during our PLC (Professional Learning Community) but having multiple hours to just talk and reflect was wonderfully energizing. The next night we had more time to talk and reflect over food after attending multiple breakout sessions.
Reflection is hard to do but I would encourage you to find the time or make the time, to do so. This can be done by removing screens at least once a week for the purpose of reflection. This time spent in thought will give you a new, fresh perspective. It will help you see how blessed you are, and help you see the important instead of just the urgent. Having the chance to reflect for multiple hours with a colleague or friend is of great benefit as well.