“A teacher who has reflective thinking skills is able to identify problems that may occur in the teaching/learning process and to produce solutions for overcoming such problems.” (Shoffner, 2006).
During my PGCE year, I can recall having to maintain what seemed like endless sheets of reflection pages. After each lesson I would routinely jot down my thoughts on my teaching, resurrecting the experience, some of which I would have consigned to perpetual amnesia if possible! However, this discipline proved very fruitful. It was empowering as it allowed me to identify patterns and anomalies. These patterns and anomalies allow us to forge a road map we can use to better navigate our experiences and manage the day to day goings on.
This led me to consider the question: what if entire teaching teams in our schools reflected more deeply and habitually? Would this improve the quality of instruction? Would we create a better educational experience for our students?
So, how do you reflect on your own practice as an educator? -blog? -journal? -dialogue with others?
When delivering eLearning, I always start each lesson with a Daily Dose of Motivation statement. This is my way of stoking the fire in my students’ bellies and giving them something both inspiring and encouraging to think about.
One example of my Daily Dose of Motivation was the theme, ‘Staying Connected’. With all of us having to practise social distancing, I felt it significant to remind my students of the need to maintain relationships: checking in with family, friends and neighbours (safely).
For many young people, I knew this could be a time of loneliness and isolation, as they adapt to life devoid of the buzz and community of school, hence the reason for sharing a few tips on keeping connected to those they care about.
1. The ability to empathise 2. The ability to notice small details 3. The ability to be both reflective and reflexive
Not for a moment am I suggesting that these traits are inherent and possessed naturally. These abilities can be cultivated with diligent effort and application. In fact, some of the best teachers I have encountered have found these skills don’t come naturally but have had to work at them. In my own experience as a teacher I found number 2 particularly difficult. As someone who is more naturally a big picture person, noticing the small details in the classroom was hard for me: the two students chatting quietly at the back; the tiny ball of paper flicked across the room.
What else would you add to this list of essential non cognitive skills for teachers?