Making Time for Reflection

At this busy time of the year, many of us feel overwhelmed and stressed – even a little burned-out and ready for the break. At some point over the holiday break, when you’ve had time to rest and rejuvenate – take a moment to reflect.

Reflection can be a powerful tool to help us set goals for the future and learn from our mistakes.  These three simple questions can guide you toward meaningful reflection in both your personal and professional life:

  • What should I stop doing?
  • What should I start doing?
  • What should I continue doing?

Reflection doesn’t always happen naturally. We need to be intentional and purposeful in our reflections. As simple as these questions sound, they provide a structure and a scaffold that guide you to develop reflection as a habit of mind – as a way to pause and consider how to best move forward in your life.

It’s also important that we, as educators, reflect collectively and share our thoughts on what we need to stop, start, and continue doing – so that we can all move toward more innovative ways of teaching and learning. The reflections below (published by David B. Hawley) highlight exactly what I believe we should stop, start, and continue.

What Should We Stop Doing?

Stop teaching as if we have the answers.

Nothing could more powerfully demonstrate an inquiry-based approach to learning, becoming, and doing than to design ways of engaging students with questions to which we ourselves do not know the answers. In this way, students may contribute to both their own understanding and also to ours.

Stop rushing.

We need to slow down the race to cover content. We need to get more creative about ways to focus on key conceptual understandings, and about designing ways to demonstrate evidence of applying these conceptual understandings. Deep learning takes time.

Stop talking.

Even with the most experiential, project-based approach, it would be good to figure out how much time any one person spends talking compared to listening. How much silence is there after any member of a group of learners poses a question? In a classroom setting, what would happen if we reduced teacher talk by 50 percent and increased the pause time between question and response by 50 percent?

What Should We Start Doing?

Start looking for problems to solve, actions to take, and beauty to create.

If we were to do something that really mattered to ourselves, our classrooms, our schools, and our community, the potential for impact would be at once local and global. Start finding ways to engage students in understanding real-world problems, and then support them in solving those problems. Every student should experience the joy that comes with being a unique and positive force in the world.

Start teaching with new discoveries about the brain in mind.

There is emerging evidence that where there is no emotion, there is no learning. Let’s bring a full spectrum of positive emotions to teaching and learning. A good place to start is by sharing your passion, personal mission, and the questions and problems that are important to you. Bring all this to your students. And have them bring theirs to you.

Start seeking out authentic, high-stakes audiences for student work.

We often ask students to spend many hours solving problems or creating things that are never shared beyond the teacher or the classroom. Partner with businesses, organizations, and your larger community to showcase innovative work produced by your students.

What Should We Continue Doing?

Continue with your professional development, and model the growth mindset in action.

If we ourselves can’t develop and model the 21st-century skills of collaboration, communication, and critical and creative thinking, how can we prepare students to master them? Regularly try new things in the classroom, and ask students for their feedback. Demonstrate that education is a lifelong process.

Continue to place our work with students in global contexts.

We share a common humanity, and that’s worth finding ways to be mindful of our interdependence. Foster the sense of connection that comes from seeing oneself as a part of a larger global community.

Continue believing in the potential of every student.

Each student can make a positive difference, and each should understand the importance of investing in his or her own well-being along with the well-being of others. We cannot develop ourselves or contribute to the development of others if we live stressed, unbalanced lives. Introducing and modeling habits of mindfulness and doing what it takes to maintain well-being are critical for our very survival.

Let’s start the new year with a clear focus on what we want to stop, start, and continue doing. Please share your own reflections in the comments.

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