I recently overheard a teacher talking to a child in timeout. The teacher wanted to know if the student had thought about what they did during the timeout. The child nodded her head to show that she had and when the teacher asked what she was going to do next time, of course, the child responded by saying she would use words and wouldn’t hit. The teacher sent the child back to play and the little girl skipped away. It had me wondering if a timeout is one of our earliest experiences with reflection. Now, some could say that isn’t really true reflection because children often just say what they think their parent or teacher wants to hear. I agree that this is sometimes the case, as young children are still learning to control their behavior.
However, I think at times, we as adults still do this. When asked to reflect on something do we just come up with what we think is the right answer? I have found that often when we are being told to reflect, we sometimes just say what we think the other person wants to hear. I have done this many times before and in the situation, it seems easier. Both parties involved may feel like the conversation went well, but has any learning taken place? Are our students doing the same thing when we ask them to reflect on a project or experience? Are they just saying what they think we want to hear? When we are only used to reflecting when we are told, it is easy to feel like there is a right answer we need to give.
I start almost every day with a to-do list written down because it is helpful for me to see my goals for the day in print and also because I also love the satisfaction that comes with crossing things off. I realized at the end of each day I was only paying attention to what I hadn’t crossed off. I was stressing about what I hadn’t accomplished and not reflecting on anything that I actually did. I recently started to include reflection on my to-do list. I know that reflection isn’t necessarily something you just check off a list but it is helpful for me to see it on the list as a reminder throughout my day. We all have short and long term goals and often these are things that we can’t accomplish in a day, but we can take steps towards them each day.
Ask yourself what happened today that helped you get closer to your goal. Sometimes this might be a “failure” or something that didn’t work out the way you had planned. Reflecting on why it happened can help you move forward.
For our students, reflection shouldn’t just come at the end of a unit, it is something that should naturally be occurring each day. Are we giving our students time to think about what they accomplished during the day and what they did that allowed them to move closer to their goal? If we value reflection then we need to make time for it, both for ourselves and for our learners.