Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reflection is the New Enlightenment

Reflection is a process I have only lately come to appreciate.  I know they say don’t live in the past, but to me that is funny since through reflection I feel like I have finally begun to “live in the present”.

When I first returned to teaching following a ten year break to raise my three children, I struggled mightily with whom I had been and who I was now.  I remembered myself then as young, fearless, and motivated.  I had time for every committee and energy for every fight.  I created curriculum, completed my Master’s degree, and within the next six years I was offering PD within my own district and the state. Now I am older, wiser, with a parent’s perspective but still motivated.  My weekends are filled with sports games and laundry, and I rarely get to read a full article from a magazine let alone a full book.  That first year, I struggled to reconcile the “rock star” teacher I felt I had been with the teacher I was now, often being caught between giving my time, energy and resources to the kids in my classroom or my own children at home.  Through reflection I began to prioritize what was relevant and meaningful for all involved.

This year, thanks to Celina, I started blogging.  At first I had no idea what I would say.  Yet eventually I found my voice and through reflecting on my process and experience I began to look critically at my practice and make connections. Then, as a new teacher in a classroom with 25 third and fourth graders, I quickly learned that my diverse students would not fit within one curriculum, and began instead to fit the curriculum to my students and what they needed.  My younger self wanted to inspire students to be lifelong learners.  Reflecting now, I see that I am still that teacher that I was.  While my classroom is now a multiage class of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, I still see learning as both student driven and a lifelong process, and my work in education now focuses on the 21st century critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills that are necessary to make learning a lifelong endeavor.  I often reflect through our blog how I am seeing students transformed and connecting these meaningful moments to refinements I can make in my teaching practice.

So often I find that reflection can be focused on the missed opportunity or disappointing lesson within the day.  Then by discussing, blogging or listening to the voices of my students I can be brought right back to the present with a comment like, “Bye Mrs. Ottmar, I had a great learning day today.”  Just hearing that had me reflecting on what had MADE a difference for that child and growing from the experience.

Reflecting is transforming what I do, inspiring me to grow and adapt, to read and ponder, to laugh with my kids and at myself.  I can only believe that THIS present is the best teaching I have ever done, and that belief comes so much from my reflective process.  ~ Ann

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