According to my learning style survey, my response to action is “reflective”. In accordance to this week’s module regarding reflective teaching practice, I suddenly wonder if I am really able to use this learning style to maximize my teaching abilities.
Somehow, in the year I’ve been teaching kids, I’ve somehow been more reactive than proactive, especially on my first year of it. It was a year of trial-and-error situations, frustration over school policies and handling students with attitudes, and so I’ve always asked myself: “What can I do to make things easier? What can I do to be an effective teacher?” After a while, I realized that the questions and desires that I had were all directed to my own comfort, not my students.
Struggling every single day to find the right balance in class was stressful. There would be a few lucky classes wherein there was relative ease in teaching, but until I revised my questions and made it about my student, did the classes become more comfortable. I started asking:
How can ______ learn more about phonemes easier?
How can I help in the foundation of using the senses for descriptive writing?
I wonder how to encourage ______ in writing and reading when he thinks he is stupid and almost gives up on his potential to grow?
When I started to find answers to these learner-centered questions, the more rewarding the work became.
Indeed, teaching is a lot of work and I rely on this as my bread and butter, but it evolves beyond that whenever that EUREKA! moment arrives; that moment you’ve seen the improvement that you’ve genuinely worked and hoped for your student. Even when I was teaching adults ESL, that moment of pure joy when you hear and feel the student comprehending, the feeling was so wonderful, it’s suddenly years of that mission to push more, to help more.
After years of teaching without formal education, I decided to pursue it. This very entry regarding reflective teaching is a result of my earlier reflections about my life and where I want to direct it. I couldn’t imagine myself working as a teacher online my whole life, so I tried a new environment. I knew that I was already in love with teaching, but I felt like I needed to find something new. When I took that risk, when I opened my horizon to new possibilities, better things happened. Of course, there’s the whole new getting-to-know-you phase and it was a struggle for some months, but like how I learned how to ride a bike in which I stumbled many times, got bruised, scratched, and flew out of it like a slingshot, I have a better grasp of it now. This work has become even more rewarding because of those hardships.
What I need to do now is make teaching reflections as part of my routine, especially building a journal dedicated to it. Actually, I have blogs for different purposes and notebooks for my personal thoughts. I’ve always considered writing as a therapy for my emotions which I was never comfortable expressing to anyone, not even my family or closest friends. Of course, I’m better at expressions now, but writing had remained a preference. Therefore, I agree with Scales (2008) that: “Writing is a very effective way to make sense of experience—to organize, evaluate and learn from it. Creative writing is often used as a form of therapy by which people can work things out and find solutions for problems.” (p.17)
Actually, in my work, we are required to have a notebook for every student to jot down notes about the date of the class and the topic covered. What was not required of us was to have personal notes about the class, so I never bothered. However, reflecting on it, I should devote time to write more about what transpired during the class, including a model which Gibbs (1998) provided: description of what happened in class, my thoughts and feelings about it, my evaluation of it, an analysis, and then general and specific conclusions.
What I have to let go is the thought that doing reflective writing is added work, but have a mindset that it would be helpful to improve myself as a teacher and especially for my students.
Teaching is a life-long learning, I am starting to understand. How I am ever thankful for its nature that I get to learn further while I help make changes to an individual’s life.
“To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed—and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you imagine.”
Haruki Murakami on writing and running from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2007, memoir)
Scales, P. (2008). The reflective teacher. Teaching in the lifelong learning sector, 7 – 26. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press