A Reflective Ride
I waited silently all through March for the last invigilation duty, the last paper to be totaled and the last working day; dreaming and planning the long vacation ahead of me.
As the bell rang at 4 pm, children flooded out of their classrooms, jumping and greeting each other ‘Happy Holidays’… I quickly packed up my things and walked towards the bus.
In the bus, I saw Krish, a 4th grader deeply engrossed in a book.
‘Hi Krish, Happy Holidays… what are you reading?’
‘Hi Ms Mala, Happy Holidays…I have decided to read four books from the library; I assigned this homework for myself. I am sure I am going to be better at reading by the next term. Do you have summer homework too?’
‘That is very good Krish. Yes we teachers have a lot to do too…’
All through the bus journey, I thought about what I said; of course I have a lot to do…
This is my 3rd year as a teacher. The first year I had to understand the various school processes, plan for hours before each class and had to work out various strategies to manage the class. The years that followed I got a hang of things; planning – teaching – assessing became an effortless activity. Children loved my classes, the lesson plans were modified each year, but since the classes that I taught were the same each year, I grew very comfortable with the content and the activities.
On the downside, there were always a few children who didn’t understand what is taught, didn’t do well in tests and the growing demands on teachers and the various sudden policies teachers need to adhere to, often lead to a sense of alienation and isolation leaving teachers feeling like mere pawns in the system.
As teachers, we have some successes and some failures. If, however, we believe that all students can learn at a high level and that our performance as a teacher has a direct impact on student learning, then what should our homework be?
Given all the complexities, ambiguities, and dilemmas that characterize today’s classrooms, what should our homework be?
Maybe what I am doing now is what is required!! Reflection…
Reflecting on – what we do in the classroom? How we teach? Why we teach the way we do? How we could do things differently and create change? Our thoughts about children, their attitudes, etc.
I noticed that these are things that we as teachers often think about and even talk about to our colleagues. Sometimes I tell my colleagues ‘My lesson went well’ or ‘My students didn’t seem to understand’ or ‘My students were so badly behaved today’. However, without more time spent focusing on or discussing on what happened, we tend to jump to conclusions.
All through summer, I systematically reflected back over the year, explored the highlights; I analyzed my thoughts and observations. I thought about the various things I could improve on, or do differently the next academic year.
The next academic year I made this a continuous process. Every day I dedicated fifteen minutes at the end of each day, sometimes in the bus, to reflect on some questions I thought were critical for my reflection.
One of the hardest things for me was, while examining and thinking about my teaching practices was to figure out what to look for. I read a couple of books on teacher reflection and narrowed on a few questions to focus on.
How do I interact with students?
How do I respond when they ask questions?
What kind of classroom atmosphere do I create?
What kinds of questions do I ask?
Is my classroom spontaneous or is it predictable?
Are my students involved?
Why did a class go well?
The next term was great. I continued the practice of reflection. I realized that teachers really influence their practice much more than they may think by engaging in systematic reflection about their work.
After a couple of terms, reflection became a part of my routine. I spoke to a few teachers about it and now we dedicate one of our monthly meetings for group reflection.
In my own journey, I have been able to take this further by looking at more than the initial set of questions I wrote down. I now explore other questions like –
Am I using wait time before and after I receive responses to questions?
Am I exploring alternative strategies suggested by different students?
Am I using various forms of communication: reading, writing, listening and speaking?
Am I modelling appropriately?
What kind of questions are my students asking?
Are my students talking to each other- disagreeing, challenging, and debating?
Are my students willing to take risks?
Are my students listening to each other?
Are my students taking time to think about the problem, question, idea, or the like?
Are my students able to explain their ideas clearly and precisely?
Are my students able to reflect on their experience?
I now feel proud that I am a reflective practitioner. Every evening when I sit in the bus and pull out my reflection journal, Krish knows I am doing my homework for sure, and now even I know I am!
Sharanya Sudhakar has a Masters Degree in Child Psychology with a keen interest in the affective domains of child development. She continuously works towards creating an enriching environment that promotes holistic development in children, be it through direct engagement or through directing activity towards such development. She is driven by the belief that adults too, need a navigator in psychological wellbeing as much it is believed that
She has been involved in creating and transacting Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) Workshops, developing learning standards along with a framework in the social and emotional domain, for schools in India through a pan India research study during her work with The Teacher Foundation and Azim Premji Foundation.