Reflection is so much more than a mirror

Bird Droppings April 18, 2011
Reflection is so much more than a mirror

I was sitting out in my back yard as I do every morning listening and thinking wondering about the coming day and week so much to ponder as I listened to the haunting call of a whippoorwill. A friend had gone for an interview last week and I was curious how that had gone. A former student is recovering from an accident and again I was wondering how they were doing. I was sitting contemplating and listening to sounds that were ever so silent with the crickets beginning to start the new life as temperatures permit and in the distance spring peepers responding as well to warmer weather.
My graduate studies began at Piedmont College nearly ten years ago. I was at the time intrigued by a concept of reflection built into each of the courses and degrees and literally every day existence in the education department at Piedmont. It is not a reflective position such as from looking in a mirror but one of a deeper pondering of what is going on around you and with your experiences and understandings. I met Dr. Jane McFerrin after failing my initial interview for admittance into graduate school. On a side note the individual who failed me on my first interview and I are good friends now and share many common ideas corresponding regularly now. I was informed I had to go for an additional interview with the Dean of education which was a scary thought as I drove up to Piedmont College.
I found the education department sort of tucked under the library and although I have sat on the steps many times waiting for classes to start since that time watching the lake and geese that time was very significant. Dr, McFerrin called me in and introduced me to the assistant Dean of Education Dr. Cummings who is now the Dean. She asked how could she get on my Bird Droppings mailing list which was my first interview question and sort of caught me by surprise. I was on my second interview having failed the first as being “not professionally suited for teaching” and perhaps it was because I do have an issue with ties and how was I to respond to this first question. I got Dr. McFerrin email address and added her to the list over ten years ago.

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, Past Dean of the Department of Education, Piedmont College

For me this is a very powerful statement and as I proceeded over the next five years to earn my masters and specialists degrees at Piedmont College that term reflective more than once was mentioned it became the standard of each class.

“…reflection is decidedly educational. It is simply an opportunity through which one can learn from experience. Reflection can take numerous forms, and touch on an endless variety of issues. It furthers learning and inspires provocative thought and action. Most of all, it can benefit the individual and the community.” Julie Reed & Christopher Koliba, Facilitating Reflection

It has been many years since the great educator John Dewey promoted reflection in his writings, of utilizing experience, understanding, and reflecting to promote and encourage thinking, and thinking about our thinking to borrow from Donald Schon.

“There are actions, recognitions, and judgments, which we know how to carry out spontaneously; we do not have to think about them prior to or during their performance. We are often unaware of having to learn to do these things; we simply find ourselves doing them. In some cases, we were once aware of the understandings which were subsequently internalized in our feeling for the stuff of action. In other cases, we may never have been aware of them. In both cases, however, we are usually unable to describe the knowing which our action reveals.” Donald Schon, The reflective practioneer: How professionals think in action

With teachers so often we hear or read about being burnt out. That aspect that teachers get so caught up in what they are doing it becomes tedious and boring. Reflection helps to alleviate this process and provides insight into each day and each experience. Earlier today as I read a response to a comment I made I was described as weird. I thought back to my daily greeting from a particular student, Mr. Bird you are weird. What my student is implying is I am different. If you asked him should I be normal he will respond, not hardly. He liked me weird. I thought about it and as I described an explanation I was reflecting on weirdness. I did not see my self as weird but as I looked around my class room yesterday it was not normal peeking in others as I walked down the hall. I have no desks and no official board so to say although I have a portable one when needed with bits and pieces of everything and anything scattered about, questioning sources I call them. My favorite question is Mr. Bird what is this? It is amazing how a day can go when a student asks a real question one inspired by inquisitiveness and not by a lesson plan. That is where true learning occurs and it is then transferring that inquisitiveness to the subject at hand that is the secret. I will reflect on that today but please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

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