Looking at the reflection beyond a mirror

Bird Droppings January 4, 2012

Looking at the reflection beyond a mirror


I was looking over again a book this morning “Qualities of an effective teacher” by Dr. James H. Stronge, Professor in Educational Policy, Planning, and leadership at theCollegeofWilliamand Mary,WilliamsburgVirginia. Stronge looked at students and how various aspects of a teacher’s involvement effect the student’s achievement, verbal ability, intellectual ability, content knowledge, certification, and experience. One aspect that was most intriguing to me was, “the Role of reflective practice”. As I recall having read this book in 2008 or so and now Dr. Stronge is employed by the state to come up with an effective teacher evaluation program I think it is interesting how he sees teachers.


“Reflective teachers portray themselves as students” “Effective teachers are not afraid of feedback; in fact they elicit information and criticism from others.” Thoughtful reflection translates into enhanced teacher efficacy. And a teacher’s sense of efficacy has an impact on how he or she approaches instructional content and students.” Educators confidence in their ability to facilitate the learning and understanding of material by students is observable by others.” James H. Stronge


It might be said that Stronge’s was borrowing his thoughts on reflection from many years ago. Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, Henry David Thoreau walked away from teaching to be a student. Only in being a student himself could he teach.


“I find that the rising generation in this town do not know what an Oak or a pine is, having seen only inferior specimens. Shall we hire a man to lecture on botany, on oaks for instance, our noblest plants-while we permit others to cut down the few best specimens of these trees that are lefty It is like teaching children Latin and Greek while we burn the books printed in those languages.” Henry David Thoreau


Much of Thoreau’s thought process and writing was as he walked through his area of New England, learning about the world and people within. It is introspection and reflection that lead me to my early morning writing and reading. I started looking at a well used journaling of sorts’ websites, Facebook, WordPress, Myspace.com, where students, teachers, friends and family use the medium to reflect and post thoughts ideas often more trivial and whimsical than introspective yet within the milieu of ideas there is thinking and reflection. For in writing about yourself and views on things you are offering a view to the world of yourself.


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau


I have watched education change since 2004 as we are putting so much emphasis on testing specifically standardized tests as a means of finding about learning or what has been learned in a given space of time. How many facts can an individual hold within a given cranial space? Is there a limit based on some cognitive level indicator as to how much any given person can acquire and retain? IQ has long been used as a determining factor in cognitive ability often just a simple test and we have an IQ score, but of course the bell shaped curve applies and at either end are the exceptions and in many cases those left behind.

So when we look further and find not everyone with a high IQ succeeds, and not everyone with a low IQ fails. Testing perhaps is not an accurate science after all in many situations. We use norms and percentiles and cumulative averages to provide the data for our theorizing. We look for patterns, and we look for trends. Can we really find an indicator of learning or of knowledge?


“Reflection is an essential activity that takes place at key points throughout the work. Teachers and learners engage in conscious and thoughtful consideration of the work and the process. It is this reflective activity that evokes insight and gives rise to revisions and refinements.” The Foxfire Approach to teaching and learning


For several years on another website I have watched and read many students and friends’ journals, granted it is ancient to many, xanga has been a tool used by literally millions of people to vent daily, and or wonder daily. Many offer inner reflections of daily happening in learning and in life. I use journals myself in class to allow a freedom of speaking out of reviewing and pondering the day’s events most often hand written since some have aversion to computers. Some students chose to be very simple and direct, such as, “I went home ate dinner and fell asleep”. Often as I read each day others will offer inroads to their thinking and understanding.

Perhaps as I look back at Stronge’s ideas from his book. This line stood out, “Reflective teachers portray themselves as students”. It is a desire to learn that carries over to students. I have found over the years that simply telling someone to do something often is met with disaster, as in teaching, it is in interacting and in doing that learning occurs. Reflection offers a doing, a chance to look at what we do know and how we believe we can apply it. For several weeks I have been reading graduate student’s reflections, for some it is simply the professor wants this and this and here it is. However others open up and truly reflect on the topic, going into their inner most understanding, rather than simply regurgitating content and information.

One paper I read recently was a reflection on the entire ten core practices involved in the Foxfire Approach to teaching and how you as a teacher utilized or considered these in your teaching. As I read several teachers numbered one to ten and listed responses, some reflected on the overall impact of just now revealing and how crucial and important some of this information was, some even avoided touching on some practices. Yet as I read what is a reflection continually popped in my mind as a question.

When I look in the mirror I see a close but not exact view. It is depending on the angle and set of the mirror and in that much can be different. However it is still only one view at that precise moment in time.  The question was about your involvement now and this person admittedly was not involved but saw the potential in it. So while not addressing some addressed all indirectly. Reflecting, pondering, and offering a view and views that is open for perspective as well can lead to further discussion and reflection. I am wandering as I write today. A long holiday of nearly three weeks and being lazy after all that relaxing has muddled my thoughts. But one key thought for the day reflect on where you are and where you going as a teacher and as a learner. Please my friends as always keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.




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