This is the second post in a series looking at the following essential attitudes for reflection:
Wholeheartedness, directness, open-mindedness, responsibility, curiosity, the desire for growth
(The first four were identified by John Dewey. The latter two were added to the list by Carol Rodgers.)
noun. straightness (trueness of course toward a goal) (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=directness)
Directness is explained by Carol Rodgers as “… not self-consciousness, distractedness, or constant preoccupation with how others perceive one’s performance. [But rather] an attitude of trust in the validity of one’s own experience without spending a lot of time worrying about the judgment of others…”
The attitude of directness reveals a key difference between reflection and self-absorption.
Self-conscious teachers are focused on themselves. What am I going to do in this lesson? Will I be able to get through this lesson? What do the students think of me?
Distracted teachers are very often thinking of the lesson plan. What are we going to do next? Do I have what I need for this activity? Do we have enough time for this? What will we do if there’s too much time?
Preoccupied teachers are worried about how they are perceived by their colleagues. What will the other teachers think of me when I tell them my ideas? What will they think of me if I tell them that I’m not sure how to teach these students? How can I tell them that I’m having a problem in this class?
Just think of all the “white noise” that these questions create when they’re rolling around in our minds! No wonder teachers can find it difficult to see what’s actually happening in the classroom.
The best way that I’ve found to cut through the noise of those questions and combat the self-doubt that creeps in with them is to simply pay attention to your students. What are they able to do or communicate? What are they having problems with? What are they learning?
These are not easy questions to answer. But questions like these are really the only important ones to be thinking about in the classroom. If what is important to you is student learning.
What did the students learn and how do I know they learned it?
I didn’t know how to answer this question when I first started reflecting on my teaching. I hadn’t yet developed the ability to really see the students and what they were working on. I didn’t have the “…attitude of trust in the validity of [my] own experience…” But I stuck with it and gradually learned how to turn my attention away from my self-absorption and my lesson plan and worrying about my colleagues. I became curious about my students and what was going on with them.
“What did the students learn and how do I know they learned it?” even became the basis for the action research project that I did for my master’s thesis. (Which doesn’t mean I’m an expert now, just that I learned a lot about how to recognize learning when it’s happening in front of me.)
Directness, noun. straightness “trueness of course towards a goal”
The reflective teacher’s true goal is the learning of their students. It’s the reason we’re in the classroom. Anything else is just white noise.