Should We As Teachers Take Time to Reflect? 3 Principles to Consider
I have jokingly called myself an “incubator.” I have strong opinions, but I love intellectually stimulating conversations where the group is made up of those who enjoy learning from others. If the conversation remains civil and focused on the betterment of society, I find these experiences invigorating and refreshing. They always lead to reflection and an adjustment of my opinions to incorporate what I have learned. The six principles of reflective practice compiled by Benade (2016) and the three reflective practices put forth by Larrivee (2000) can guide our reflections as teachers. Pulling from the nine principles discussed by these two authors, I will discuss three overarching principles of critical reflection.
The first was Larrivee’s “making time for solitary reflection” (2000). This practice for teachers resonated with me because this is something I do daily. My morning devotionals consist of prayer, reading, pondering, writing, and reviewing my goals. I truly believe that it is this consistent daily devotional time that makes a “balance easier to maintain” in my life (Ballard, 1987). Yes, these devotionals have a religious foundation, but they open my mind to clear thoughts, better practices, and a re-determination to improve myself which I know will help me be a better educator.
Intellectually Unsettling Conversations
The second practice is that it is only during these quiet morning hours that I am able to ponder on what Benade (2016) called “intellectually unsettling” topics, what Larrivee (2000) called “question[ing] the status quo” and what Wiseman (2013) called “ejecting the controlling influence of the oppressor...from our minds” (part 1). As a teacher, I want to always be on the frontlines of my profession so that I can incorporate every best practice into my teaching strategy. With strong opinion comes the temptation to hold to what has worked for me in the past, thus these morning sessions give me the time needed to sift through what I have learned in my teacher development and filter out information that no longer is directly useful to my teaching goals or my student’s needs. It is an uncomfortable but rewarding process that I hope I continue to fine-tune in myself.
Reflection Must Lead to Change
Along these same lines, a third principle that stood out to me was that “the outcome of reflection must be changed practice, with a social justice focus” (Benade 2016). It felt like the social reconstructivist bell in my mind rang when I read this. Teachers are social justice advocates on the front lines. Part of our reflective process must be to “deconstruct misperceptions and negative stereotypes that [we] have” (Andrews, Richmond, & Floden, 2018).
My Complete Shift in Perspective
In 2014 and 2015, while working at the Disability Services department for my church, I was asked to serve on a board researching the needs of church members in prison around the world. Having been raised in Arizona, I was taught that incarceration was meant to be punitive. (Meaning, the primary goal of incarceration was to punish those who broke the law..) With this assignment to serve on the Corrections Board, I dove into learning everything I could about penal systems around the world so that I could create resources that helped these members and their families.
It was a gargantuan job to become familiar with prison issues and widen my perspective on the role of incarceration in society. It took untold hours of self-reflection to challenge and reassess my assumptions. As I read voraciously each day, visited members in prisons, met with USA prison reform leaders, drafted resources for those affected by this issue, and toured Utah’s incredible rehabilitative prison system, my perspective began to change. In fact, I do not know if I have ever (before or since) had such a huge shift of perspective like I did in regards to punitive vs. rehabilitative prison systems and the people who find themselves incarcerated. It was in challenging my own status quo that I finally realized that for 80% of incarcerated people (those typically labeled “non-violent offenders”), a rehabilitative prison system was much more effective than punitive. Not only would it save the US government billions of dollars per year, but it would also give former convicts the chance to reintegrate into society rather than join the statistics of high recidivism in the United States. [83% of state prisoners released in 2005 were re-arrested at least once in the 9 years following their incarceration (US Department of Justice, 2018).] As I write this, I hope that I can always be open to this kind of shift in regards to other social and political issues.
In our effort to dispel our deeply held assumptions and seek for truth, our reflection cannot be stagnant but must directly lead to action. “Part of cultivating democratic and justice-oriented pedagogies” is for us to “develop relationships with learners” and “[interact] with community leaders and experts” to better serve the needs of our students from a wide range of backgrounds (Benade, 2016; Paris, 2012).
Andrews, D.J., Richmond, G., & Floden, R. (2018). Teacher Education for Critical Democracy: Understanding Our Commitments as Design Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(2), 114-117. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323227214_Teacher_Education_for_Critical_Democracy_Understanding_Our_Commitments_as_Design_Challenges_and_Opportunities
Benade, L. (2016). Teachers’ reflective practice in the context of twenty-first-century learning. In Open Review of Educational Research 3:1, pages 133-147. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/23265507.2014.998159
Ballard, R. M. (1987, April). Keeping Life’s Demands in Balance. In The Ensign Magazine. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1987/04/keeping-lifes-demands-in-balance
Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3102/0013189X12441244
Larrivee, B. (2000). Transforming Teaching Practice: Becoming the critically reflective teacher. Reflective Practice,1(3), 293-306. Retrieved October 24, 2020, from http://ed253jcu.pbworks.com/f/Larrivee_B_2000CriticallyReflectiveTeacher.pdf
U.S. Department of Justice. (2018). 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: A 9-Year Follow-up Period (2005-2014). Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/18upr9yfup0514.pdf
Wiseman, A. (2013, April 18). Human Rights: Frieres (sic) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Part 1. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk6zyEiyaXA