Because it’s the time of year it is, and because off stuff that has happened to me recently, I have been wondering whether remembering is enough, whether thinking about things incessantly is useful in any way or whether – as we tell teachers all the time (and try to practise) – reflection really helps us to change, and if so (bear with me!) whether reflection has to be done in a certain way.
We’ll get to being a reflective teacher in a bit, I promise….
In Britain, as in many other countries around the world, we remember the men and women who died fighting for their country. We call it Remembrance Sunday and it takes place on the Sunday as close to November 11 as is possible. Why November 11? Well, because the armistice/peace treaty which ended the First World War (1914 – 1918) was signed at 11 am on November 11 in 1918. And so every year the bands play, the Queen and the country’s political leaders go to the Cenotaph in London (see the photograph below) and lay wreaths of poppies (poppies grew in the fields of Flanders where millions of young men were slaughtered in that useless conflict all those years ago).
Why do we have ceremonies like this? Yes, of course we should honour people who die for their country, though the history of British military action is not a story, necessarily, of universal nobility. But is remembering enough? It feels beautiful and solemn to some (irrelevant to many others), but do we learn anything from it? Does it help to stop wars, does it lead us to a better understanding of who we are and what we do?
And what about the moments of love and grief – or even the more quotidian awkwardnesses of ordinary life – that we all experience? Do we learn from them? Do we (do you) transform experience into future action, future wisdom? Or do we/you just live them, experience their sadness, elation or ordinariness, learning nothing?
Which is where teaching and learning comes in. I mean, all this wondering makes me think about being a reflective teacher, something I have written about before, of course.
To be a reflective teacher means to try and think about the experiences we have had so that they can be changed, modified, and made better when we repeat them in the future. It is different from just flopping into a chair in the staffroom saying ‘that was a terrible lesson!’ and doing nothing about it (something we have all done!) But if people can’t be reflective in their ordinary lives (and many can’t), how can they be expected to do it in their professional ones?
So I guess the questions I have for this blog post go something like this:
Do you think I have described being a reflective teacher appropriately?
Are you yourself a reflective teacher? Trainer? And if so why, how do you do it, and what effect does it have?
Or are you, perhaps, too damn busy to have much time for reflection and consequent action?
Are you a reflective ‘liver’ (person I mean, not thing!!)? Or do you find yourself repeating the same old behaviour patterns again and again??
And is Karl Marx right that “History repeats itself, the first as tragedy, then as farce?”