How often are you counting down the days until Friday, or do the weeks come and go with ease? Either way, how often do you stop to recognize and celebrate the victories or challenges?
Steven Brookfields’ writing in Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher has transformed my teaching practice by introducing me to the weekly rhythm of critical reflection. “Embedding critical thinking practices into a weekly rhythm helps you to develop insight into your own emotional and cognitive rhythms as a teacher” (Brookfield, 1995). The day-to-day moments once reflected on allowed me to gain a deeper insight into my teaching practice by bringing light to what types of moments recharged me as a teacher, aiding in evaluating the effectiveness of instructional approaches, and acknowledging tasks that nagged at me.
Below are some examples of questions Brookfield suggests you include in your weekly reflection. The list is not exhaustive nor exclusive, but rather a place to start your reflective journey.
- What was the moment (or moments) this week when I felt most connected, engaged, or affirmed as a teacher – the moment(s) I said to myself, “This is what being a teacher is really all about”?
- What was the moment (or moments) this week when I felt most disconnected, disengaged, or bored as a teacher – the moment(s) I said to myself, “I’m just going through the motions here”?
- Of everything I did this week in my teaching, what would I do differently if I had the chance to do it again?
- What was the situation that caused me the greatest anxiety or distress-the kind of situation that I kept replaying in my mind as I was dropping off to sleep, or that caused me to say to myself, “I don’t want to go through this again for a while”?
- What was the event that most took me by surprise – an event where I saw or did something that shook me up, caught me off guard, knocked me off my stride, gave me a jolt, or made me unexpectedly happy?
- What do I feel proudest of in my teaching activities this week? Why?
Through the practice of critical reflection, you can get a glimpse into yourself as a teacher. Can you recognize the warning signs of an emotional low or identify teaching tasks that bring you energy? Are you trying new strategies and taking risks, or are you bored on a regular basis? Are your priorities aligned with your student’s needs? Are you able to see any common themes or trends in your reflections?
Brookfield’s voice has been a guiding light, aiding in the reflective journey that has brought me towards being a more intentional teacher. This crucial process of self-reflection has added valuable merit to my practice as “learning something new and different and reflecting on how it feels – can change fundamentally how one teaches” (Brookfield, 1995). Before engaging in critical reflection, I was unaware of how my memories and experiences affected my triggers, joys, passions, and underpinning purpose for being an educator. “Recognizing the discrepancy between what is and what should be is often the beginning of the critical journey” (Brookfield, 1995).