21 January 2013

Bare your soul: Reflecting & Sharing

"The act of finding resources and thinking about them changes your practice. The more exploring I do, the more I try, and the more I learn." 
Richard Byrne, author of Free Technology for Teachers quoted in a chapter about 'Reflection' in 'Professional Learning in a Digital Age' by Kristen Swanson.

Teaching is all about modelling."Reflection in a public space creates a transparency for learning that benefits education" in more ways than one - it creates a forum for educators and it also creates positive models for learners.

"Being transparent about our successes and struggles is an important behaviour to model for our students"; being honest and open - particularly laying bare our mistakes and inadequacies - can be something that educators find challenging but the advent of Google in the classroom means we cannot and are not the sage on the stage; tech-savvy learners (and even those who aren't particularly) are now able and willing to refute our claims in a split-second with powerful search engines that put the world at their fingertips. We must be able to admit when we don't know; we must be able to ask them if we are not sure; we must be able to share in the search process for clarification; we must let them know that learning is life-long and we are all fallible. Sharing our gaps, our ups and downs, creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust that allows them to feel safe and able to take more risks, which is what we want to cultivate in learners (and educators). Equally, if learners see we are going through the process of reflection, of essentially making meaning and generating understanding from our new information and curation, we are in a better position to request the same of them. We have no real right to ask them to put themselves out there in the arena if we are not willing to do the same.

My learners have access to my blog (parents do, as do colleagues and the world); I doubt many of them read it but that is not the point. I ask them to write and publish personal thoughts and reflections about their learning, their mistakes and their successes - and I share these with the world, through links to other classes in the school, to the community through links in newsletters, to other schools in the country, and beyond, out into the world through our Quadblogging partners. Therefore, I feel a responsibility to do the same.

Blogging has become my sanity, me new coping mechanism. After my second child, many issues from my past came out - as is often the case. My inability to let go and do too much at once manifest in sleepless nights with whirlwind thoughts scattered across my brain - and teaching lends the same problems. I was given the advice of having a notebook by my bed and when I awoke in the wee small hours with a million and one ideas and thoughts fighting against my need for rest, I was encouraged to write them down. I found the process of writing them down very helpful - my scattered thoughts found a place more real and tangible, they became more than thoughts and ideas and so they stopped their swirling. I find blogging very similarly therapeutic. I try to run home from school when I can; the hour I run is often the only time I spend alone and I am forced into my thoughts; however I consider this my thinking time and I do plan lessons; reflect on lessons and re-evaluate lessons during this time. Often I will get rid of frustration or upset and write blog posts in my head - some never make it beyond these initial stages, but often they do. I find the process of writing; of the physical act of putting the words down, a learning and reflecting process.

Blogging has become one of the best tools for me to improve upon my practise, evaluate my curated tools and evaluate where I am going in my journey. I encourage everyone to try it. Set up a blog and write. Even if you don't publish, write. Get the swirling thoughts out; think about your practise and organise your thoughts on the page. I guarantee it will help a lot of you reflect more closely on what your goals and ambitions are. Publishing is a little scary at first; I doubted anyone read me and wasn't concerned either way but now I am more. I feel it is my duty as an educator not only to reflect but to share. The world has become so much smaller we can learn from each other and help each other by curating, evaluating, reflecting and sharing.

Check out Kristen Swanson's book for some great blogs to read for inspiration and tips.