This post is an expanded version of a comment I left on Jenni Scott-Marciski’s blog, Ed(ucation) Musings. She posted about participating in ETMOOC as an investment in herself.
On airline flights, the safety instructions alway remind you to secure your own oxygen mask first before attempting to help anyone else with their mask. The direction is there because the instinct of a friend or mother may likely be to help the friend or child first. A few moments of clear thinking reveal the logic–I’m not much help to my child if I’m unconscious–but a few moments of clear thinking can be hard to come by in an emergency.
For me, the same advice applies to parenting and teaching. We have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of the kids and students in our lives. If we don’t recharge, personally and professionally, we won’t have the energy, passion, and clarity to be of much help. However, during many days in a classroom, a few moments for clear thinking can be equally difficult to find. My personal and professional commitments stack-up, one after the next. Early morning grading, classes, email, hasty meals, coaching, evening meetings, and yawn-punctuated bedtime stories for the kids run together, and by mid-semester I’m wondering why the “stack” of essays in my iPad isn’t any smaller and how my teaching feels a bit robotic. What went wrong?
I know what went wrong; the same thing that always goes wrong: I stopped reflecting. Busyness crept in, and slowly I traded a little moment of clear thinking for a few extra minutes to empty my inbox. Next I swapped some self-assessment for an hour to respond to some student research proposals. Soon I didn’t even barter with myself, but plunged headlong into my to-do list without any nagging whispers about reflection. When will I learn?
Reflection is essential to learning. Mark Clements writes a good article about its importance at edunators.com. At a basic level I can’t learn anything without reflection. It needs to be as important as oxygen in my classroom. I must model its practice and importance for my students; significant time and space needs to be carved out of class time for it. ETMOOC is a tremendous opportunity, but it could simply become another obligation, another item on our long lists. In order to maximize our learning, let’s encourage each other to remember and engage in one of the most important educational apps of all–reflection.