The Power of Making Time for Personal Reflection
From closing circle to Academic Choice to problem-solving conferences, we all know that student reflection plays a central role in Responsive Classroom teaching practices. It may be less well known how important reflection is to teacher growth and well-being. Like many self-care practices, it’s one that‘s easy for teachers, myself included, to let slip from the schedule. I often plan to approach a task or day with intention and by the time the day is over, I’m too spent to give it my full attention. But making the time is worth it: reflection is a helpful bookend to any day, week, or year.
Just as daily classroom structures such as Morning Meeting, quiet time, and closing circle bring consistency and safety to our time with students, structuring time for ourselves at the beginning and end of the day, week, month, or year enables us to feel grounded and affirmed in our roles as educators and leaders. As teachers, we are taught to assess our performance by examining where we still have room to grow, which can foster a sense of scarcity or shortcoming. In contrast, reflection can help us take a compassionate look at our efforts and specifically name both what we did and how we felt, making it easier to highlight our successes.
Here are a few strategies you can use as you look to recognize and reflect on all the good work you’ve done this year:
Breathe deep: Take just one minute to pause, close your eyes, and inhale as deeply as you can. Repeat this process slowly, taking deep breaths for one minute. Deep breaths help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our rest and digestion functions. Slow down and be present.
Ask yourself a few open-ended questions, such as:
- “What worked well?”
- “What strengths did I use?”
- “What made me smile?”
- “Where did we move forward?”
If it helps, make a list of questions you can quickly pull up on your phone or at your desk so you don’t waste energy thinking of the questions!
Practice compassion. Go easy on yourself. You have overcome remarkable hurdles this year. You did things you might not have thought you could do, and you grew in ways you may not have expected. Give yourself the grace to accept what did not go according to plan and the compassion to recognize what you did accomplish!
Capture it! When you call to mind those successes or wins, take a picture in your mind’s eye so you can savor it later. Consider also taking a photo or journaling about all the details.
Often, it’s easiest to guide others in a new practice after we’ve adopted it ourselves. This not only helps us remember our strengths and successes but also enables us to empathize with the process as we share it with students. Once you’ve tried one of the four tips above, consider ways you can adapt them to use with students:
Open-ended questions could be posed as part of an energizer such as Snowball, a group discussion, or in small groups:
- What is one thing that surprised you in a good way this day/week/year?
- What is one thing you did that made you feel proud or happy?
- What is one thing that happened today that you would like to do again sometime?
- Think of yourself as a friend. What would you tell that friend they did well today?
Mindful moments: Consider adding a one-minute pause at the end of a lesson or segment of the day to give each community member the opportunity – or rather, GIFT – of just pausing. Teaching simple strategies that support stillness while sitting or standing and taking a few deep breaths are life skills your students can use anytime they need a moment of calm. With a calm mind, it is easier to reflect and consider the positives.
Get silly, get moving: At the end of a busy and productive day, consider having a one-minute dance party! Movement helps quiet our stress response by emitting those feel-good hormones known as endorphins. Pick a couple of fun dance tunes and dance for just a moment by yourself or with your students as a way to celebrate and move!
Written by Lisa Dewey Wells