Reflection - Not Just a Mirror Image

Holly LaBenneThis has been a big year with many changes and transitions in teaching and learning.  Of course this not only impacts teachers but the students as well.  Looking back and reflecting is important to preparing for the future.

A reflection is not simply a mirror image but has a bigger, deeper purpose. Reflection is a process of looking inward, critiquing, and finally making choices that will move you in a forward direction.

As teachers, we frequently reflect on our own planning, delivery and reception of our instruction. Without even thinking, we reflect on our students; “What are their personal, emotional, physical and academic needs?”  Then, we move forward, using all types of data and feedback to carry out a bigger and better plan, a plan that will strengthen ourselves as mentors, caregivers and educators. 

Often we forget to model this process with our students. It is important for them to be able to take a moment to look inward, examining, scrutinizing, and evolving a plan that works best for each of them, as individuals.

Our fifth grade students at Wellsville Elementary School took some time to reflect on this past school year, what they have learned and how they will apply it.  They seem to say it all, in their own words.

Some insights about reading and writing…

“This year, I find myself annotating more when I am reading. I focus on looking through the text and picking out important information. This has helped me in the outside world as well, I try to be assertive and listen to details better than I have before.”

Another explained, “Writing from sources has really helped with my comprehension. It has helped me because I realize the true facts from the false facts. It helps me analyze situations and look at both sides and determine which is more accurate.”  She explained that this will help her in making better informed decisions.

When discussing annotating while reading closely, another student commented on how she has been using context clues around words she is unfamiliar with. She stated, “I’m looking deeper in the text” and explained that this has helped her comprehension improve this school year.

Thoughts about learning collaboratively…

When talking about working in groups one student noted, “All people have different, but equally important parts to bring to the group.” In the past, she did not care to work with a partner. She always felt that they would hold her back. Now she sees that “being in a group or partnership is a way to help each other, and I have learned a lot.”

One fifth grader explained how teamwork in the classroom has influenced him inside and outside of the school setting. “I have learned how to work with friends and be a team player with my classmates. When I get to know kids and my teachers, I found myself volunteering in class more and in activities outside of school. ” In the future he realized that these skills will play a huge part in getting accepted to college, a trade or in an interview for his future career.

And connecting in-school learning to everyday life…

Another stated, “Everything we are learning is so interesting. We are having more conversations and incorporating music, partners and other fun things to make work a lot more fun.” In conversation, He went on to describe how being more interested in what he is learning about in school has encouraged him to explore and read more information about those same topics outside of school.

After hearing these eleven and twelve year olds’ words, we are reminded of the importance of reflection, not only for educators, but for the students we educate. Consider taking the time to model and encourage them to look inward, critique their actions and make decisions that will drive them in positive directions. Help instill in them that reflection is not a mirror image of our actions but that it has a bigger, deeper purpose for the future ahead of them.

Holly LaBenne is a 5th Grade Classroom Teacher in Wellsville Central School District

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