Reflective Writing

Very early on during my degree in Learning, Technology and Research, a degree that is delivered online and based on action inquiry/research, as well as the students’ individual professions, we learned about writing in different genres to encourage new perspectives and deeper reflection. As a result, I have used poetry, story boards, cartoons, and stories to reflect on my practice. I have written letters to myself from different perspectives, and while all of this is still a fragment of my imagination, it is also stunning how quickly we can take this different perspective.

The sad thing is that I haven’t used genre writing outside of my degree. But I will try to do it. I have also thought about using genre writing for the classroom. Can you imagine the implications this has on developing an understanding of perspective? How social relationships could be developed this way?

But let me start with an example from my classroom. In the last school year, one of the students in my class would come in tired every morning. She would not participate much in the morning meeting, she would not follow discussions very well and found it hard to work effectively as well. This would persist until way later in the morning, often after break time. But then she would be able to work well.

Of course, I see all this now, but when it started, I was inclined to think that she was not participating in morning meetings for other reasons. If you offer Maths in the mornings, you might think that she is working on a lower level than she is able to. Hey, we know how it is, some of us just don’t like to TALK in the morning. We might be slower than in the afternoon…. it depends! Students are no different.

I noticed this when I introduced rotations to the morning. Instead of morning meetings and other “talk-based” activities, the students were able to rotate between different stations, Unit of Inquiry-related work, Mathematics, Reading… This would go on for 1 1/2 to 3 hours in the morning. And I observed an interesting pattern with this girl. She would come in and observe for a few minutes, then make a choice and BOOM, she was awake and effective. Then, when tiredness grabbed her again, she rested.

You might think that this is it. But somehow I was not able to put 1+1 together that easily during the school year, and when we paused rotations for a while, I fell back into old patterns too, wondering why this students was not participating, etc.

This is where reflective writing can help. In this case, the student (lets call her Anne), is writing in her diary.

Dear Diary,

Yesterday evening I had great fun with my sister, and when it was time to go to bed, I was unable to sleep. I can’t sleep well at night, and usually stay awake until 11 o’clock or later. I don’t know why. And in the mornings I’m tired. I don’t like to be tired, because I love school. I can’t eat well when I’m tired either, so my breakfast is usually a cookie.

It’s okay to be tired when we have rotations. We don’t have to talk all the time, and I can focus on my work at my own pace. I love it. I wake up much quicker and it’s fun. And we still talk and discuss after lunch. But today we didn’t have rotations. We started with the morning meeting. I was so tired. I don’t want to seem rude, but listening to everyone this early in the morning is hard. And sitting around does not help. Also, I don’t like to talk much in the mornings, but luckily I was able to opt out of sharing today.

I could see that Miss Jessica was not happy about my behaviour. I had to keep moving around to keep myself awake. Also, during rotations we can sometimes just talk to each other and say something important to our friends, but in a morning circle you can’t do that. And I had something important to say to Alice.

I hope tomorrow we have rotations again.

Good night, Anne

As you can see, the perspective differs from mine. But it is a great way to be empathetic, to slip into someone else’s shoes and to question your own beliefs and behaviour.
I wonder how many students are like this.

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