I have a brother who is 15 years my junior, and I often helped him with schoolwork when he was growing up. I was his language and science tutor at home while my sister, the middle child, helped him with math. I often helped him do book reviews when he reached high school, discussing and critiquing the book in question to help him draw his own conclusions for the review. As the youngest, I have listened to him rant about teachers who only go to the classroom to do their work but not teach. He said that some teachers just spout off concepts in class, determined to cover as much topic as they could, without even bothering if the students are catching up.
Working as a nurse back then, I understood what he meant: some nurses, through years of experience, automatically know what to do when a particular situation arises. The danger, as I have seen, is the loss of empathy to patients. The work becomes so routine that a patient’s complaint of pain is sometimes reduced to mere excuse for attention.
I think my background in nursing has helped me develop a reflective attitude on my work. I remember vowing to myself that I would never lose my empathy for my patients, for as long as I work as a nurse. When I decided to teach, I carried with me the same attitude. I remember telling myself that my students are just like my patients. They all have their stories. They all have their realities and these, for the most part, like pain, are subjective. Simply put, I brought with me a nurturing attitude when I came to teach my students. With my brother as inspiration, I promised myself to teach and not just parrot off concepts in the classroom. I would approach each topic as though I was teaching it to my brother. I would normally give analogies regarding situations that my students are familiar with in order to help them better understand lessons.
This has created a reflective attitude in me. I try to be as mindful as I can in my classroom encounters and I discuss with other teachers to find out new and better ways of motivating, say, a difficult class. I have noticed how my discussions become better as the day progresses because, as explained by Kolb (1984), I am able to see what does and does not work when teaching a particular concept or skill. In the few years that I have been teaching, I have come to see that knowing the interests of students help and so I am able to adjust the delivery of a lesson depending on the profile of a class.
Of course, some strategies do fail across classes in that there have been instances when students become more confused. I take these situations as a challenge and take the time to explain and look for ways to help them learn. I have always abided with the idea of quality over quantity: I would rather spend more time teaching them about computing for solution concentrations, making sure they demonstrate basic skills, than cover molarity and molality.
I think the main point of reflective thinking is ensuring that each classroom encounter is maximized in order for optimized learning to occur. Apart from open-mindedness, responsibility, and mindfulness (Grant and Zeichner, n.d.), I think that reflecting on how strategies and styles and being able to tailor-fit them with the needs of all students in the class requires mindfulness and genuine commitment to the education of learners.
Grant, C. & Zeichner, K. (n.d.). On Becoming a Reflective Teacher. Available from http://www.wou.edu/~girodm/foundations/Grant_and_Zeichner.pdf
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall (0 13 295261 0).