Throughout my life I have been an emotional person. To this day I vividly remember sitting in McDonald’s with my family and feeling the most immense sadness. I could not have been more than 7 at the time. I felt immense sadness because I saw a man, sitting alone, eating. Upon reflection, as I have grown, I have begun to understand that situation is, obviously, very normal. Of course people go to McDonald’s when they are short on time, traveling, etc. However, even as I write this the emotion I felt at that moment still wells up within me.
There is little hiding from this emotionalism. It defines who I am.
Throughout my life I have struggled to manage the emotional side of myself. It is never easy to admit this weakness.
However, I believe that because of this emotional challenge, I have become an adept reflector. In the beginning reflection was purely to help me understand myself and the emotions that swirled around inside me. Over the years it has also been a great aid in helping me understand my interactions with others. It is reflection that most helps me understand my classroom. However, is never easy to do “in the moment”.
After a recent class that did not go as planned (and that is the bad sense of the idea) I spent a solid hour long lunch furious with myself. I had allowed my irritation to override my critical thinking, which in turn led to a diminished ability to figure out why my students were not grasping what I was trying to impart to them.
After a lunch of reflection I headed back to it; the same lesson, a lower level class, and a new angle to pursue. I went into class with a positive mindset and an action plan and came out afterwards quite satisfied with my students, my lesson and myself..
However, I could not let the irritation of the first class go. I held onto it, dwelling on why everything happened the way it did. I dwelt throughout the week.
My main point of concern, as always seems to be the case, was the arresting of my thoughts when confronted with anger. I hate when that happens and no matter how good I get at reflecting, it still bothers me to no end that “in the moment” I falter so often.
At RP that weekend got a few suggestions.
1) Stop. Take a minute and give yourself the space in the moment.
2) Stop and write down what you are feeling
These two suggestions, while seemingly obvious, hit me like a ton of bricks. I am always stressed about wasting time (because I do not get much as it is). The thought of stopping never occurred to me. I’ve always expected myself to “reflect on the run”.
In reality, stopping for a minute is not one minute wasted, it’s any number of minutes saved from struggling down the wrong path. Magic! Nothing like a good RP to cap ones week.
RP also brought to mind an article I read sometime back from some news outlet or another (apologies for not being able to find a link). It was about a study on thinking, and the difference between a person analyzing a scenario in their L1 and L2. The study showed that, in identical scenarios, more rational decisions were made when people had to deal with the scenario in their L2. Why is this the case? It was postulated that thinking in our L1 is so quick and easy that it allows space for emotional reaction, while thinking in L2 requires all our effort to focus on the problem at hand. Something to think about. Perhaps just forcing ourselves to slow down could alleviate much.
The same week as RP, as if by providence, iTDi released a series of blog posts called “Learning to See”. I highly recommend all of them. Most pertinent to this post would be the great Kevin Stein’s reflection in action.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with these issues. I have found these simple fixes immensely useful and would remind all of us, in school or out, that a little mental step away, is always beneficial if we truly want to see.