Professional Development,  Teacher Reflection

Self reflection and mindfulness…

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“I am busy!”  How often do you say that to others?  Do you say it with a positive or negative context?  And what do you mean – what is your sub context?  Are you saying it as a badge of honor to show that you have a lot to do and would like to draw comment on something in your vast list of busy-ness?  Or are you overwhelmed and you are reaching out for someone to help you from drowning in the mass of stuff?  I have started trying to find out what people mean when they say they are busy, and to do this I have started to try and think more deeply about what it means when I say that I am busy.

I am busy.  I used to say this as my standard response when people how things are going -“going well, but it is busy” and then we would both nod our heads and agree that life is busy.  But over the last few months and weeks I have tried to take a step back and think about what it is I am doing that makes me feel that this is my standard response.

Firstly, I know that to be busy means that I am not idle.  I like having something that fills my mind and occupies some space. I like the connectedness of being busy and having things to do and I feel that these somehow define me as a teacher and as a parent, wife and daughter.  Recently as I learn more about being mindful and in the moment, I began to collect some data on myself to try and triangulate what I do and why I do it.  Firstly I looked at how often I am on my phone and whether the reason I was on it was of importance to that moment or if it was doing things for things sake.  I believe this also goes back to saying ‘yes’ to many things that come my way – and perhaps the task or the conversation that is there is awesome but I am beginning to see that I don’t have to be in all of them and that by stepping back and choosing more meaningful conversations for where I am going, I am reclaiming time that could be better spent.

My phone is like the epi-centre of all things going on both at my house; with my family and friends who are not in China with me; with work and into my social media sphere that I use a lot for work conversations.  I also use apps and collect data on my training and I like to see where I am going with this too.  But I found (through doing a little survey and collecting data on my habits) that I check my phone all the time to see if someone else has added to a chat thread or left a voice vox about a topic I was involved in debating or sharing.  This has caused me to have some attention issues and to rely on having those conversations for a positive feeling about myself and this is something that I am seeing more as an issue for the students that I am teaching as well.  They are living for the next comment or WeChat conversation or to see who has left them a ‘thumbs up’ between classes and sitting to screen away time in their recesses.  We aren’t enjoying being mindful of ourselves or of others in the now, immediate time and engaging in the conversations with those in the room with us.  Is this part of our busy-ness?

I have an endless list (either written or in my head) of things I should be doing and I use this as an excuse to not do the things that I should be doing.  I have books I want to read and I have courses I would like to do, I would like to be a more effective teacher and am still searching for the ways in which I could do that.  I am in the process of reading Dr Ash Casey and Ben Dyson‘s book ‘Cooperative Learning in Physical Education and Physical Activity‘ and I am enjoying the way in which they have written the book – posing self-processing questions for the reader to ponder and reflect on and indeed writing their own reflections at the end of each chapter.  I wonder about more as I read as there is an opportunity to pause and to be mindful while reading and to process what you are reading.  I am aware that there are lots of things I hadn’t thought of but that also there are many things I have connected and worked into my pedagogical practice and I am more mindful of the things that I do automatically and am determining the next course of action for my development.  It takes time to create opportunity to read my book and to reflect on my practice.  I do wonder how many of us do this and how you do it.  Where do we make the time to reflect on our own pedagogical practice and to engage in looking inwards at what we do, to collect data from our student learning that might show us our strengths or weaknesses as teachers and/or to reach out and see how other people do it to grow our craft?

I procrastinate.  Does this count as being busy?  I have started looking at how I organise myself in an attempt to stop being lost in the jobs that I need to do.  I have tried online things and offline things to keep me focused on the Essential things I need to do/ the things I Should do next/ the things I could do after that and the WOW I would love to do that one day section… and this is a great way to collect data on yourself.  If you only did the things that were Essential (What is the Essential thing I need to do now?), how much time might you claim to do the things that you Want to do?  I have found that since I started phrasing my to-do list in this way, I have been able to frame my time around Essential lists/ Should/Could/ WOW and this has been a powerful way to be mindful of how I use my time.  I am using checklists to help me (this sounds very scary and you might shake your head) but with a change in school and job I have found some basic checklisting to be very beneficial as I am not trying to always remember everything.  Pre Unit I must…./ During the Unit I must…. / After the Unit I must….. I don’t need to write too much here, but the ease of just glancing and checking allows me to focus my deep attention to other things on the Essential list that are about Learning not about Systems.

Casey and Dyson ask “with your busy schedule, have you carried out research on your own teaching or pedagogy?” as a question for self processing.  I would like to pose that here – for me I am and still will try and consider how do I know if I am an effective teacher?  What intrinsic and extrinsic cues will guide this answer and what do I need to do to get to an answer?  What bias do I have?  Which data is proving this?  Who can I ask to guide me in the right direction?  Will my ego let me take the criticism or constructive feedback?  What is stopping me?  I really hope that it isn’t being too busy that is holding me back from mindfully stepping forward and taking the time to reflect and grow.

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