I have had some fascinating discussions this week with educators from around the country about how we might do a better job of incorporating, and really teaching, the skills of reflection, introspection, self-assessment, and self-awareness in our core educational programs. If this interests you, read on!
In creating an outline for my next book (which will have several co-authors) I try to paint a picture of the difference between how we spend time in schools today, and how we really WANT to spend time. One of the focus areas that jumped out at me was time spent on reflection, but perhaps in different ways than most of us think about that activity. I shot out a listserv query and quickly had several phone conversations with others who are thinking about this.
In some schools, primarily those with religious affiliations, but some secular schools as well, time is set aside each week or each day for students and teachers to come together and reflect and speak in embracing, supportive settings. Bruce Stewart, retired Head at Sidwell Friends School helped me understand the role that Friends meeting times play in the life of their school and in teaching students the powerful tools that deep thinking gives us for both understanding our own lives and in developing empathy for those around us. I also spoke with Tom Nolan, Assistant Director of the Upper School at Crossroads School who has been instrumental in their Council program where students are taught and encouraged to both speak and listen from the heart.
Many of us have programs that attend to student wellness: reducing stress, managing time in a busy schedule, paying attention to healthy habits, and the like. And of course the development of character is a significant focus of most educational institutions. But what I am really thinking about is this: we all understand that the development of the skills of introspection, reflection, and self-assessment are valuable, if not critical life skills. I know from my time in the business world that assessment, figuring out “how to do it better next time”, is a critical hallmark of success. I also know from my time spent teaching cadets from West Point the importance that the Army places on after-action reports. In the real world, reflection on the day-to-day is just as important as deep reflection.
So I want to explore how that might look in the classroom: reflection beyond journaling; allocating time to open the learning cycle to include routine introspection into the core curriculum; bridging that void between the meditation of the Crossroads council and the Friends meetings to use the same skills, or tangents, in every classroom; students engaging in activities ranging from reflection to meditation on a frequent basis in many classrooms. I have a lot of leads to follow with bright folks who are thinking about this, and will continue to share.