I find reflection to be an underutilized and powerful tool. Teaching motivates one to reflect frequently. So much so, that sometimes it can feel like the reflection of a trauma victim, one who can't escape the events they've experienced.
Now, teachers aren't trauma victims. BUT, we are served a buffet of emotions: others, our own, other's-emotions-that-become-our-own, every day. We can't go to bed without thinking about the kid with the video game hangover, our weak moment in which we raised our voice, the effort put into caring about a student's excitement while trying to ignore the pressing needs of preparation for our next class.
I feel everything, starting with the pre-presentation flutters. I experience the rejuvenation of an inquiring, engaged, collaborative audience. I feel the taxation of watching the ship sink into teenage drama, large absenteeism, an unexpected Internet outage, and, regrettably, my own poor planning. The highs are high and the lows are low. The roller coaster is more wild than any emotional toll in any other job I've had.
It is said that teachers make 1,500 decisions a day. I would argue they experience about as many emotions a day. I'll be honest, my initial intentions in writing about this topic were to focus purely on the purpose of reflection and its power.
I'm not an emotional person and spend very little time discussing or thinking about emotions. I admire practicality, being rational, and favor Realism much more than Romanticism.
After letting the pen flow as it may, I realize the immediate focus on emotion when contemplating reflection is inevitable. To perceive, with any accuracy, the plethora of unfolded events for any given day of teaching, one can't escape the anchoring emotions. Realist or not.
So what? I've acknowledge emotions as a thing, and that they are a major part of my job. "Well, Mr. Barbercheck," I say to myself, "Welcome to any job in the service industry: nursing, EMT, fireman, policeman, social worker, waiting tables..."
So. I've found acknowledgement of emotions empowering. I don't give emotions more weight. If anything, acknowledgement of emotion leads to being more rational.
"Are you upset, Mr. Barbercheck?" students will ask. I now communicate in clear terms, not that I am upset, but that I am exasperated, aggravated, discouraged, withdrawn, or maybe just irritable in that moment. If they want to know why, I will discuss the why, because: why not?
My students own a part in the relationship we have, and can acknowledge and accept my state of being in the same way I do theirs. Relationships are a two-way-street and to operate otherwise is a disservice to our students.
Upon sharing this reflection, a wise teacher-friend reflected: "I have emotion. They do, too. That fact should be honored, celebrated, and given a well-earned rest time when the occasion calls for it. We should all be given, and take, the opportunity to reflect on this as much as we need."
I think that is an important lesson to model, and share.