When I was in the Faculty of Education, we did numerous assignments on the importance of reflection. Reflection became almost like a joke. We all knew that good teachers reflect, but we didn’t think that we needed to keep on reflecting on reflection.
Eleven years later, and I now definitely know why there was this emphasis on reflection. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my professional goals for this year is to improve my math program by incorporating more problem-solving into it. I’ve really taken this goal seriously, and I’ve made many changes to my math program since September. With my students discussing their math thinking more, I’ve been using my flipcam even more to record my interactions with them. And this is where I’ve really started to reflect …
During math centres yesterday, I recorded these three videos of students solving some money problems:
As I was recording the videos, I was really pleased with how things were going. Students were explaining what they were doing, and they were showing me that they understood combining coin values. Then I went home to watch the videos last night. I couldn’t believe it. Why did I need to jump in so quickly to help the student in the third video solve the math problem? Why didn’t I give her a chance to figure it out on her own? Why must I always end with, “good job?” What could I say instead?
This morning, I was talking to our math facilitator, Kelly McCrory, and she really helped me out. She suggested that if this were to happen again that I stop the recording, walk away, give the child a chance to continue to play with some options, and then come back and record again. Then I wouldn’t be the one doing the problem-solving: the child would be the one doing the problem-solving. What a great idea! Thanks Kelly!
Today, the problem presented itself again. Instead of doing what I did yesterday, I did walk away, and then when I came back, here’s what the child explained:
She did figure out the problem, and correctly too, but again, I can’t help but reflect. Why did I need to jump in prematurely and show her that she counted the coins incorrectly? What would have happened if I didn’t interrupt? Would she have noticed? Would she have gone back and corrected the error on her own? I also noticed that she ended up jumping from 13 cents to 18 cents. I know that she got the correct answer, but does she really know that 13+5=18. If I had her rearrange the coins and count them a different way, would she have shown me that she could still get the same answer? Would this have helped me see how she “counts on” different coin amounts? Yet again, I notice that I still end with the, “good job,” statement. Will I ever be able to change this?
Oh, the power of reflection! I feel myself analyzing every word that I say as I say it, and then again, as I listen to myself on the recording. The power of technology lets us double our reflection time. 🙂 And I’m glad that it does because I know that this additional time both watching my students and listening to myself will ultimately have the biggest benefit for my students. Am I perfect? No. Will I ever be? No. But will I get just a little bit better every time I try? I sure hope so!