Thank You, Natalie Goldberg

Day 166…

30 female elementary teachers in their first years of teaching sit in my Tuesday night seminar.  The majority of them come on time, sit quietly and never volunteer.  It’s an “orderly” class, but not what I want in a seminar.  Last semester’s evaluations from their college supervisors indicated a need for more problem solving skills and reflection.  Good.  I’ll offer activities in these areas. 

“What help do you want from your supervisor?”  I ask.

The class looks at me.  No clue.  Hmm.  Try again, Laura.  “Your supervisor can help you with problems specific to your class.  What kind of help do you need?”

“Management.”

I write it on the board.

“Ideas.”

“Like what?”

“Management.”

Someone says, “Resources.”

I write it on the board without asking for an elaboration.

This brainstorming session is barely causing a stir.  After a couple more ideas, reading and math without specific concerns, I’m anxious to change the activity.  There is limited participation. I could call on individuals, dig deeper with questions, but I want to turn it over to them.

Maybe they don’t want to think about it.  I begin, “Reflection is imperative to experiential learning.  It’s a personal assessment of the experience.  Because you are expected to write a reflection at the end of each lesson plan, we are going to write for ten minutes about our classes today.  We will put our pens to paper and when I say go, we will write everything we can think of about how classes went today.  We won’t edit, or stop to reread what we wrote.  We are just writing.  I am not taking these papers up.  Spelling, punctuation, grammar don’t matter.  We can rant if we need to. We just won’t stop until the timer buzzes.

I set the timer and the class, including me, begins to write.  I write about the struggle I am having getting these students to participate and wonder what else I can try.  And yes, some of it is a rant.  After the ten minutes, I tell them to read through it and underline phrases that stand out.  Things they could actually write as reflections on their plans.  Several volunteer to read.

“Be more specific with the aide.”

“I think the weather change was stirring them up.”

“Oh and the tornado drill.”

“There was too much noise during math.”

I tell them if they would spend time with reflective writing, they would begin to see patterns that they could then address (problem solving.)

So thank you, Natalie Goldberg.  Writing, as personal reflection, is something I can share with these young teachers.

Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning.  Probably that’s why we decide we’re done.  It’s getting too scary.  We are touching down onto something real.  It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.                 Natalie Goldberg

Writing topic:  Reflection

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