The Art of Reflection

Katie had an irrepressible sense of humor. It was quick and pointed. She never hesitated to speak up in class or out, when she saw an opportunity to make the other kids laugh with her wit.

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It was a combined classroom with students in grades 5 through 8. The old style of school.

I was in my fourth year of teaching, my second in this particular school. I had recruited diligently to increase enrollment. A family had enrolled their three children; all three were in my room. Katie was one of the youngest in the room.

The students were in four different Spelling groups. On test day I would give all four tests at the same time, one word from each list in rotation. It had occurred to me that I was repeating too many times because students were not focused. In an effort to improve their listening skills I had decided that I would limit the number of repetitions for all teacher presentations. I made the announcement:

“Beginning right now,” I entoned, “I will be giving instruction one time, and will not repeat it.”

Katie’s voice rose into the stillness of the classroom as I looked from one face to another. “What?” she asked, without the hint of a smile.

“Beginning right now…” I began, and the classroom erupted in student laughter. I am not slow witted myself, so a few seconds after their laughter filled the room, my laughter joined in. I walked over to Katie’s desk, and held out my hand. She took it, and I hugged her as I continued to laugh. She had qualified to become one of my best friends.

The whole family befriended me that year. I see her mother regularly at church, and we smile and reminisce.

Beginning Reflection

I cannot remember a time when I did not reflect on what had happened to me during the day. I know now to call that Reflection.

Even as a child I remember going over the day’s events, like a review of the day. Perhaps it is related to my personality. I am a private person, an Introvert. I’d rather think than talk.

Reflecting allows me to make sense of the day. If something good happens, I analyze the event and the things that led up to it. Maybe I could make something good happen again – on purpose.

If something bad happens, I analyze to see what part I played in causing the event, or making it worse. Maybe I could recognize the indicators leading up to it, and prevent something bad from happening again.

For much of my childhood I walked to school and back home. The afternoon walk afforded me a perfect time to reflect on the day in the classroom.

As a Teacher

Later, when I became a teacher, I continued the practice of reflecting on my work. At the end of the day I would walk around the classroom, stop at each desk and think about my interactions with that child during the day. I would think about the student’s approach and response to the lessons taught that day.

This would help me to identify what I needed to re-teach the next day, what changes I needed to make in my approach to that student to increase the liklihood of the student understanding the lesson or concept.

I always arrived in my classroom early – at least an hour early. First, I would again walk around the classroom, stop at each desk, and pray for that child. And pray for me to have skill and wisdom to meet the needs of that student.

On the ride home I would again re-play the day to identify changes that I needed to make and to rejoice in the victories experienced by students.

When I arrived home I had all the work-day problems neatly catalogued and stored. So, I could be the family man, the husband, the father, with no clutter to interfere with helping with cooking and playing with the kids.

Better Me

I was (am) a Better Teacher through the use of Reflection professionally and personally.

I endeavored to instill the practice of Reflection in my students. Each day, about 20 minutes before the closing bell, each student took out a spiral-bound notebook with “Today I Learned…” written on the front cover. The assignment was to write three things that he or she had learned that day due to instruction or reading. This required Reflection on the school day.

At 10 minutes before the end of the school day, each student read what had been written, out loud, to the class, round robin.

When the students climbed in their ride home and the parent asked, “What did you learn in school today?” they were ready with specifics. Good PR, but good strategy for spaced repetition, which assists in long-term recall.

I could see that these efforts produced results. They became Better Students as they learned how to reflect. Report card grades and test scores attested to the changes.


There are at least 7 benefits to be realized from the Practice of Reflection.

  1. You are able to identify those good and successful things that you achieved.
  2. You are able to identify the interactions or behaviors that you need to do better, or at least differently (on your own, without someone else pointing them out. Self-criticism is easier to take than external criticism.)
  3. Once identified, you can plan for repeating the successes and changing the unfortunate misses.
  4. You can create plans for correcting, apologizing, making up for errors and bad behavior,.
  5. You can make plans for permanent changes and replacement of bad habits that show up in your review.
  6. You get to see yourself as others might see you. Reflecting objectively like this might take some practice over time.
  7. You also have the opportunity to see others with whom you interacted in a new light. You might discover that you misinterpreted, misjudged.

A reflection in a mirror is about your looks.
Reflection in your mind is about your behavior.

Be a Better You, not just in looks, but in behavior. Implement the practice of Reflection. Reap the Benefits listed above.

  • I almost always combine Reflection with Imagination exercises. More on that practice in another post.
    Reflection should not be confused with Meditation.


What experiences with Reflection have you had. Share with me how you use it.

If you haven’t done it regularly before, does it sound like something you might try?

Write to me using the Comment box online at . Or email me. I will respond.

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Thank you for reading.

One Reply to “The Art of Reflection”

  1. Thanks for these tips Eldon! I will encourage the young lady in our home to begin doing this. I think it will help her a lot as she has been through a lot in her young life and has only been able to attend school for her 7th grade and now 8th grade years so far. She is a VERY bright girl and is a great student. But I am always looking for ways to encourage her. She needs lots of that as her confidence is low.

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