December 29, 2009

In search of the Reflective Practitioner

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:03 am

Blogging AgainI began teaching in 1988. It was a tough job and thinking about getting better was superseded by survival instincts. Early on in my career, there were several documents that the province produced in support of improved professional development. I didn't pay much attention to these but one phrase I saw in those documents some 20 years ago stuck with me. Reflective Practitioner.  I sort of understood the concept but other than simply thinking about what you did in the classroom, I wasn't at all sure what to do with this term.

When I discovered blogs almost 5 years ago, I soon figured out what that term meant. Since that occasion I have sat down to write close to 1,000 pieces of reflection. While not all would be considered deep, most take me anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to craft. While it may not always look like it, these are generally borne out of the times I spent observing, thinking and working in classrooms. The reflective writing has been valuable but definitely the nearly 4,000 comments have been even more of a learning experience. As it's been said many times, this is the single best professional development experience I've had. Way beyond any one conference, workshop or even twitter.

In a week I'll be teaching an advanced technology course at the University of Regina. In the introductory course, I've had students set up blogs to get a feel for what it's like. Some like it, others tolerate it. This term I would like the students to do some analysis of quality, reflective blogs of classroom teachers. I'd like them to develop some criteria for what they feel is a great reflective blog. Hopefully they'll be able to start a journey of reflection that will carry them into their career and not wait 15 years to begin what is certainly a critical characteristic of a great teacher.

I have to admit I've been remiss in developing a list of great classroom teacher blogs. Most classroom teachers use their blogs as homework portals or classroom showcase blogs. Others have developed resource or tool based blogs. I'm not suggesting these are bad but they aren't reflective. Most of the reflective blogs I read tend to be from those outside the classroom. First off, these folks do have more time to devout to blogging but also they need to do the work I'm doing so I gravitate to them naturally.

Three bloggers who I love to read because of the way they reflect and analyze their own practice are Kelly Christopherson, Clarence Fisher and Dan Meyer.

Kelly is an administrator and teacher in Saskatchewan. He wears his heart on his sleeve. I don't always see things the same way as he does but that's precisely why I read him.  His struggles of late deal with the challenges of change and leadership. If you're a school administrator, you'd find his writing fascinating and I'm sure many times you'd be nodding visibly as you read and other times yelling at him.  He doesn't write to make friends, he writes because you sense he has to.

Clarence is someone I've known and read for a number of years. Very cerebral, Clarence makes clear connections between what he sees in his classroom and what is happening in a larger scale. He's likely most similar to my style but certainly his daily experience with middle schoolers keeps him very grounded. He practices what he preaches. Every teacher can learn lots from him.

Dan is a high school math teacher currently on leave and working at Google. That hasn't stopped him from continuing to have a highly practical approach to blogging. He is keenly interested in what works in a classroom and less with lofty applications to solving all the problems with education. With a niche for media, he takes pride in analysing everything from classroom management techniques to how to design a useful handout.

That's three. Three teachers who spend time reflecting and writing about their experiences and ideas. I need to show my students more than these three. So if you'd be so kind, leave a comment with a similar description as I've used here to tell me about your favorite reflective classroom blogger. So read this, retweet it and together we can create a list that you can use and yes, selfishly I can use with my students.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by shareski