Reflection is a strength in disguise

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

The thing about being the quiet kid is that I spend most of my time in reflection. I even occasionally have trouble falling asleep sometimes because I can’t stop thinking and reflecting. This is not all reflection about myself, though that happens too, but reflection about recent work, situations, how things could be made better, etc. As an introvert, I reflect on everything that happens to me. Thus, I am learning something every day. (With all this time in reflection, it isn’t surprising that Freud mislabeled introverts as “narcissistic” and “self-obsessed.” But most of us aren’t, mind you.)

Yesterday, for instance, I learned about when the job market is strong for candidates for literature faculty positions and when it is strong for positions in comp/rhet. This made me consider ok, what do I want to do (teaching writing, but teaching a literature class every semester would be cool, too) and at what kind of university would I want to work (at this point, I think I’d like the 4/4. I’m good at time management and I enjoy teaching and interacting with students in the classroom and individually). So these things I was told yesterday are still whirling around in my head and making me think about the steps forward I will be making within these upcoming years.

Though reflection gets exhausting because sometimes I would rather just not realize certain things, I still recognize that it is a helpful tool and one that I often encourage in my own students. Not just in teaching them how to make something better (in terms of revision, for instance), but in encouraging them to see themselves as writers. After all, a person cannot really write if they don’t see themselves as a writer in some aspect or another. An example would be that a teacher writes assignment sheets, lesson plans, syllabi, letters of recommendation, emails, etc. We spent the start of this semester talking about what genres they will be writing in their future jobs. We’ll work on job letters, cover letters, and resumes later this semester. But they need to understand how they are writers and really reflect on that idea. And though thinking is not doing, thinking is not a waste of time. Reflection often gears us up for committing to an action. For example, I possibly cannot get a task done if I have not thought about how to do it.

So there is value in reflection. It is important to reflect on your learning just like it is important to reflect on teaching. As a teacher, when I create a lesson plan, I leave a lot of white space so that I can make margin notes and notes at the end about how each activity went. At the top, I often write down how each class period went overall. This helps me see what activities went well and what activities didn’t work as well as they could have. Granted, the next time I teach that topic it may not work as well, but it is still nice to note, at least for me. Of course, I could just be obsessed with taking notes. (Taking notes has always helped me pay attention in class, for instance. Eye contact gets overwhelming for me. I kind of hate getting too much attention.)

This had a much larger point, which was a self-assessment I had to write about my strengths and weaknesses as a group member. The memo I wrote about this was, I think, thoughtful and made me realize how my ability to reflect and keep quiet isn’t a weakness, but a strength, and a strength in disguise. For instance, I think before I speak. I’m also good at going over the potentials in my head and finding solutions to problems. And if I’m asked a difficult question by a professor, I will make an attempt to answer it seriously and not deflect from the question. Finally, I’m a damn good listener and I always apply and learn from whatever valuable information I am told. I have the patience and willingness to listen and I think these are all valuable qualities for any leader.

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