I’m going to take a small risk here and engage in some of what I think I’ll call ‘reflective ranting’.
I won’t say that “today was a shitty day at school”, because that’s not true. But it did contain some shitty things, or at least, one shitty experience that is making me re-think some stuff about my teaching philosophies.
Apparently, to my utter shock and surprise, I am absolute crap at writing reflectively and concisely under pressure. Absolute utter crap. I am so crappy at it that I had an almost physical reaction in class today when asked to do so. I couldn’t hold in my outbursts of anxiety, nearly started to CRY, and for two of the four mini-writing assignments, I couldn’t produce anything useful.
This was a shock to me because in most other writing tasks, I am comfortable as fuck. Give me an analytical prompt, an explicit assignment, something for me to think about and then perform how well I can write critically about it, and I can bang something out in a few minutes and feel pretty okay about it. No problem. Words flow like water.
Or, ask me to write reflectively, give me the space and time and privacy to flex my muscles, puke out bad text and re-think, revise, play with, and change my mind about what I think. I can manipulate words and ideas and dig through how I feel about things and distill it down to implications I think are important in a few minutes and feel pretty okay about it. No problem. Words flow like water.
But… apparently, and I’m shocked that I didn’t know this about myself… apparently when faced with being asked a reflective question and asked to “try to define it in a single sentence” or make a statement in a few words about that reflective thing in a few minutes, I’m absolutely paralyzed. It’s fucking impossible. It is problem. Words do NOT flow like water. Words clog the toilet and prompt a call to the plumber.
It was a shitty experience today. And I recognize that this activity was meant to be one of those “low pressure” and “low risk” assignments, but for me, it was the highest of risks. Highest of pressures. Highest anxiety assignments.
So, I need to think about why. Because when confronted with something that surprises you on that kind of deep shocking level that almost has you in tears in front of the rest of the class… well, that’s what you go home and do. You get on your blog and ask why. So here comes the “reflective” part of my reflective rant I guess. My attempt to figure out what’s going on in my head that made that sort of activity easy for most, and impossible for me.
I think a big part of it is that for me personally, reflective writing is… well, the most important thing in the world. And when I say this, I don’t mean to say that it’s the most important thing for everyone. Ohhh no. I fully recognize that the way I use writing, and what writing means to me, is probably wholly different from how many other people see it and use it.
I do a LOT of reflective writing. I keep a notebook in my purse at all times. I have my Google Keep app on my phone’s homescreen. I keep another notebook by my bed. And I’ve been this way since elementary school when I began my first diary. I write in order to figure shit out, unpack what’s in my head, untangle things. I write to examine my day and consider what stuff means. I write things that are literally not true just to try it out and see if it resonates. I “write to learn”, I write to purge, I write to exorcise and experience catharthis. It’s what I’m doing right now in this blog entry.
When I write something down, it becomes real and tangible in a way that just thinking and planning can’t accomplish. It becomes something to react to, get into dialog with, and come away from with a better understanding of what it means.
So, I think the problem I had with that activity was that I was expected to produce a “truth” about myself without the room and space and time to actually reflect and discover through writing what that truth was. I needed space to breathe. To try out ideas, to write entire paragraphs and organize my thinking, and see it on a page, and see if it resonated before I could distill it down to that one sentence “low risk” answer to “what is your philosophy on reading”. What’s really surprising is that I couldn’t do this kind of writing even though we’d blogged and brainstormed about the topic as part of our homework. If we’d been asked to “summarize your last brainstorm blog entry in a sentence or two,” I would have had no problem. But… that’s not what we were asked to do. So I was paralyzed.
So, that’s why
today was a shitty day had a shitty thing in it.
I did learn something pretty important from this experience though. This week, we spent some time writing out very rough brainstorm/drafts of a class unit (including pedagogical philosophies, etc), and after thinking about this shitty shitty experience I had in class today, I realized that it’s quite possible that I personally would absolutely hate the kind of class that I am beginning to design.
I won’t bore you with the specific details, but there are significant conflicts between my fledgling philosophy of teaching and my own personal experience with learning, reading and writing.
I don’t know exactly how that happened, or why that happened. I have always been extremely sensitive to the fact that not all people learn or see reading/writing in the same way, so I suspect that I began to develop my own theories sort of as a contrast of my own experiences. This wasn’t conscious though. I look at my drafts of my theories and see them as sound, balanced, and they ring as something I truly believe in. But after today, when I realized that what happened to me today is something that would happen to me as a student in my own classes… it was kind of a shock.
But a good kind of shock. Because now a little bit more of the tangled mess in my head is unpacked, and I can use this to inform the next couple of drafts of my theories as I continue to plan my class.
Anyway, if you got this far in my post, thank you for reading.