Reflections upon Becoming Critically Reflective, by Stephen D. Brookfield

First, if anyone ever sees me clinging too tightly to my “assumptive clusters”, I want you to tell me…immediately.  And then, you can tell me what assumptive clusters are.  All snarkiness aside, Brookfield has made a good effort to condense a cloud of feelings and knowledge about being a good teacher into several pages of text, for which I thank him.

Using our own self-knowledge (and histories or autobiographies) to inform our teaching philosophies makes sense, as does trying to gain insight into our styles and function via our students’ eyes and opinions.  These are the tools we have.  Our colleagues can inform us about the assumptive clusters that we exhibit, among other not-so-great characteristics that may affect our teaching abilities, and the theoretical literature can enlighten us, but only if we can clearly understand it and put theory into practice.

I am 100% behind Brookfield’s estimation of classroom teachers’ estimations of academic literature as being written to impress tenure committees rather than to assist teachers in their work and professional growth.  Even when topics or concepts are hard to pin down, simple is better, and Einstein seemed to think that the heart of genius is simplicity.  Me, not arguing with ole Albert, no way.

Dismissing personal teaching experience as “merely anecdotal” is not only demeaning (Brookfield), but mad.  We are, each of us, our own experimental universe, and this includes students.  Our personal experience is all we have, as we do not have interchangeable chips that can be inserted while we do this task or that.  We ride around with and within ourselves, 24/7/365, and I think being truly reflective (on the road to being effective) must acknowledge and use that experience, as well as invite criticism from those around us.  What we do well in one’s eyes may be a fault in another’s.  Finding the balance—where is it; does it exist?  Of course it does, but the balance point is different every day, in every class, and for every student.

Thus, the challenge of teaching.  We enter classrooms inhabited by universes of unknown experience and capacity, unknown wounds, unknown accomplishments (also, unknown lack of sleep).  No one can tread every line in this environment without flaw.  No one.  For those who enjoy the unattainable challenge, this is it.

Btw, calling brownie points deviance credits?  Please.  Bottom line, no institutional brownie points, no voice.  No service, no voice.  Be heard, and if you need a life preserver, count upon your colleagues to throw you one, as carrying one with you all the time impedes progress and ensures mediocrity.  Just sayin.  Bouncing ideas.

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