What does this have to do with the Virtual Conference's Prompt? I know that part of my problem today was that I was not trusting myself as a golfer. On almost every shot, I hit harder or softer than I knew I needed to because I was over thinking based on the previous shot. This is a poor way to play golf. And after reading Golf and the Spirit, I know that these lessons can translate to other aspects of my life, like teaching. So my answer to, "What is at the center of my classroom?" is two-fold: reflection and trust.
In Golf and the Spirit, M. Scott Peck writes:
Forgive yourself each and every bad shot - as long as you have learned what it had to teach you - and then get on with it, free and unencumbered. (p. 266)As a golfer and a teacher, I spend a great deal of time analyzing my practice, but I struggle with the letting go of mistakes part. This past year I created the following qualitative graph to remind me of my issue.
Personal reflection certainly improves my professional growth but there is a point where it seems like more reflection actually causes me to go backwards professionally. The extra reflection sucks my time and my confidence. I was convinced that I needed to find that reflective sweet spot and then stop.
Fortunately, I shared this visual metaphor with one of my teachers in training, who asked, "Does that mean I get to a point where I never get better?" To which she quickly responded, "I don't think that's true." (Have I mentioned how great our teaching candidates are at GVSU?) Instead, we thought about how adjusting the graph from a quadratic to a cubic might make better sense.
The idea is that when I find myself questioning my ability as a teacher, I need to be aware of this, accept it as part of my nature, and then adjust by letting go, moving on, and trusting myself (the Yoga Story strikes again). Essentially, I want to identify what I am doing instinctually well and make it intentional.
I have been thinking about this a lot this week because I am putting the finishing touches on a new course that begins next Tuesday. While I worked hard with my colleagues to design this course (see the Understanding by Design plan here), I am now second guessing myself and thinking about ways to do things differently. I almost skipped golf this morning to put even more work into the course. Lucky for me I trusted my instincts instead.
If reflection and trust are at the center of my classroom, then it must begin with me (Jason was right!). My learners will look to me as a model whether we are talking about doing mathematics or teaching. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate a reflective practice that is built on trust - trust of my learners and trust of myself.