Hearing the word April at OISE is as unnerving as hearing the word Voldemort at Hogwarts. Let’s cut to the chase…everyone is currently a little less patient and a little more stressed. Graduate students are working hard to finish their final papers and projects while faculty members are equally busy marking everything to meet strict deadlines. Factor in the 100 other responsibilities folks have to simultaneously manage and before you know it, everyone is reaching their boiling point. So why am I stating the obvious? It is because I whole-heartedly believe that self-care is SO much more important than a beautifully formatted APA references list.
Though we are busy wrapping up the academic year, self-care should never be put on the back-burner. Even if you do not think you have the time, self-care does not have to be a time-consuming event. Here’s a list of small actions that can have a big impact:
Get proper rest and sleep. Eat well. Think positively. Sing in the shower. Be honest with yourself. Colour. Have a spontaneous dance party. Do yoga. Eat yogurt. Keep track of your “stress quotient”. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t place blame. Recognize and acknowledge your stress level. Be yourself. Run. Walk. Sit. Lay down. Stay. Don’t stay. Choreograph an interpretive dance. Cook. Get dressed up. Take a deep breath. Make a to-do list. Practice living in the present. Be with friends. Be alone. Be. Learn to accept what you can’t change. Write someone a letter. Do something nice for someone. Admit to yourself how you feel. Think about unicorns. Make a nice dinner. Play your favorite sport. Take a nice long shower. Hug it out. Scream into a pillow, or at a picture. Get off campus. Vent. Be optimistic. Be realistic. Smile. Find something that makes you happy, and do it.
Believe me, I know it’s easier said than done and everyone copes with their stress in different ways. But if there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind while you indent, paraphrase, cite, & proofread, it’s this: You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.
This upcoming Fall I (Pooja) will begin teaching my first course at Simon Fraser University entitled: Building on Reflective Practice. The past few weeks I have been consumed thinking about what I want my course to look like. I have been asking myself: What do I want students to experience during this course? What is my overall goal for this course? What new understandings do I want students to be able to arrive to?
While developing the course I have realized I want students to have opportunities to develop as critical reflective practitioners; that is think deeply about how issues of power, dominance, and equity influence their work and those they work with. I stumbled upon the following image (Pietroni, 1995) which has stuck with me. It speaks to how critical reflection helps to develop our practice (as teachers, social workers, nurses, etc.) as a professional, personal, and political act.
If you have taught a course in critical reflective practice, I would love to hear about your experiences. What worked and what didn’t? What did students find meaningful?
I (Cathy) am currently working my way through a book on critical reflection. ‘Working’ is the operative word, as this book, What Our Stories Teach Us, is set up as a guide to take us ( the teacher, professor, etc.) through an active critical analysis of our lives as educators using storying and critical incidence. The author, Linda Shadiow, loves to share stories herself. Below is one of her favourites. Apparently she has told it often and she uses it in her book to illustrate how our stories can impact our lives.
A graduate student is attending a lecture being given by one of her intellectual heroes, the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire. She takes notes furiously, trying to capture as many of his words as possible. Seeing that she is keenly interested in what Freire had to say, his translator asks if she would like to meet him. Of course! She is introduced and he begins by inquiring about her work. Then he graciously agrees to respond to a set of questions she and her colleagues hoped they would get the chance to ask him. She is impressed beyond belief, but time prevents her from asking one last, difficult question. They meet accidentally once more at the event and he wonders if she asked all her questions? No, there is one more. “Given your work, we want to know ‘where is the hope’?” Without hesitating he moves toward her, takes her face in his hands, looks into her eyes, and replies, “You tell them, ‘you are the hope, because theory needs to be reinvented, not replicated … it is a guide. We make history as we move through it and that is the hope.”
(Taken from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/reflections-on-teaching-learning-from-our-stories/ )
The graduate student is, of course, Shadiow. She explains in her book that her experience with Freire never left her. It energized and motivated her. She had to “give back “. She invites us as both reader and participant to rediscover our incidences of profound learning and let them move us.
I (Cathy) was reading a literacy newsletter yesterday and was intrigued by an article by literacy educator, Clare Landrigan. She reminisced about a saying her father used to share with her, “Everyone’s greatest strength is their greatest weakness and their greatest weakness is their greatest strength.” I have heard this before and tend to agree with it. I have referred to it often while exploring Brookfield’s critical incidences with my student teachers. We would reflect on the possibility of how our greatest strength could be holding us from recognizing our own literacy assumptions.
What intrigued me about Landrigan’s article was the educational perspective she introduced that I simply had not entertained before. She asked her readers to look at the weaknesses of her students and try to see them as their greatest strength. For example, the student who cannot sit still . . . has the potential to be incredibly productive and he student who takes forever to do something . . . is attentive and thoughtful. What a wonderfully productive way to look at the students we teach, regardless of age. It also might help us recognize positive aspects in ourselves when we are feeling particularly critical. What is your greatest weakness?