a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher
Some years ago at a conference for language teachers in Hong Kong, the joke went round that they would be installing mirrors in all the rooms because the word “reflection” appeared in so many of the sessions. The huge wave of “reflective” articles and presentations may have subsided but the thinking behind the word is still worth, sorry, reflecting on.
Tom Farrell opens his engaging book on this topic with the example of a woman who cooked her roast beef in a particular way because that’s what her mother had always done. She overlooked the fact that with the larger pots now available, there was no reason to be trimming the roast any more. I have used that example with teachers in different places and found that the example speaks to them. If you’re not a cook, try substituting the image of yourself doing carpentry or knitting or anything where you imitate your grandparents.
Which of our classroom practices are we following just because, long ago, we saw someone teaching that way? If you literally had a mirror at the back of your classroom, what aspects of the image you saw would worry or please you? Here are a few questions to consider, some deeper than others.
How, in the absence of mirrors, can we reflect on our teaching? Help is at hand. Occasionally give material to a student the night before and ask him/her to present that point tomorrow. Then sit at the back and watch. Ask yourself how many of the student’s words and actions imitate yours. If that is too drastic, try calling in a colleague. Choose someone you like, or you’ll never take any notice. Ask that person to act as a mirror. What looks good? What is due for an overhaul? We can also reflect as we read books about teaching and about relationships and even about life.
Finally let’s look at the big picture. Imagine you are an eavesdropper at a reunion of your class in many decades’ time. How would you like them to be remembering you?
That was the teacher who…
And so on. Reflect on the list you would like.
 Thomas S. C. Farrell (2007), Reflective Language Teaching: From Research to Practice, Continuum.
After retiring from her position as Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland, Marilyn Lewis has continued using her gifts for glory. She has trained teachers in various locations throughout Asia including Vietnam, India, and China. She continues to add to a long list of publications by sharing her expertise with various co-authors around the globe. And she fulfills the role of auntie extraordinaire with young relatives.