It goes without saying that we teachers have this penchant for (self-) reflection. One could claim that it is a part of the work, irrevocably connected to the nature of the job we do. One could even remark that it is the possibility of reflecting about our daily practice which enhances our teaching skills, and consequently turns us into better professionals.
Yet, a more diligent observer could assume that, given this “innate” teachers’ self-reflective nature, there is a fine line between the professional and personal, or rather, the public and the private. Thus, it is not too far-fetched to suppose that if things go well in class, teachers will be more inclined to feel better that day. Nevertheless, at the other end of the spectrum, what if the personal is too intense to be left home or in the teachers’ room? In other words, what happens when self-reflection comes with other strings attached?
More than an inner didactic tool, reflection and/or self-reflection is a personality trait which is, in the vast majority of the cases, much more acute in teachers and other professionals who are in contact with other people. Invariably, these professionals need to dive into the metaphysical pool of the human psyche so as to understand the idiosyncrasies of some individuals in order to be able to make a positive difference in the lives of these people. However, beautiful as this prerogative might sound, it also has its consequences. Hardly would a person, willing to live up to this level of professional commitment, get out unscathed of some difficult situations. Especially, if what was so carefully engineered to help and/or support our students goes wrong, or even worse, prove itself to be utterly ineffective. Particularly, this might be the time when reflection ceases to be a gift and the self-reflective teacher sees him or herself haunted by the always unwelcome ghost of failure. Well, when something like this happens, I guess that all we can do is to be grateful for the silver linings.
The other day I was in a rather pensive mood, ruminating about my life as a teacher and how relevant my practice, my approaches and my teaching skills still are in the lives of my students. I could not help but wonder if my choices in life really had driven me to be the best professional/person I could actually be. It was precisely at this moment that the mellifluous voice and harmonious features of a former student of mine plucked me from my reverie, calling me back to the lap of reality. She said that I had been her teacher years ago and that I was one of the best teachers she had ever had.
Needless to say that instantaneously I started to reflect about the importance of her comment at that very sensitive moment. Hence, I came to the conclusion that being self-reflective is not easy, but it is not a choice, either. In reality, it is part and parcel of who we are, so we need to learn how to live with it and we need to forgive ourselves for our setbacks (after all, they are part of life, too). However, we should not allow our introspection to blindfold us for the subtle answers destiny gives us to caress our souls when we really need some spiritual comfort. And by no means should we, acknowledging that we have learned how to teach, forget about how to learn from anyone, anywhere, at any time.
JORGE LUIZ MONTEIRO PEÇANHA
Jorge teaches in our Vila da Penha branch. Besides working for Cultura Inglesa, he also works in municipal and state schools. Jorge holds a Master’s Degree in Literatures in English from UERJ. He has worked as an English teacher for more than 15 years.