“We do not learn from experience…
We learn from reflecting on experience.”
Thinking is not a bad thing. The skill is doing it with intention, knowing when to engage with it and when to step back.
To reflect is to think inquisitively about something, with the desire to gain understanding. It is a moment of searching, a curious and intentional wondering of the heart.
Reflection is considering something, which we may not have otherwise given much thought to. It is consciously looking at and thinking about the world around us, in order to learn more about our true nature, purpose and essence.
Reflecting promotes growth by providing us with the opportunity to look inward, instead of outward. It gives us a moment to pause and sort through what we have observed and experienced to create meaning. This meaning then becomes the learning which guides our actions.
Imagine for a moment that our experiences, thoughts and feelings are all pieces to a puzzle. Reflection allows us to put these pieces together, to form our own unique picture.
Reflection is not only an important practice for us, but it is also a gift that we can share with others. As adults we strive to connect and inspire learning in our children. Reflection empowers children with the ability to seek their own answers and is an integral part of self-directed learning and investigation.
As children explore and build relationships with the world around them, they make discoveries. Through reflecting on these discoveries and connecting their experiences, they construct meaning which forms their understanding; they learn how to learn.
“Education is not the learning of facts,
but the training of the mind to think”.
When considering how to explain what a Pedagogy of Love is, I stumbled across a challenge. What is love? How do you define what love is? How do you put into words, something that is felt?
I reflected on this for a long time and nothing that I came up with felt as deep as the concept of love itself. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to involve my son (4 years) with the hope that we could explore our thoughts and learn together.
“What is love?” I asked.
“I don’t know” he replied.
My son usually has an answer for everything and we often have many profound conversations. This wasn’t the answer I had expected but looking back it makes perfect sense. If we want to reflect on a subject, it must first hold some sort of significance to us. A question that isn’t connected to our experience is meaningless.
I didn’t pursue the question any further. I had planted a seed and I left it at that. I have discovered through my own reflections that the more you try to think about something the harder it becomes, you create a wall for yourself. Answers always arrive in a relaxed mind.
Over the next few days, with the question of love still fresh in his mind, my son began to draw his own meaning from the experiences we had. These little light bulb moments sparked insight and helped him piece together his own understanding.
While having a cuddle on the couch he looked up at me with a bright smile and said, “Mum, I know what love is! Love is a heart that beats… It’s when you hug and you never want to let go… Love is forever. It’s when you want each other and you stay with each other. ”
When we were saying goodnight and talking about gratitude he said, “I love you Mummy… Love is when you are grateful for someone. Love comes from your body, your words. You breathe it into you and you feel it. ”
A Helping Hand
While playing outside on the monkery bars he asked… “Mum, can you help me because when you love someone you help them do the things they want to do”.
Love is Energy
I was really tired when he asked me to play a chasing game with him. I told him I would play later because I didn’t have enough energy. His reply was , “Mummy you can have some of my energy because I love you. Love is when I get some of my energy and a give it to you.”
Each time we talked about love I wrote it down, and then I read it all back to him.
“LOVE is a HEART that BEATS. Love is FOREVER.
It’s when you want each other and you stay with each other.
It’s when you hug and you never want to let go.
Love is when you are grateful for someone.
Love comes from your body, your words.
You breathe it into you and you feel it.
When you love someone you help them do the things they want to do.
Love is when I get some of my energy and a give it to you.”
People have searched for centuries for the right words to explain what love is, and while there are plenty of ways in which we can express our love, finding the right words to define it is extremely difficult and seems near impossible.
Children have such a beautiful understanding of life and love and exploring this with my son helped me realise what love means to me. In terms of a ‘Pedagogy of Love’ I consider love to be the heart-centred connection which creates the foundation for ALL meaningful teaching and learning relationships but even with this understanding firmly in my mind I still felt the need to reflect further. Love is so much more than that.
“Love is the most powerful element in the universe.”
I had so many questions. If love is the most powerful element in the universe shouldn’t we extend our love to as many people as possible? Why is it that we feel we only love those that are closest to us? Why do we hold on so tight to our love and only share it with a few? Why is love something we hold back, hide and deny? Why do we put limits on something that is essentially limitless?
After much reflection I have concluded that love is love. There is no other word for it, but it’s not simply a word. It is an emotion, a feeling, and feelings are contagious. Just notice how quickly, laughter, touch, a hug or even one smile can lift someones spirits or how heavy you feel when those around you are angry. Love is the same, when you love yourself and you love others you share that feeling with those around you. But it is also so much more than that. Emotions come a go, where love remains.
So if love is not just a word, a feeling or an emotion, is it an action? Love is the intentional act of giving someone, gifting someone or something your time, your presence, your attention and energy. When you love something you pour your heart into it, you give it everything you have but you can’t use up love, the more you give, the more you have.
Aroha is love, and if you give it away, give it away, give it away,
Aroha is love, and if you give it away, it will come right back to you.
It's just like a magic penny, hold on tight and you won't get any.
But spend it, lend it, give it away, and it comes right back to you.
- New Zealand Children’s Song
The root of all human behaviour is one of two things; either an expression of love or a call for love. So often I witness children searching for love and it breaks my heart every time I hear someone say “they are just looking for attention”.
When a child is loved they are seen, heard, valued, believed in, secure, and connected. How can we ensure that all children feel this way? When we think about our most challenging moments with children do we stop to consider whether they are feeling truely loved and connected with us. Could it be that our busy schedules, extended periods of screen time, large childcare group sizes, heavily controlled environments and lack of presence is causing children to feel disconnected?
“What ever the question, love is the answer.”
Wayne W. Dyer
Love is the key. Love is more than a word, more than an emotion and more than an action. It’s more than anything we could say, anything we could feel or anything we could do. When a person is truly loving, they are love. Love lives inside all of us. It’s a state of being.
“Be love, so much love
that when others are with you they are love.”
When a child is loved they become the best version of themselves that they can be. Scientific research has shown that children that receive support, nurturing and LOVE in the early years of life have substantially more growth in the parts of the brain associated with learning, memory and emotional regulation.
Love physically affects the size of a child’s brain and development.
LOVE not only changes our hearts and minds but it
POSITIVELY CHANGES OUR BRAINS.
With that knowledge how could we not make love our priority?
Reflection is such a powerful tool and without it we only skim the surface of our understanding. Without it I wouldn’t have come to the understanding I have, and be able to define what love means to me. All the knowledge we need is within us and reflection allows us to pull it out and bring it into our awareness.
Keep reading for suggestions on how you can incorporate reflection
into your life with little effort and use it as a tool to support children in their learning.
When we make reflecting a regular practice we begin to think carefully and consider topics on a much deeper level. The most effective thing you can do to increase growth and understanding is to reflect. When we question what we think we know and our experiences we bring our focus to the meaning and the lessons within them.
As an Early Childhood Educator being reflective is something that you have to do often and in most cases the things that you have to do, no longer become enjoyable. When we are given a topic and a timeframe it is no longer something we are doing for ourselves. So instead of following any sort of guide, make it your own. Choose how you want to do it and how often. Don’t make it a serious task but a passionate one.
You can’t get reflection wrong. Everyones view of the world, everyones perception, is unique. Each person is at a different level of understanding. Your understanding of love may be completely different to mine and that’s ok. We are all on our own journey and we create our own realities.
What do you reflect on?
You can reflect on absolutely anything that you want to explore, learn more from and understand. Anything that you are passionate about, topics that spark your interest, inspire and motivate you. Think about questions you have in regards to yourself, others and the world around you.
When thinking about questions, ‘why’ questions, seem to be the ones that come to mind, they encourage us to question things but they can also get us questioning ourselves. Try to focus more on ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions. ‘Why’ questions also tend to stir up negative emotions and highlight our limitations, whereas ‘what’ questions encourage us to be curious and positive.
Making a time to reflect
A good time to reflect is when you have some time to yourself. A time when you can sit down without any distractions, be still, breathe and relax. Life can get so busy that we often forget to ‘gift’ ourselves these precious moments. The more time and energy you dedicate to yourself, the more centred you become and more able you are to take on work and life. Make ‘you’ the priority. This may mean running a hot bath and using that as an opportunity to reflect. You always have time for the things you put first.
Take a moment to imagine your ideal thinking place. This place is uniquely yours and reflects who you are. Set out to create your own space of inspiration that motivates you. You might choose an area indoors with objects that sooth your soul or you may prefer to head outside to find a quiet place in nature. A place where you feel comfortable and relaxed, a place where you can give yourself the chance to pause and get lost in thought.
Having the time and space to reflect is ideal but reflection looks differently for each of us and there is not one size that fits all. Reflection for one person may involve stillness, mediation, journalling, and absolute quiet, yet for another it may involve movement, noise, music or discussions.
Reflecting on the go
If your not the type of person that can make a set time for reflection then do it on the go. Reflection doesn’t need to be scheduled, some of our most creative visions come to us spontaneously.
I would describe myself as an active reflector. I often reflect while cooking, doing the dishes or the washing. I try to utilise the times throughout the day that don’t involve alot of concentration.
You can get yourself into a habit by recording ‘one sentence reflections’. Thoughts that come to you in a moment of contemplation which can then be built on over time. To start, set an intention to catch one or two moments during the day and journal your one sentence reflections. They don’t need to be amazing, start small and see where they lead you.
You can incorporate reflection into your life by making it part of your daily routine. Try giving it a go everyday for a month, create a habit of reflecting and hopefully it will become a natural process that requires little effort.
If you feel like you may forget, choose a specific activity to associate reflection with. Something you do everyday such as sitting down for a cup of tea or even allowing for a few minutes before bed.
At night after our bedtime story, my son and I “talk about our day”. We think back to the morning and walk through what we have done, our encounters, thoughts, and feelings. When you take a step back and run through the events of the day you almost automatically begin to question and interpret what has happened.
For example the other day my son mentioned that one of his friends was upset at preschool. This gave us the opportunity to explore together why people might get upset, what we can do during these situations and empathise with how other people might be feeling. This is a personal one-on-one time we have together that has become part of our routine and something that I truly cherish. I may not be there to support him when he is at preschool but I can help him to reflect on what happened, process the events that took place and come to his own understandings.
As an Early Childhood Educator we also incorporate reflective practice into our daily routine within the centre. As well as capitalising on teachable moments throughout the day we hold a ‘Morning Meeting’. This meeting marks the start of our day together. We meet as a whole group, welcome each other and then use the time for reflection. We talk about encounters and experiences that have taken place the day or week before, we discuss the current learning investigations and share our ideas. Providing opportunities for reflection helps children create their own theories about world around them. It is a process that helps generate thoughts, ideas, and questions. It allows children to brainstorm possibilities and evaluate their own learning.
Weekly - Monthly
A weekly review of your reflections can help weave your thoughts and experiences together. Think of it as reflecting on your reflections. But if having to sit down each week feels like something you would dread, stretch it out to once a month or better yet, when you feel called to do so.
A monthly review can help you see clearly, the growth you make overtime. It highlights your accomplishments, the progression of your thoughts and gives you the opportunity to view and celebrate your achievements.
An annual reflection may seem like a huge task but there are a few really neat ideas you could try to make it fun. The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect and look back on everything you have experienced, discovered and achieved. A time to slow down and reminisce, appreciate the little things, the big things and look back on your favourite moments.
If you are a visual person you may like to keep small monthly reflections displayed using a white board or with post-it notes or why not try creating a memory jar, well or box. Each week you post a note containing the things you’ve done, places you’ve been and moments you’ve cherished inside. Then on, or near New Years you go through and reflect back on the year that you’ve had.
Rules for reflecting
There are no rules for reflecting. When we think of reflection there is as common perception that it has to be done in the traditional form of a written journal. If writing is not your thing then try some alternatives, get creative. Use reflection as a basis for artistic projects, music, song writing, or audio and visual recordings. Children often use their multiple creative languages as a from of reflection and to express their understanding. Why can’t we as adults do the same?
You can reflect in which ever way you want. What you reflect on and how you reflect is up to you, it’s not important. What is important is your attitude and your intention. It’s about following your desire to learn and as a result you gain clarity, insight and a deeper understanding of yourself, others and the world. Don’t do it because you have to do it, do it because you want to do it. Keep the process enjoyable.
If reflection is something you haven’t tried, or if you have built up your own resistance towards reflection and it has become a challenging and tedious task try some of these suggestions. Bring the joy back to reflection and see where this journey can take you. You have the freedom to make it what ever you wish.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason because there is a lesson in everything we do. Every person we meet, place we go, and experience we have, helps us understand more about ourselves and who we are. Each moment reveals to us what we want or what we don’t want in our lives, who we want to be or who we don’t want to be. Life happens and it’s not until we look back that we discover the meaning within it. Reflecting helps awaken us to that which we were not conscious of.
Every experience whether good or bad happens for a reason, because every experience, good or bad, has something valuable to teach us. It just takes a little reflection to see it. Life is mysterious, the next time you find yourself wondering, why not make it intentional, use it as an opportunity to reflect. The more you do, the more natural it will become.
Reflection has huge benefits to all, so why don’t we invite our children to journey with us as we continue to learn alongside each other. They may even take use to places we never thought were possible.
“The important thing is to never stop questioning”
Reflecting with Children
The key to learning is reflecting back on our experiences. Questioning our experiences forges the way for new thinking. Our wish for children is for them to develop the ability to reflect deeply so that they can apply past knowledge to new situations, so that they think about their thinking, and remain open to new learning. Here are some strategies that you can use to help support children in developing a reflective mindset.
Create a love for learning
Play is self-directed learning, and the most meaningful way that children come to understand themselves, others and the world around them. By following the child’s lead we allow them to navigate, which helps create a love for learning. By allowing children the space and time to explore and make discoveries we support their natural curiosity and ability to learn how to learn. If you fall in love with the process, the answers will come.
Focus on the process
Lets take a moment to reflect back on our school maths classes. If we had a multiplication problem to solve, we were required to record the steps we took to reach the answer. If we simply wrote down the answer without including the process we would get it wrong, even if the answer is right.
We know that learning occurs when children actively participate in the process of discovery. What we need to do is bring our focus to the process itself rather than the end result. Answers don’t matter. If children can’t get to their own answers, no learning has taken place.
It is important that there is an understanding that there are no right or wrong answers. It is a journey. The process is simply learning to be reflective. Each and every contribution, thought, idea, insight and understanding shared is accepted.
Children need opportunities throughout the day where they can look back on their previous learning experiences and reflect. We can do this by mindfully catching moments of reflection throughout the day and by also allocating an activity or specific time intentionally, such as the beginning or the end of the day, to do this.
As well as supporting children to reflect we also need to remember at times to take a step back. Children need time on their own to stop and think, time to wonder, time to reflect. Our days can get busy and filled with the things we “need” to do. Let’s not forget to slow down, let children get bored and allow for these opportunities to take place naturally.
Actions speak louder than words. By being reflective ourselves, we role model to our children. Talk to children about what you have learned and how you learned it. Think out loud and verbally walk through, step by step, how you arrive at your conclusions.
My son often asks “Mum, how do you know that?” so I explain. Children have a thirst for knowledge. Instead of replying with comments such as “I just know” explain to them how you know what you know.
You can provoke thought by asking the right open-ended questions. Encourage children to think about ‘what learning took place?’, ‘what did you learn during this experience?’, ‘what would you change?’, ‘what would you do the same?’ The idea is to eventually encourage children to ask themselves these questions.
Children initiate conversations about topics that are directly related to them, their interests, and the things they notice in the moment. Rather than posing our own questions to children, we need to run with what comes to them and use questions to encourage them to go further. Just like us, when we are given something to reflect on, rather than choosing it ourselves, it is not something that we can instantly flow with. By posing questions to children we encourage the exploration of thought, the discovery of ideas and promote a problem-solving attitude.
Encourage children to describe or share their revelations through the use of their many languages or forms of expression; drawing, painting, sculpting etc
As time passes this gives you the opportunity to view how understanding has evolved from what was known previously to what is known now.
The ultimate goal is for children to begin reflecting without being prompted. For them to draw meaning from their experiences and to gain understanding by piecing together their own puzzles. To be able to go inward, listen and explore in order to enrich their own learning experiences.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
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