I am currently reading Brookfield’s (2017) second edition book entitled “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.” At the end of every semester, students share their experiences of learning in my courses through a feedback mechanism that my institution has named SETL (Student Experiences of Teaching and Learning). I typically look forward to reading the comments and also do so with the hope that I will be better able to adjust my practice for future students. This year, I was reluctant to read the report and felt all sorts of butterflies-in-the-stomach when it came time to do so (I am blaming COVID-19 for this as it was my first time teaching remotely). Essentially, the reports this semester were similar to the many that I have read before (and I share with you dear reader the reports are mostly positive and highly insightful) but way down–in the small print comments–a message that one student perceived me to be singularly focused on one way to demonstrate success (and this was NOT a strength) struck a tender nerve. This notion of “my way or the highway” has been shared with me in the past–albeit, by my children–but I could always square that away with “Right! I DO know best – I am your Mother!” narrative. This was different.
Brookfield (2017) suggests that a teacher can reframe their teaching by “viewing it through four distinctive and complementary lenses: through their students’ eyes, colleagues perceptions, relevant theory and research, and personal experience” (p. 7). He also asserts that critical reflection is not simply “deeper reflection,” it focusses on understanding power and hegemony (Brookfield, 2017, p.9).
My standing questions: How then can I unpack my teacher power and see the hegemonies that I am trapped by to change my practice? How can I best see through my students’ eyes? Which trusted peer can I rely on to challenge me? What does the research say? And lastly, I am thinking about when I have felt this way as a learner: what does my own lived experience reveal to me?
Perhaps when I have read a bit further into Brookfield’s work, I will hold more answers. But for now, it is enough to know that I am not alone. Brookfield reminds us that all teachers fall victim to our assumptions. In this case, my prescriptive assumption that success = x + y + z in my assessment scheme, and in my communication, shut down one student’s creativity and perhaps their questions. It is up to me to adjust–and I do so with gratitude that they shared.