Transformative Butterflies: Teaching as Reflective Process

butterfly1“Butterflies are not insects,’ Captain John Sterling said soberly. ‘They are self-propelled flowers.”
― Robert A. HeinleinThe Cat Who Walks Through Walls

I have a vision of a little girl imaging herself as a famous singer. She’s on her imaginary stage, cardboard microphone in hand, singing up a storm to an imaginary crowd. Replace that cardboard with wire and sound, and she is quiet, still – almost frozen from the butterflies that are fluttering insider her. Thirty years later, that same little girl finds herself in a new vision – this one so close to approaching reality its scares her. The butterflies have returned. She is now imaging herself as an instructor. Her stage is a classroom (physical or virtual), her microphone her knowledge, her crowd her students eager (or needing) to learn. The butterflies this time are not so much from nervousness but from her own lack of confidence in being an effective instructor. That girl is me.

Teaching has always been a goal of mine and as I near my full-fledged LIS career, the opportunity to see myself teaching is in full reality. I recently read Char Booth’s (2011) Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning and her section on  transformative learning really motivated me as she addressed how teaching, just as learning, is a lifelong, transformative process.

What grabbed my attention the most is the identification that teaching is a reflective process, requiring both metacognition and self-reflection that guides instructor development. Booth emphasized how the reflective process helps  you focus you on your skills, abilities, needs and decisions. I believe that process doesn’t just happen during the “moment” as she indicates but would be most effective from curriculum development to the classroom and even beyond.

I also appreciated and found confidence in her section on reflective approaches. Some of the common themes I found included seeing shortcomings as opportunities, being adaptive, and continuously evaluating yourself.  I think the butterflies represent the fear of being “new” in the process and messing it up. By thinking about it as a process of learning, adapting, and transforming the teaching approach, the butterflies settle down. They become near calm when I understand and adopt the philosophy that this process will remain throughout my career span.

The quote above describes the butterfly as a propelled flower. That’s my new vision – to allow the reflective and transformative learning approach to propel me forward to develop my teaching awesomeness.