When teachers regularly reflect, they can combat self-sabotage, improve their confidence and reduce their risk of burnout, says Fabian Darku.

Never has it been more important for us to reflect on the way we conduct ourselves as educators. In the fallout from the ongoing  pandemic, we are collectively exhausted and grappling with our learners to guide them towards successful course completion. “What is described as ‘The Four Big Demotivators’ of fear, boredom, previous negative experience and loss of hope have re-emerged with greater force following the ‘lockdown’ periods.” 1

Many educators are seeking clear reflective solutions to stabilise their learning environment. In the January 2022 edition of R.I.S.E. Magazine, I presented the education reflection ‘RATE’ model. The basis of the model is to encourage educators to action four key elements:

  • Reflect on teaching and learning
  • Achievement acknowledgement in lessons
  • Target-set for future lessons
  • Enforce and evaluate the targets set

Why should we contemplate and RATE?

The RATE model has been created primarily as an action-based, reflective tool for self-assessment but can also be used as a supportive strategy for coaching. The model was born to solve feelings of disillusionment upon reflecting on my own teaching. I desperately wanted to be more adept at finding ways to positively tackle whatever issue appeared through lessons. It became incredibly burdensome having thoughts of what had gone wrong in lessons spiral in my mind. Through communicating across various mediums, I realised that all teachers, even the most experienced, had lessons they were dissatisfied with.

It has become acutely apparent that an urgent shift is now required to steer our mindset back to a more positive state in the aftermath of teaching our lessons. Themes ranging from behaviour management, declining attendance or a lack of completed work are common dilemmas. Educators want to have the resources to solve the greatest of problems with minimal effort and time. A clear reflection system has become imperative in helping us to reach effective solutions. Learner disengagement plays a large part in helping us identify when we need to reflect on possible changes to apply. The KASH model 2 was created to counteract reduced learner engagement. It focused on ‘learners having a lack of/or decline in Knowledge, Attitude, Skills and Habits’. Reflection can be more purposeful when tied in with clear indicators within such models.

If we decline the need to reflect, we risk being overwhelmed, potentially leading to the accumulation of mental health problems and eventual burnout.

Since my previous article, I’ve had the honour of moving into a new role as a Teacher-Trainer. Being positioned to train and teach potential teachers comes with great privilege but has monumental responsibility attached. The conscience comes into play because we are playing our part in shaping the ways that prospective educators might conduct their future teaching roles.

It has been suggested by Gravells and Wallace (2013) that ‘educational action research’ is the key to successful reflection. There must be a system of reflection, then action, and finally returning to reflection to determine the effectiveness of our interventions in practice.

Self-sabotage and student satisfaction

Are we self-sabotaging our relationships with out learners if we neglect to set time aside to reflect? Extreme mental fatigue and tiredness can prevent us from entering this space. Travelling on the teaching path with a ‘fixed mindset‘ can be a damaging one. If we think what we have always done is the only way to do it, we are restricting incremental improvements to our lessons. Sometimes, our daily existence sees us inadvertently stuck in a rut of collecting learner coursework, whilst ignoring the relational aspects of our roles. We risk learners losing interest in their chosen subject areas and becoming more despondent. Some will veer off the path of their own free will and we must accept that we cannot change every learner to our way of thinking.

The key is to know when intervention is required to get things back on track. How we reflect must also consider fulfilling their learning experience, making it a fully rounded one. Reflecting with RATE potentially opens a space where one can pause to reflect on critical lesson occurrences.

If we keep entering lessons habitually making the same mistakes, it shows a complete lack of desire to meet the needs of our learners. We must aim to be more willing to develop our reflective instincts to make ourselves increasingly better at our craft and to broaden our problem-solving tactics.

Reflective reality of the RATE model

How does the RATE model work in our weekly reality? Breaking the model down into its four components offers a chance to identify and solve problems systematically. We must proactively pause with purpose to ponder the positive progress that can proceed!

Reflect for resilience to guide our teaching experience

A great lesson can easily be followed by a disastrous one in the blink of an eye. Many will experience mental battles where we cannot perceive ourselves going back to work the next day. Advocating for mental fortitude is the key and is defined as “the ability to focus on and execute solutions when in the face of uncertainty or adversity.” 3 Reflecting and executing a plan for each improvement to make, creates the peace of mind that we need to continually bounce back.

Achieve aspirations and avoid low motivation

We must not forget to acknowledge visible successes in teaching and learning. We can make use of rewarding our learners, either through a regular system or sporadic opportunities. Either way, our reflection must recognise the value of attributing rewards to learner success. Through building relationships with our learners, we will get to know what triggers positive learning outcomes and achievement.

Target-set and transform to create a new norm

Sometimes as educators, we can be incredibly busy dealing with countless learners and lessons that it is increasingly difficult to keep track of all targets we set for improvement. How we pitch our targets is the key to their eventual success. If the measurement is unclear, it is unlikely to be achieved, leading to feelings that we have failed our learners and ourselves.

Enforce and evaluate by setting a date

The most important part of target setting is deciding how to strike the target with purpose. A meaningful timeframe to track against is essential. Evaluating targets means providing closure, whilst creating clear pathways for next steps. Setting and completing a few targets at a time is more beneficial and achievable than trying to tackle a long list in its entirety.

Concluding our corrections

Each term in teaching presents countless opportunities to reflect and solve dilemmas on a continual basis. We look to the future in the hope that more educators will be encouraged to test the RATE model approach to reflective teaching. Using the RATE model reignites our responsibilities to reflect, react and resolve with rigour!

Comments or reflections can be shared on social media using the hashtag #RATEreflection.

References

  1. Wallace (2018). Motivating Unwilling Learners in Further Education. Bloomsbury
  2. Griffith & Burns (2012). Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners. Crown House Publishing.
  3. Gravells & Wallace (2013). The A-Z Guide to Working in Further Education. Critical Publishing.
  4. Campbell, S. (2018) 8 Essentials for Developing mental Fortitude. (Accessed: 21 March 2022). Available at: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/311791#:~:text=Mental%20fortitude%20is%20defined%20as%20the%20ability%20to,it%20can%20easily%20drive%20us%20to%20quit%20prematurely.

Author

  • Fabian Darku

    Fabian is a teacher, teacher-trainer and teaching and learning leader. He has worked in secondary and FE establishments since 2008. He has Master’s Degrees in teaching and learning and sport and culture. With 5 years’ experience in retail management prior to teaching, Fabian has the proven adaptability and desire to make a positive impact to teaching practice through reflective methods.
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