In an effort to hold up an accountability mirror for students from a different angle today, I began class by asking what would make this class an ideal one for each one’s learning style. The responses varied but included the following: lectures, examples of how to do it, I need to write down what needs to be done instead of selecting what I want to do, if we focus on one thing at a time – I have a short attention span, if I read more and time management, due dates and discussion boards for the different sections you teach of the same subject. All in all, a useful harvest.
The following quote, taken from Improving Self-Worth Increasing Net Worth by Dr. Norman Robertson was the catalyst. I offered it as the prompt for today’s freewriting because I wanted to see the extent to which students could reflect on what their behaviors might be saying about their self-images. This was an advanced exercise as most were very far from realistic in their appraisals of their individual behavior. My freewriting on the topic follows.
The person we believe ourselves to be will always act in a manner consistent with our self-image. – Ann Landers
We are what we repeatedly do, says Aristotle. Excellence is therefore a habit. I repeatedly expect the best and find ways of seeing it no matter what circumstances exist. Sometimes I wish I would just give in to the despair but it has become a habit to say no to the nos the universe proffers. I am the kind of person who thinks of myself as possible. Possible in the sense that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Why are they talking?
Our behavior says so very much about how we see ourselves. So far, in today’s class, my behavior suggests that I think myself strong enough to solicit feedback and thoughtful enough to write it down and consider it. It does not indicate that I am defensive though I try to explain how these concerns have been articulated in previous semesters and addressed.
It’s pretty much a growth step to see a problem / opportunity and then step up to the plate to find or forge the solution(s) to it. So far in class today, my behavior indicates that I do not think of myself as burnt out or washed up. It suggests that I am confident in how I have considered the structure of this class as well as what it is designed to counteract if the learning / teaching is to be effective. It indicates that I think of myself as flexible and still growing / open to new perspectives on something I have done for a very long time. It suggests that I am still creative and see myself as such. It suggests that I am hopeful and view myself as one capable of keeping hope alive or kindling it. It suggests that I see myself as a catalyst and cheerleader and that I can serve these functions whether they are appreciated or not.
I wonder to what extent my behavior is read the same way by the students. Perhaps I will ask them about me before I ask them to dyad about themselves or to start off the general discussion. I wish I had asked M for a topic before launching into the one I received on the treadmill this morning. I contradicted myself by leaping into the ‘chronic’ gap of accountability. I was enthusiastic about having remembered to take the book to the office from the car and from the office to the classroom and to be able to share it but not opening the file on the class notes before beginning this portion of the class did deprive M of his opportunity to fill the vacuum of leadership. It is not imagined. If students don’t recognize that they are leaders of their own lives until AFTER they graduate from college, what hope is there for the future of leadership in this nation and the world?
Post Script: During the discussion after freewriting I did ask for and receive confirmation that the way I perceive myself is consistent with the way students perceive me. I created a two column chart to collect behaviors and the things they indicate about self-image first about how students interpret what my behaviors say about my self-image and then what their behaviors indicate about how they perceive themselves. Despite the disconnect between how I perceive their behaviors and how they perceive themselves, this exercise led to fertile fields that spilled over after class and at least one request that I post the charts we filled in before collecting the portfolios late and due.