The best gift for students this holiday season?

I’ve been asked to suggest a holiday gift for students and some might jump on the chance to suggest the latest gadget but to cater for all surcumstamces, I thought it’s about time I started a campaign! This time of year is THE time for reflection. How did your year go? In a world where it is common to encourage reflection at the end of each year, why do we not do this in schools. I’ve discussed many times about the need for schools to formally recognise the need for reflection as an integral part of learning. But how many schools timetable reflection? Not many I’ve been to, that’s for sure. The world is busy encouraging us to project an image of ourselves to the world, the image we want people to see, however honest it is. We are encouraged to join tribes and become instantly outraged at what  other tribes have to say. After years of talking about Edtech, I would like to start a particularly untechnical campaign called “A mirror for Christmas”

A Mirror for Christmas

img_0598A mirror is the original man-made tool for reflection but I guess also self-obsession.  You might be forgiven for thinking I’m encouraging further extension of the “selfie” generation’s need for gratification through minute-by-minute acknowledgement. But a mirror is not a selfie. Like a tweet, a selfie is composed, filtered and edited. A mirror demands us to look at the truth of who we are, faults and all. I feel that across the world, 2016 proved a need for most people to consider who they really are, rather than worrying about which tribe they belonged to, or what others felt about them. This also translates into education and how we develop the next generation.

Part of my campaign would involve children receiving a mirror for Christmas and all students taking them to school as a reminder that reflection is what schools fail to provide. Without reflection time, we do not learn from our mistakes, we don’t have time to empathise with other views and ideas, we don’t expect to think deeply about issues, plans, or goals we may have set. These are the skills and expectations that the world proved lacking of in 2016. Schools need to promote the importance of reflection and deep thought through practical measures that clearly display its status, alongside other “minor” issues like math or science, by timetabling it accordingly. I can report that this is happening in New Zealand schools and have faith because our Math, Science and English PISA scores remain comfortable above those in countries like the  U.S.A or the U.K.

Putting the “Self” back into “Selfie”

A related issue, I have written on many times, is schools’ core purpose in developing a sense of self. Finding confideice in knowing and practicing one’s strengths and passions is also key in surviving the 21st century’s world of big data and ever-changing job market. The corporations and the politicians have spent most of 2016 concerned about which box we each fit into. This is something that is driven by the idea that everyone is simply part of a market to be pandered to and exploited. If schools continue to move students from class to class, topic to topic without time to reflect on one’s personal learning, we will continue to encourage another  generation to act only collectively as a class and not consider themselves as rational, thoughtful individuals.

As we reflect on the year, it’s also important to reflect on exactly who we each are, our strengths, our weaknesses, our assumptions, and our truths. A mirror might remind students to consider these points and in turn, remind their school that without formally recognising the importance of reflection and rationalised thought, learning is shallow and facts go unchallenged.

Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Deputy Principal in a New Zealand High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International keynote speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.