While driving for 18 hours in the car with my two young children last week, my mind wandered.  In fact, somewhere between Virginia and Pennsylvania it wandered far enough that I found a link between a teacher’s reflective practice to Kevin Spacey’s witty asides to the viewers at home in the Netflix House of Cards series.

While my littles watched a Redbox movie in the backseat, I caught up on #edchat radio podcasts. The 6/4/13 podcast related to summer professional development got me thinking.  Bear with me here, I admit my mind wandered…

As Tom Whitby, Nancy Blair, and their special guests debated the latest #edchat on nontraditional summer professional development, they referenced one Twitter chat participant who mentioned that summer was a great time for reflection.  While this is a great time for reflecting on the big-picture, I believe that taking the time for in-the-moment reflection is also vital to a teacher’s growth.  What if, like Spacey does so eloquently, teachers could stop in the middle of their teaching and make a note, record a comment, or jot an idea down for the next class or lesson, not just the next year? How valuable would these reflections be?

What would this look like in practice? How could this happen in a normal school day?

Let’s go back to a grade 3 lesson I taught on algebraic thinking this past spring. How could I have benefitted from a practice of in-the-moment reflection?

While introducing the lesson with students on the floor in a circle with me, I wrote down a few mathematical vocabulary words related to our lesson and put them in the center of the circle. When students were discussing their mathematical thinking, they could consult the word bank of terms.

But what if we made the list together rather than me just handing it to them? 

Half-way through the class, students were broken up into pairs to create their own algebraic equations.

Why pairs? Should they have done this individually? What information could I have gleaned about their mathematical thinking if it were done individually vs. in pairs if I’m not there observing the whole time? What if they wrote in two different colors on the paper?

I circle the room to support students, and I find a student is really struggling with the concept.

I should have met with her group first; she needs more practice with such an abstract concept.

Clearly these reflective examples are contrived to make a point, but I think it’s an important one: reflection should be a non-negotiable in every teacher’s daily routine to promote a student-centered, minds-on, deeply-engaging learning environment.

The biggest threat to teacher reflection is time. It is the first thing to go when we get too busy.  I wonder if  there apps that promote teacher reflection aside from the iPhone’s voice memo feature and Evernote? How could we make this possible in the classroom? What if a teacher needs to reflect about a student while she is in the classroom?

While teacher reflection is not a new educational  practice (another reason to love John Dewey), it has come in and out of the spotlight as educational trends have ebbed and flowed. If students’ learning can directly benefit from their teachers’ own honest and immediate feedback, how can it happen habitually when teachers are knee-deep in student learning?