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In this age of technological advancement and social media boom, it is incumbent upon today's teacher to be a reflective practitioner and an emotionally intelligent positive thinker. Reflection enables teachers to take a step back and observe their performance objectively and analytically. This difficult task when achieved enables teachers to ultimately become 'reflective practitioners' (Schon, 1983) over the period of time. This article focuses on the conceptual binding of reflection with emotional intelligence and positive thinking. The key areas of emotional intelligence of teachers need to be honed professionally to enable the teachers to become positive thinkers and professionally developed. This will lead to peak performance and developing a 'positive eye' needed in professional situations. Positive thinking is one of the major contributing factors in professional development of the teachers.
Key words: reflective practitioner, emotionally intelligent, positive thinker
Is today's teacher a reflective practitioner and an emotionally intelligent positive thinker? Recent developments in education, psychology and language learning have impressed upon the fact that teachers must be reflective practitioners (Schon, 1983) and positive thinkers who are genuinely involved in development and learning of students. All teachers need to be emotionally intelligent to be able to ignite student learning inside and outside the classroom. The question arises: Does practice reflect this? The target to achieve is to bridge the gap between these expectant theories for today's teacher and the practice in real classroom situations for peak performance.
For today's teacher to be effective in classes, she has to be strong in reflective observation to become a reflective practitioner. This will develop positive thinking, and if she is emotionally intelligent or strives to become one, then such a teacher leads herself on the ladder to success. This article, conceptually, deals with these hypotheses as primary foci of teacher development in the scientific world of improvement and practice.
What is reflective observation?
David Kolb (1984) gave his idea of experiential learning (1) which states that all learners process information in a continuum from concrete experience to reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and reaching at active experimentation.
Not only in our professional lives but personal dealings also, teachers tend to be merely skilled in mechanics trying out one strategy after another without understanding what strategy would be appropriate to the task. Many teachers apply techniques and interventions without full consideration of the reasons behind such approaches, without understanding their likely consequences, without the ability to evaluate the success or failure of those interventions, and without the tools and resources to learn from each experience. Reflective observation, being at the second stage of the cycle of experiential learning, enables learners to watch others or observe their own experiences to improve performance. This interplay between looking ahead (action directed by some idea) and looking back helps us to improve performance. As part of the continuous process of self-improvement, reflective observation makes us 'extract the net meanings which are the capital stock for intelligent dealing with further experiences. It is the heart of intellectual organisation and of the disciplined mind' as rightly stated by Dewey (1938, 87-88)
Teachers as reflective practitioners
Thinking reflectively requires time and energy as well as an observer's eye. One has to look at things objectively to come to the right conclusion. Many a time in our daily life practices we undergo such actions and activities which either we did not want to experience or did not like the proceedings, or regretted our behavior on them. We are, therein, reflecting being in the action (while doing something) and reflecting on the action (after we have done it). Cultivating this habit of reflection in ourselves as teachers makes us develop a strong realization to bring improvement. We either want to change our ideas and thoughts at micro level or the systems at large. The cosmic situation is thus challenging. Catching oneself is necessary for reflectivity. David Schon (1983, 1987) has provided a framework for becoming a reflective practitioner. It is through reflection that the teacher as a practitioner will utilize a repertoire of understandings, images and actions to reframe a troubling situation, so that problem solving actions are generated. According to Dewey (1933) 'open-mindedness, responsibility and whole heartedness' are the attributes required of teachers as 'reflective individuals'.
How to become a reflective practitioner for peak performance?
Reflective practice in modern times can be one of the strongest tools for teachers to exhibit peak performance enabling institutions to grow, but this path is not easy. It requires courage to look at our shadow as well as our strengths, a willingness to question habitual assumptions, and the discipline to systematically review our practices and underlying beliefs. To become reflective practitioners teachers need to ask themselves as to what they did? How did they do it? And what does it mean to both themselves as a professional and those whom they serve?
Teachers can write reflective journals, video or audio tape the activities for reflective analysis, ask someone to give feedback on their performance, think aloud or undergo self evaluation process. Growing institutions these days are extensively working on the model of reflective practice because unless and until the institutions find out their mistakes they cannot bring required changes. We have to let our teachers know and understand the value of reflective practice. There is a strong need to develop personal improvement plans for all teachers as individuals and make them responsible for their performance. A big mistake that institutions make during appraisals is that they grade teachers for the performance that has been exhibited, but, either they are given very little support, or, never have been guided upon for improvement. It is unethical and unprofessional to fire a teacher for her lack of performance if the school head had not mentored or coached, and made her reflect on experiences for improvement throughout the year, before doing appraisals.
If we, as teachers, commit to becoming reflective practitioners, we can generate insights into what accounts for both our successes and our failures; identify the limits of our current practices and opportunities for new areas of growth; and experience renewed alignment of our work with what we most value. Teachers who are emotionally intelligent and positive in approach are better achievers. It is, initially, a very trying, demanding and challenging process, but bound to bridge the gap between theory and practice. This is a sure way to peak performance!
Emotional Intelligence and Positive Thinking
The traces of the idea of emotional intelligence date back to the 1st century AD in the times of Epictetus - a famous Greek philosopher, with much development subsequently in the 20th century, with Reuvan BarOn (1980), a pioneer in this field, and Mayer-Salovey (1990), who coined the name Emotional Intelligence (4). However, actual boom in emotional intelligence took place due to the bestseller book EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE by Daniel Goleman (1995) who popularized this concept. It is, indeed, difficult to define Emotional Intelligence. Being able to handle oneself to get along well with others, managing the emotions and people around us encompass the realm of emotional intelligence. Mayer and Salovey (1997) when defining emotional intelligence state that it is a 'learned ability to monitor one's own and other's feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's own thinking.'
Teachers, in the modern era, need to be emotionally intelligent to be able to deal with students effectively and constructively in the classrooms, specifically, and outside, generally. Anger management, conflict resolution, stress management, people's skills, understanding own emotions and that of others are day to day activities faced by all students and teachers. It is, hence, incumbent upon all teachers to be emotionally intelligent. Good teachers always 'ignite passion and inspire the best' (Goleman et al, 2002) in students. They work strategically and implement good ideas in their work situations effectively to achieve best results. This is not so only because they are visionary and good as implementation of curriculum, but primally they are emotionally intelligent. As Goleman et al (2002) say, 'Great leadership works through the emotions.' It is the way of doing things that matters most. Having knowledge and disseminating it is not sufficient, but the method of dissemination and delivery for achievement is what is significant.
The 'emotional impact' differentiates antagonistic or de-motivating factors from optimism and positive thinking, and intrinsic motivation from work. In everyday work situations teachers are faced with a plethora of issues and conflicts that they can deal with either ways. Research has shown that it is important to measure the impact of the teachers' emotions on their performance vis-à-vis learning of their students. Effective teachers have found ways to handle the situations well, one of which is definitely being emotionally intelligent and the other is to think positively. Positive thinking enhances brain power, controls emotional display and impacts performance manifold.
Teachers need to have a 'positive eye' to look at things from a researcher's point of view rather a person only. Teacher's role in today's modern world is also that of a researcher. Creating images, developing models of practice and reflecting on performance gives the teacher a wider acceptance by the student body, appreciation by the management and acknowledgement of efforts by the community at large. If a teacher frets over small petty day to day issues, her stress level rises, thus leading her to a disturbed state of mind which definitely affects her emotional quotient level.
To be able to become a reflective observer and practitioner it is important for today's teacher to believe in her Self. Confidence is the first rung of the ladder. Without a strong belief and constant flow of energy, teachers cannot bring change around them. 'Running through the mill' should be the approach of every teacher. There come ups and downs as professional life has its own demands and challenges, but if the teachers are hooked on to staying positive and confident about self, then they are destined to succeed.
Positive thinking gives healing effect and the 'power of positive thinking' (5) is manifold. Reflective practitioners not only observe their actions and experiment new situations, but between this they generalize the concepts too, to be able to use the right and the left brain together. This connection of the brain power and utility of ability creates intrinsic satisfaction, thus developing the positive eye all teachers must have. It also requires teachers to shun fretting and fuming over day to day conflicts/or differences in opinion/approach, ant to move on as a professional who strives to achieve success on solid and positive ground. Thinking positively will bear positive results for all. If the teacher is happy, students will be happy too and inadvertently the management also as all activities will run smooth and fair. This will resonate positivity in the environment and school culture.
To conclude, teachers must believe that a professional approach to teaching in today's technologically advanced and socially connected world is to be a reflective practitioner and an emotionally intelligent positive thinker.
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