When I first started to use Unrulr, I was first learning about pedagogical documentation and:

  1. How it could benefit me as a teacher
  2. How it could benefit my students’ learning. 

What I didn’t know then, and what I know now, is that while the way in which we document is important (picture, video, audio, etc.), what is more crucial to our learning is the reflection on our documentation. 

If I could go back in time and tell myself anything about pedagogical documentation, I would say— “Use the Unrulr caption to tell a story. Tell the story of that specific moment in time, so if you were to go back and reread it – it brings you back to what was going on in the outside world and inside your head.” 

Writing about my feelings, whether it's in a journal, Unrulr post, social media post, text message, or even an academic paper, has always been a challenge for me. It's a challenge to identify your feelings, much less to put them into words. Feelings, emotions, experiences, and moments in life are complex. Identifying emotions in a specific moment in time takes practice because more often than not there’s more than just one, and in order to authentically and effectively reflect on an experience you must be able to identify and label almost all of them in a single moment in time. And just when you think it cannot get any more complicated?  Most of the time that feeling is fostered by something deeper, something even more complex that is even harder and even more uncomfortable to identify.

4 Questions to prompt deeper reflections

4 Key Questions for Effective Learning Reflection

How do you recall a moment in time and reflect on it to tell a story? Over time, I have developed a set of questions and thought process that have helped me tell a story in my Unrulr captions and become a high-level reflector. 

The questions I ask myself are:

  1. What happened? 
  2. How did this moment make me feel? 
  3. What fosters that feeling? 
  4. What am I going to do now? 

Question #1: What happened? 

The first question I ask myself is pretty simple, “what happened?”. This is when you think back and recall the moment. Give details that are important to your learning, discovery, and/or that you want to remember. Take the reader to that moment, to that experience, to that epiphany, to that thought or to that place. 

Question # 2: How did this moment make you feel?

The next question is the hardest and possibly most important one. Ask yourself, “how did it make you feel?” At the beginning, this was the hardest part for me because, at the time, I wasn’t emotionally intelligent enough to identify what I was feeling or how a moment made me feel. I had not yet developed the skills to be able to accurately identify my emotions, much less express them in words. 

Now you may be asking, how do I get better at this? How do I become more self-aware? And I have a question for you: How do you get better at anything? Practice, practice, and more practice. In order to improve and become proficient in identifying your feelings in a certain moment, you have to take time throughout the day to reflect. Reflecting on tiny, seemingly insignificant moments will help you be able to identify emotions that you can later explain and put into words.

For example, I helped a student with an algebra problem the other day. She asked me to check her exit ticket, so she could move on to her homework. I was in a hurry and didn’t fully read all of the multiple choice options, and I told her that her answer was correct when it was not. The algebra teacher checked her exit ticket again and informed her the problem was incorrect. The student raised her hand and told me, “it wasn’t right.” I remember at that moment I initially felt embarrassed. I could feel my cheeks turn a little pink, and my hands immediately started to shake slightly. 

I remember thinking to myself, “Well that’s embarrassing”. And that’s a big step. Recognizing, acknowledging, and even accepting those little remarks in your head will help you identify how you feel. The hardest part is getting into the habit of noticing them and sometimes even admitting, “yeah I was definitely embarrassed after giving the student the wrong answer”. 

Question #3: What fosters that feeling? 

The next question I ask myself is, “Where does that feeling come from?” or “What fosters that feeling?” Again, this takes a very high level of self-awareness which took lots and lots of practice for me to develop. Most of the time when we feel a certain way whether it is happy, sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, etc. there is a deeper reason and meaning behind it. There is a deeper reason as to why you felt that way. Maybe you felt happy, glad, or thrilled because of confidence. Maybe you felt sad, mad, or frustrated because your determination wasn’t enough at that moment. Maybe you felt sad and anxious because of lack of confidence or more specifically the imposter syndrome that you’ve been experiencing. 

Going back to the example I gave earlier, the emotion I felt in that moment was embarrassment. To be very transparent I am still trying to work through where it fostered from… Was it because of lack of confidence in what I am doing? Because of the imposter syndrome I have been feeling? Both? Because of insecurity? Because I am a recovering perfectionist and cannot stand when I mess up still?  Maybe it's a mix of all of them. Again, I am still working through it. 

Try to ask yourself, “What is the deeper meaning of this emotion or feeling?” To be honest, you may hate your answer or your answer may make you extremely uncomfortable. But that means you are taking a step in the right direction because improvement and growth happens when you’re uncomfortable. 

Question # 4: What am I going to do now?

The last question you should ask yourself when you reflecting in Unrulr is, “What am I going to do now?” , “What’s the next step?” or “How am I going to learn from this experience in the future?”. 

It is awesome even if you’re solely identifying the emotions and why you’re feeling that emotion, but you will see so much more growth if you’re able to identify what changes or what will be the difference if something similar happens in the future – then act on those changes! Identify what went well, what went poorly, what is a “keeper”, or what needs work. Oftentimes you are not going to be able to get up the next day and make a change because so much of life is circumstantial, but being aware and mindful of what you want to continue to do or what needs to change as you go throughout your day will help you act on it the next time a similar situation occurs. 

As I move forward, I am going to try to embrace those moments where I make mistakes in front of students. When I mess up and admit it to the student, instead of being embarrassed I need to remind myself that acknowledging mistakes is an advanced level of vulnerability and maturity! Admitting when you mess up is a sign of strength – not weakness. I want to keep this in mind when it happens next time. 

And one thing I know for sure about this life is that I will mess up again and again, and again. And that is the beauty of it because every mistake is a learning opportunity.

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