I spend time intentionally each weekend in a “Mindset Meeting” with myself reflecting on the week and planning for the next, and at the end of each month, I spend a bit longer looking back over the month and documenting things to celebrate, like accomplishments, projects, self-care goals, and noting continued areas of growth and ways I might accomplish other goals I set for myself.
When I was in the classroom, which is starting to feel like an eternity ago if I’m honest, I remember offering kids the opportunity to do the same type of reflection as we worked together: What’d you learn today? What do you want to learn tomorrow? What’s something new that you learned about someone else? What are you curious about?
Sometimes their answers were off the wall or completely unrelated to anything (during a study of the middle ages, a student noted that he wanted to learn more about string theory…) and sometimes they were unfiltered and honest (“I didn’t learn anything new today.”) which lead me to do some serious reflection of my own. Most of the time though, their reflections related to what we were studying or working on at the time and were the beginnings of a reflective practice that learners ought to have the opportunity to develop, even at the tender age of eight.
So often, the first question a parent asks of a child when they get in the car is “What’d you do in school today?” which gets the standard “Nothing.” A few bloggers out in the world have suggested wonderful phrasing to not only get more out of a child but also give them a chance to really reflect on their day.
Who did you go out of your way to be nice to today? Who was nice to you? (A variation would be something about playing together depending on the age of the little.)
What is something that you found really easy today? Something difficult?
It’s important to focus on both sides of the learning experience and the social aspects of school too, I think–the good and the bad. For a lot of our Tall Poppies, they have the perception that everything has to be perfect, easy, and without conflict or discomfort. Some even feel that expressing feelings of anything negative somehow is a let down for their parents–like somehow they’re a disappointment if they have a tough day.
Others have been taught through how a conversation goes with their parent or even overhearing what adults say to one another about their own work that a negative response is expected. When kids are asked “Who bullied you today?” or “Did so and so bully you today?” Kids feel obligated to answer because the expectation is that someone or a specific child DID do something (even if they interacted very little and those interactions were neutral) unkind. “What’d you do in school today?” might garner a list of things the child hated doing: “We had to research using books (omg, so outdated!) and not the computer and I couldn’t get anything done because I HAVE to have a computer to research.” Kids know that mom wouldn’t ask if she didn’t already expect a particular answer, right? Kids want to give parents what they’re looking for even if it’s not completely accurate–not doing so leads to more interrogation. Their parents often had lousy experiences in school and so assume that their child will have that same experience.
It’s critical that adults are mindful of their own wording when asked, “How was your day?” When kids hear us say with a heavy sigh that our day was busy or that we were swamped or we’re feeling stressed, they will associate “work” with these responses, so “How was school?” must elicit a negative response, sometimes with tears for emphasis so that a connection to mom or dad can be made. Responding with more neutral or growth mindset-based wording is helpful; instead of “Oh, I was so busy and had a ton of useless meetings and got nothing done!” we might rephrase with “There wasn’t a lot of downtime today and I had to put off making progress on the project I’m working on which was disappointing. I’ll review my calendar in the morning and block out some time for that work tomorrow.”
This is an area of growth for me personally, for sure. Our conversations at home often begin with “How was your day, love?” and the litany of complaints and frustrations roll off my tongue and into my wine before I can catch them some nights…
Reframing during a conversation is important, but sometimes reframing in the moment is even more important. Earlier this month I found out that the proposals I submitted in the spring for a particular conference didn’t get picked up and I was pretty disappointed. As I worked through the more mundane pieces of a couple of other projects while I wallowed in my disappointment, I realized that those proposals not getting picked up would free me up to do a few other things I’m interested in. And that’s a good thing in the long run. Those other things will provide me opportunity to grow in other ways. Most of us, kids included, learn best by doing…and sometimes that doing is something new altogether which is both scary and exciting at the same time.
We have so many opportunities to grow during our lifetime. For some of us, our parents often worked in jobs to have a paycheck–many weren’t fulfilled beyond the twice a month paycheck they received for working a certain number of hours. Their growth, personally or professionally, was not a priority. As I was reflecting this morning on the past month, I realized that I began my professional life doing what I knew, what was easiest. That work afforded me time to study (because no one EVER came in and I got the work I was assigned done quickly.) As I moved from job to job, in time, I wanted to grow into other aspects of the business or other positions…or grow into another position somewhere else altogether. It was through reflection that I made decisions about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to grow. All of that has transferred into my personal life too–it’s not that my life isn’t good enough, there’s just more I want to experience.
How do you approach growth for yourself professionally? Do you wait until someone gives you an opportunity or do you see a need and offer to fill it? What about personally? What things challenge you? What brings you joy? We ought to be asking our kids these same questions, really…and modeling that type of thinking for them in our conversations with our own peers and family.