In the bustle of a busy work day I shuffle between meetings, checking my phone nervously for where my schedule says I need to go. The discussion in the Living Learning Community meeting was good, but the memory of the discussion quickly heads to the back of my brain as I mentally prepare for a conduct meeting with a student.
The rest of the day is full; only ten minutes between meetings which I use as prep time to mentally reset and gather the needed information for the next meeting. Such is the life of a graduate student and a student affairs educator. There is little time to sit and take in what was actually said in a discussion. Most meetings I can look around and see my peers barely engaged in the meeting as they busily respond to email and surf the internet; I myself am often doing those activities too in meetings. The richness of the discussion is notably lacking due to the things we permit ourselves to be distracted with.
“Why did you just say that?” a friend asks me as we walk away from a meeting about assessment.
“What? What did I say?” I ask as I pull out my phone to respond to the text messages that I did not answer in the meeting.
“That you learned something today. Why did you say that? What did you learn?” my friend persists.
I do not have an answer to either of these questions. Why did I say that? I shrug off the comment and move the conversation on to the next meeting we are heading to.
Later that night the statement I learned something today sticks with me as I am heating up soup for dinner. I cannot seem to get that question out of my head.
What did I learn today? I ask myself as I sit down with a steaming bowl of soup.
This straightforward question has perplexed me ever since that day full of meetings. Whatever the reason was that I initially said the statement, I learned something today, I have routinely kept saying it. I do this to ensure that I am noting what I learned that day.
Our society is incredibly fast paced and does not take time for reflection. (I know sound like a 65 year old yammering on about back in my day…) We have to quickly submit our reports and be productive. Yet, taking time out of our day to note what we learned is just as important as being productive and finishing work on time.
Highlighting the importance of noting what one learns in a given day is not surprising. As an educator, the core of my work is thinking about what the students I work with are learning. Yet, do I fixate on this idea of learning with myself? My peers? No; not as much as I should.
Taking a minute every day to think about what I learned during the bustle of the busy day is important. It keeps me grounded. Reflecting on the lessons of the day allows me to be a better educator and ensure that I do not miss out on any learning opportunities throughout my day.
At the end of the day, how do we ensure we are taking time out to reflect on what we learned? These three tips could be a way you ensure you are reflecting on what you learned:
- Keep a journal. Sure, this old fashioned suggestion is not original nor is it surprising it is first on this list. Yet, that is because journaling is a useful tool (and has some useful health benefits!) So take a few minutes every day and journal on things that you learned.
- Verbalize what you learned. This one is a bit strange, but I have begun stating on my commute to the next meeting what I have learned. Sure, it means I have to talk to myself and the passerby will look on with judgmental faces as I am muttering to myself. Yet, this has helped me keep up on the reflection between meetings. This exercise makes me feel productive between meetings and on my walks, just as if I was responding to text messages.
- Make it a part of meeting wrap-up. This may be specific to student affairs work, but make stating what a person learned a part of wrapping up a meeting. A good meeting should end with a summary of the action items that folks are assigned with (and these other tasks). As educators it is important that we ensure learning occurs, and thus providing a few minutes for everyone to go around and share what they learned is one way to ensure that folks are having the time to be reflective and think about what they learned.
The busy bustle of every day work is not conducive to reflection. But we know that reflection is paramount in being self-aware and has some real benefits. Thus, it is important to take time and reflect on what we learn throughout the day and how we can take those lessons learned and apply them to our next task. Next time you leave a meeting, make sure to ask yourself what you learned.