Reflection Practice #countsaswork

by Anna Bentley

One of the most important meetings I have at work is one you might not expect. Since July 2021, the professional staff in the Academic Success Center & Writing Center have established a practice of synchronous, individual reflection and writing time, which is scheduled every other week for one hour. Originally, this began as a way to think about our work in a different way and potentially find threads of interest for content for The Success Kitchen, though there has never been any obligation to produce anything. This is a completely voluntary space where folks are free to reflect and write about whatever they choose.

Here’s how it works. First, we check in with each other briefly, and then we leave the meeting to reflect and write for 40 minutes. There are prompts to guide us if we want to use them, but we are free to write about anything we choose. After 40 minutes, we rejoin the meeting and take turns sharing as much or as little as we want about what we wrote.

Example prompts:

  1. What is something a student has said or shared recently that you’d like to think more about or reflect on?
  2. Talk about a recent leadership experience that’s on your mind. What was meaningful to you about that experience? If there were any challenges, how did you work through them?
  3. What’s a favorite memory from your own learning experiences (in any context)? What made that experience valuable and important to you?

Through writing and reflection, we make space to generate ideas and insights, process experiences and emotions, deepen our awareness and understanding, make meaning and connections, feed creative energy, and develop our writing skills. I certainly have benefited from our collective reflection time. Before this, I had never had a writing practice, and I used to feel intimidated by a blank page. Now I find joy in writing freely and have grown more confident in my writing skills. I’ve used the time to write about work, draft articles like this for The Success Kitchen, journal and process emotions, make goals and lists, and even write poetry and fiction.

It’s been a gift to explore many facets of writing without any obligation to produce or perform, and it’s positively impacted the way I work. A few months ago, I began supervising a team of student staff after going many years without supervising anyone. I’ve used our reflection practice to unpack and discover my values around how I show up as a supervisor, a colleague, a parent, and a friend. Having the time to intentionally articulate who I want to be has made a difference in my relationships and my journey as a supervisor.

Beyond the practice of writing, what has made our reflection practice particularly powerful is what we get out of sharing with each other. Any of us could write on our own, but doing this together and sharing allows us to make connections and offer support to each other. Listening to my colleagues’ reflections inspires me and leads us to exploring ideas we otherwise may not have considered. We sometimes find, coincidentally, that our reflections are related, and we generate new ideas by hearing each other’s perspectives. Sometimes we share the emotions and challenges we’re experiencing, and our colleagues support us through that. Perhaps that is what I love the most about reflection and sharing – that it can be whatever kind of space you want or need it to be in that moment, and we’re able to connect on a different level than we can in other spaces.

As a unit, we find meaning in processing what we’re experiencing, articulating our ideas, sharing with each other, validating what each of us brings to the table, and supporting each other as whole people. To make this a reality, we put this on our calendars and count this as work. I’m energized by this practice, excited to see what’s possible, and curious to hear what beautiful, powerful ideas others have within them.

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