Reflections from a positive start to term – a positive feedback loop

As a trainee teacher with a light timetable I became used to the process of reflecting after a lesson. Unpicking *why* a particular lesson went badly went some way to avoid the same thing from happening again. Did the students become behaviourally disruptive because the task was too hard? Too easy? Could I have scaffolded or modelled that task more carefully?

As a trainee I also found time to reflect on things that went well, in an attempt to replicate the positive as often as possible. However, as I became more experienced time has naturally became more squeezed. I’ve had to spend more time *doing* things and had less time to think/reflect about how things have been going.

This blog is an attempt to help me to pause and reflect *why* things have gone well this week and what I can do to keep this up for both myself and my mentee. My reflections are below:

  1. Honeymoon period. Rules haven’t been tested yet.
  2. This is my third year at the school. Students know me. They know that I know what’s up. This is powerful; I’m not a new face & I’m trusted around the school. Most students might have heard of me & heard other students talk about my lessons. This proves that I *can* teach, *will* teach and trust is already built before a new student enters my classroom. This immediately makes it easier for me to enforce routines and establish expectations. Once routines and expectations have been set; that’s half the battle won.
  3. I’m well rested after the summer. Being well rested means that I’m positive, enthusiastic and have the energy to show this to my classes. Because I’m positive & enthusiastic this makes my students feel more positive & enthusiastic. Because they’re more positive, they enjoy the process of learning more & this makes me happy. I’m now happy & show this to the class. Because I’m happy this makes the class more happy. See where I’m going with this? It’s a positive feedback loop & me and the class are feeding off each other’s positivity. What perhaps I can learn from this is that should a “negative” feedback loop occur within the class then I can halt this slide with an injection of energy of positivity. Perhaps.

The idea of feedback loops then got me reflecting on well…reflections and the point of them. As I wrote in my previous blog post, I’m a mentor now & in the position of encouraging my mentee to reflect as routinely as possible.

Most readers are probably familiar with Kolb’s learning cycle or something similar. I’m a physicist though so I’m robustly sticking with the idea of a feedback loop (which is where I believe the concept of the learning cycle was first borrowed – from electrical engineering).

The above image shows one of the simplest feedback loops; the thermostat. A thermostat works by firstly detecting the temperature of a given room. Is the room too cold? If so, then a signal is sent via wire and this is used to close a switch thereby turning a source of heat on. The temperature of the room then increases until it reaches a pre-determined set-point at which point the thermostat opens the switch connected to the heater, therefore removing the heat source.

The thermostat is continuously *learning* from the surrounding environment and making changes to keep the temperature of the room at an optimal level.

This is, in essence how I feel effective teaching should work. Let’s say I pitch the level of the lesson too high & without sufficient scaffolding for the students to get to this high level. This means that the room is too *hot*. We are the thermostat; we learn from our surrounding environment (the lesson that is pitched too high) and to remove the “heat” from the classroom we either pitch the lesson at a lower level or, more ideally, apply some scaffolding to allow the students to reach the high level.

In this way, through trial and error, we can achieve the optimum “temperature”* in the classroom and I will be encouraging both myself and my mentee to reflect as much as possible on lessons this coming year. Judging by the first few days, I’m hoping it will be a good one!

*there is no such thing as optimum temperature in the classroom. It is always too hot or too cold and, mysteriously, sometimes both too hot *and* too cold simultaneously.

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