Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Is 'reflection’ just a fancy name for a daydream?

As I start my journey to college the weather is mild and calm; it is a lovely February morning. However the traffic soon becomes exceptionally heavy, and I see this is due to an accident between a delivery van and a motorbike. Part of the main road is closed off, and a long line of slow moving traffic edges past the police cars in attendance. The young rider is not badly injured, and he and the van driver stand 5-6 metres apart, motionless and in apparently reflective moods. An ambulance can be heard approaching.

Later I pull in to an anonymous car park which gives way to a small, placid railway station. It has all you might need for your journey: ticket office; newsagent; coffee kiosk; a cosy warm waiting room. Unlike the other end of the line in London all is civilised and unhurried, and just sort of… ‘Nice’. Well not quite so nice this morning as my train was cancelled, but that’s okay as I am not teaching today and I can get the next one. Ah, but the next one is cancelled as well. All is not lost. I can get the third train. Is that still running? Yes, but I won’t be boarding it until after nearly an hour’s wait.

I cannot change to an alternative route - well I can but it will be convoluted and no quicker - so I find a seat on the platform, put my bag beside me, and take root. It’s actually quite pleasant. A pleasant February morning in a pleasant little station, and just the right atmosphere for calm reflection. I am able to revisit, review, refresh, re-evaluate and re-plan things going on in my life. I wonder how many of us find time in our busy days to do this. Thank you Southeastern Rail.

When I finally boarded the train I was not in a state of transcendental joy; the sunbeams weren’t exactly dancing on the station roof. I did however feel a little more ‘sorted’, and clearer about things I had to address that day. I also felt a little more connected to reality. I wondered though what the van driver and the biker were feeling; not all reflection leads to joy.

Here is a question… on that platform was I reflecting or simply day-dreaming? I have been asked if ‘reflection’ is just a fancy name for a daydream, so I need to identify what makes the difference between them. The answer lies in the structure we use. As academics we are always wanting to ‘up our game’ and contribute more to the world, and so we employ reflective processes structured by experts in the field. This makes sure our reflection is measured, effective and productive.

A daydream in comparison is like a dog let of its lead… It can go anywhere. There is nothing wrong with a nice daydream. It can be relaxing and calming. It takes minimal effort. It is free of charge. We all know how to do it. Wonderful. However it does not have the productive power of the properly structured reflection.

To achieve a mastery of applied reflective structure and process is not easy, and so it is one of the many skills our students are learning here at ECBM. I am pleased that they are learning to reflect so effectively, as all our futures are in their hands.

Graham Harman-Baker

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