Looking Back: Reaction or Response?

theRiverby Debie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center

At the beginning of this academic year, I wrote about the importance of moving from reaction to response when teaching in a time of crisis.  That blog post, offered at the start of a new semester, recommended reflection as a means of helping students to avoid “reactive monologue” and to achieve “responsive dialogue.”  Given all that was happening in our region and on our campus last fall, that call to reflection turned out to be especially needed.  As we close out another academic year, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to reflect deeply on the year you’ve had – in the classroom, in the community, on our campus.

Try to discern when you’ve found yourself reacting (to feedback from students? to implicit biases inside yourself? to the pressures of balancing research, teaching, and service?) and when you’ve felt yourself responding (to students’ needs for support? to colleagues’ generosity? to reviewers’ feedback on a manuscript?).  Consider . . .

In what ways do reaction and response feel different?

When you were able to respond instead of react, why do you think that was? What were the situations?

What do you need in order to respond instead of react?

What are some practical actions you could take this summer to set the stage for more responding and less reacting next year?

As you tie up the loose ends of your semester, take time to reflect on your experiences from this year.  Identify one or two concrete things you can do – as a teacher, a scholar, a colleague – to increase your capacity to respond.  You can’t model responsive engagement with real-world problems if you’re always in reaction mode.

All of us here at the Reinert Center wish you rest (for those taking the summer “off”), productivity (for those spending the next few months researching and writing), or  transformative teaching (for those right back in the classroom once the summer sessions begin).  If your reflections lead you to creative ideas for new ways of engaging students, let us help you make it actionable!  Come brainstorm with one of our instructional developers or submit a proposal for a 2015 Try It! Summer Mini-Grant.  We hope to see you soon.

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