Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reflective Practice in a Chinese Restaurant

My wife has been out of town for a few days, so last night my kids and I decided to go out for supper to the local Chinese buffet.

I love Chinese food. Well, I love the silly, Americanized version of it, anyway.

I love that there are many things to choose from on the buffet. Some have very straightforward names, like Beef and Broccoli, or Mushroom Pork, or Hot and Sour Soup. You can be pretty sure of what you're getting there. Others seem downright exotic: Moo Goo Gai Pan, or General Tso's Chicken, or Kung Pao Chicken. I love the noodles. I avoid the bright red sweet and sour sauce, because it seems unnatural.

My kids' favorite part is dessert, and of course that means fortune cookies.

With great ceremony, we crack open our cookies and read our "fortunes." And then usually look at each other with a raised eyebrow and a grin on our lips, trying to decipher the meaning of the mystical message hidden inside the convoluted, crispy cookie.

But every once in a while, the "fortune" rings true, and not just in a goofy, game-like way. I had one of those last night. According to the all-knowing cookie, my "fortune" was this:

Now that is interesting to me, because it connects with what I'm often striving for in this blog. Those of you who may regularly read what I scratch out here will know that I use this space for unpacking my thinking about whatever education-related topics I'm chewing on at the moment. I'm constantly trying to reflect on what I believe to be true about teaching and learning, and here I just happen to be working on that process in a relatively public venue.

As this "fortune" indicates, I'm trying to revise--to revise my thinking, to revise my practice. I'm trying to get better. And I love the feedback that comes from folks like you, dear reader. Some of you comment on the blog. Some respond via social media. Best case of all: some of you run into me face-to-face and mention that you've read something here that raised questions or stimulated new ideas for you, and you want to talk some more about it.

To me, that's the point of a blog. The blog is a place to work out ideas, to revise and refine them, like correcting a writing. (Not to mention the fact that I practice my writing skills here regularly this way. I like to think that I'm getting better with time, or at least more confident with expressing my ideas in writing.) But to have my thinking poked and prodded and affirmed and challenged is such a good thing! I hope the ideas I share here affect you too, dear reader, and might poke and prod you a bit too. I hope it becomes an exchange of ideas.

I recognize that sometimes it might feel like a smorgasbord...a buffet of ideas. Sometimes you'll see what's offered here, and move on to something more exotic, like the Birds Nest Soup. Sometimes you'll taste what's served up here, and decide you need something a little more bland, like the fried rice or Orange Chicken. Sometimes you'll decide what you've picked up needs some seasoning; feel free to throw on some soy sauce as you reflect.

I hope that you're willing to sample some of the dishes off this buffet, and also be willing to provide your feedback to the cook. Leave your comments, and take an egg roll for the road!

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