I have become aware that I generally act, talk and move in ways that 'feel right'. I have also become aware that acting in these ways may result in some physical or emotional tension.
Sometimes it is useful to do what my body, heart, gut or head tells me. It is certainly useful to listen to what feels right, but sometimes this is not the most useful guide for action. Often, what feels right is the way I have come to feel comfortable doing something. It may have developed as a way of coping, or as a means of protection, but it may not be the most beneficial.
I am becoming sensitised to how nearly all of my actions are based on what feels right - physically, emotionally, or intellectually.
To illustrate what I mean at a very basic bodily level, I have become aware that my 'normal' ways of standing, sitting and moving may not be the most economical, or healthy. I often stand leaning on one leg, and often look to lean on something for support. I often find myself sitting hunched over, or slouching. I have pains in my back that I suspect come from standing and sitting this way. My ways of standing and sitting seem to act against gravity, and I become aware that there may be a more simple and comfortable way to sit. As I catch myself leaning or slouching, alternatives become available. Chairs that I thought to be the most comfortable have become the least comfortable.
With increased awareness, I notice other tensions in my body. I notice that my shoulders are often raised and tense, as is my jaw. I sometimes find myself biting my lip, or clenching my teeth. I feel a similar tenseness in my mind, and in my chest, at times. I felt this tenseness very clearly last Friday whilst teaching. It seemed to be based in an uneasiness about what was happening, what the children were doing, and whether I felt whether I should intervene, and if so how.
- At the start of the lesson, I had a choice between working on some complex problems involving uses of differentiation, or setting some more 'basic' differentiating questions to gain familiarity with the technique. I set the basic questions, before working on the more complex problems. I found myself 'apologising' to the students, but assuring them that it was necessary. It turned out to be very useful for them.
- In my demonstrations to the students, I had been using an arrow to signify the fact that I had differentiated. I then decided to discourage the students from doing this, instead writing f(x) = and f'(x) =, where appropriate. I decided to be very precise about how they set out their work. This is not natural for me, but I know that it will be important for them to keep a clear distinction between f(x) and f'(x) when solving more complex problems.
- On completing one of the more complex problems, I had a choice between moving on, or inviting the students to spend some time reflecting on what they had done. I have been working at what I call 'upgrading reflection' this year, and think it is one of the most significant pedagogical reasons for the fact that these students seem to retain what they have learned, alongside designing tasks that encourage the use of initiative. The discussion that followed, and the notes they made, seemed very useful.
You could say that here too I was acting on what felt right, and this is true to some extent. But there is a difference between (just) doing what feels right, and pausing to choose from two or more alternatives (with perhaps some of them feeling less 'natural'), with a view to what might be most helpful. How many of my - and our - pedagogical decisions are based on what feels right, without considering alternatives?