I have known for a long time that the introduction is always the hardest thing for me to write (this blog is a case-and-point–or is it in point?–this sentence is the first thing I wrote), so I should not be surprised that I’m struggling so much with writing the introduction to my thesis. Even though I know exactly what this project is about, I feel like my writing about it so more scatterbrained and haphazard than scholarly or interesting. Even though I teach this assignment, I wonder. . .why is writing a reflective narrative so hard?

For me, I think one issue is that I was never really asked to reflect until I got to graduate school. Even though I had done it informally for years–especially when assessing my own writing for revisions and edits–I had only once been explicitly asked to reflect on my own writing, and I had not taken that very seriously. I actually remember it quite well: a short cover sheet that was to be turned in with the final paper. I was supposed to fill in some boxes, explaining what I would do differently if I had more time or what one “thing” I wanted the instructor to look for when grading. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t care about this activity. I just never found it very helpful to write things like “I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to use a source in a X genre paper.” Looking back on that, I used theoretical viewpoints and ideals to stand in for genres. Not a very smart move.

So when I started teaching in a program that required reflections with all student writing, I didn’t use them very well. I didn’t understand their purpose or potential. It took over a year of reading about transfer scholarship and research in student self-assessment to really find meaning in reflections. And even after doing a lot of theoretical readings, the results of my own research on the activities I’ve been using only show that these new reflective genres need more refining to be effective. Truth be told, I kind of like that because it means I need to keep reflecting on myself, and I think that’s going to make me a better teacher of reflection.

Readers: do you do a lot of reflecting? What do you reflect on? Why do you do it?