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A Guide to Self-Reflection

What can I do to always remember who I really am? - Juan Ramon Jiminez

Self-reflection is the process of considering, examining, or meditating on one’s actions, feelings, or learning. It allows us to make sense of our world and our identities. As such it should be a practice, a commitment we make in service of bettering ourselves and the world. Yet, all too often, self-reflection is under-utilized or misunderstood. As we prepare to wrap up a full school year filled with disruption, anxiety, and uncertainty caused by a global pandemic, we would like to offer some tools to help you and your students cultivate a practice of self-reflection.


Emotions and feelings impact our actions and learning. It should be the foundation of a self-reflection practice. A good place to start is with the Mood Meter from the Yale School for Emotional Intelligence (SEL Connected, pg 25).

This is the Mood Meter from the Yale School of Emotional Intelligence. There are words that can be used to describe feelings and energy

This simple tool can help you and your students build vocabulary for what you are feeling. Notice how the feelings are connected to sensations in the body. When we understanding the connection between physical sensations and emotions, we are better able to notice and address feelings in real-time.


Once there is some clarity around the feelings, consider how they have or do shape actions–behaviors, decisions, or words one uses. Here is a classroom example.

Following a collaborative math activity, Beyoncé notices she is feeling inspired. She considers why she feels this way and how it informs her actions. Her teammates listened to each other’s ideas and tried out multiple approaches together. This contributed to Beyoncé feeling inspired. As a result of this feeling, she took risks in her approach to solving the problem and felt excited to do so.


With the emotions and actions identified, time to explore the learning. What shifted? What learning or realizations have come to light that can be carried forward to future work? We encourage these to be open to multiple lanes: identity, social and emotional learning, process, and content. Let’s return to Beyoncé for a moment. The passage is annotated with the different types of reflective content.

As she takes a look at the actions she took during the math activity, Beyoncé identifies a few key learnings. First, she notices that she thrives in an environment where her peers listen actively and are willing to try out ideas, even if they ultimately fail (SEL Relationship Skills). Beyoncé also notices that there were a number of math strategies that did not work for the problem they were trying to solve (content and process). She considers why they did not work and commits to remember this when solving problems in the future (SEL - Responsible Decision-making). And lastly, she notices that she feels confident after this experience and wants to continue to work with others in these collaborative activities (SEL - Self-awareness, identity).


By connecting emotions, actions, and learning, we can develop a more well-rounded picture of who we are at any given moment. Here is a list of activities and processes for engaging in reflection.

  • Open Mind (pg 28) - A visual reflection strategy to make in-the-moment thoughts visible over time to develop deeper metacognition and promote greater self-awareness that spans the duration of a lesson or series of lessons.

  • Wrap-Up Reflection (pg 33) - The Wrap-Up Reflection from The Little Book of Cool Tools for Hot Topics is a process for allowing a group to identify their thoughts and feelings after a lesson or activity.

  • Grounding Techniques (pg. 40) - Grounding techniques are an exercise for pulling one’s self away from negative thoughts or overwhelming emotions.

  • Morning Meeting (pg 10) - Morning Meeting from Responsive Classroom is intended to build a strong sense of community by setting all learners up for success through personal connection. Each morning for twenty to thirty minutes, learners and teachers gather together in a circle and interact with one another on various topics that help build social, emotional, and academic skills.

There are a number of resources that may be a fit. Consider the resources Classroom Norms and Circle Format and Guidelines.


We began this blog naming that self-reflection should be a practice, a commitment you make in service of taking care of yourself and our world. We invite you to also take part in a 7-day self-reflection challenge. Try to answer one question a day. With any of these offerings below, consider the emotions that accompany your reflection, how that manifests in your body, and how that impacts your actions and learning. Which questions are difficult for you? How is that related to the events of your day or life at that moment? Here are some questions to get you started.

  • What is giving you life right now?

  • What is keeping you up at night?

  • What is something you can do to ease suffering (your own or others)?

  • Where can you grow your practice (personally or professionally)?

  • When was the last time you experienced joy?

  • What is something hopeful?

  • What is something you are learning about yourself?

  • What is something you hope to be true in the future?

  • Which areas of my life feel most challenging right now?

  • Imagine talking to your younger (or future) self. What would you say? What do you think they need to hear?

Share your reflections or celebrate the work you are doing with students with us on Twitter or Facebook!

Thank you for allowing us to be part of your practice.


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