We often talk of how important reflection is in our work. But did you ever write “The Speech?” Have you ever sat down for an hour or two, preferably with your favorite coffee mug close by, and committed it to paper? I’m not asking you to write anything like Randy Pausch did several years back when he was dying of cancer, but it’s something that is inside each one of you, and needs to come out. There’s the “If I ran this place this is how it would work” speech, the emotional “death of a colleague or student” speech and a wide selection of personal themes depending all on your mood, your message, and what you need to share. Whatever speaks to you. My favorite is the “final speech,” the last lecture in its purest form, a look back on all that you’ve done, tried to do, succeeded at, failed at, and hoped for. I visualize my colleagues and students while I write it to gauge their reactions. The things I thought were funny, the things I learned from, the stuff that I wish I could change but cannot, the people I needed to thank. But mostly, the feelings and reflections on what happened over the past four years.
It was harder than I thought. There are things people have said that you want to correct, actions you’ve taken that you want to clarify, people you’ve hurt with whom you want to make amends, students who inspired you who you want to thank. Giving credit where credit was due. Opening yourself up to criticism, judgment, observation. Stephen Barkley, a lecturer and teacher trainer, said at the April ECIS Conference in Berlin that “teaching is a team sport and a public act.” It was astonishing to hear it put in such a way. When do we ever express that feeling? So, I imagined my audience of peers and colleagues as I wrote, some shifting uncomfortably in their seats, some smiling with acknowledgement, some maybe even puzzled. But when I finished it felt cathartic. There it was. Four years of work. The goods, bads and the uglies. What I learned from it, what I hoped to take away, and what I even regretted. All in the context of hoping that I made a difference.
If you cry at least once while you do this, you’re on the right track. Get writing.