A reflection essay which, by definition, is a self-reflection essay differs from other types of essays in that it focuses on your feelings and perceptions about a subject that is unique to you. Your instructor's goal or purpose for this essay is most likely to give you the opportunity to speak in the first-person ("I") about a subject or experience that has a deeply personal meaning for you and to see if you can convey your feelings or perceptions in concrete terms to your audience.
Although the subject for reflection essays is usually open to the student, your instructor may have given you several possible topics for the reflection--for example, discussing an experience or person who changed your life in some dramatic manner--and, if this is the case, choose one of these unless you have something significantly better to write about. The essence of a successful reflection essay is a topic that your readers can relate to, and your job is to provide sufficient details about what you think and feel about your topic. I often suggest, for example, that if any students have had what is known as a "coming of age" experience--that is, an experience the changes a child-like perception to a more adult perception--that is a perfect subject for reflection.
A reflection essay first must describe the subject of the reflection, usually, an event or person, but then it becomes an open exploration of what that event or person means to you, not to people in general. Above all else, keep in mind that the essay is intensely personal, and you will be writing in the first person ("I"), which may at first seem uncomfortable because you may have been taught never to use first-person. Your readers, however, are interested not in a general discussion but in your own perceptions and reactions to an experience, and you must be willing to open yourself to the process and discuss aspects of an experience that might be both positive and negative. A reflection essay, then, may conclude on a happy note and, conversely, it may end with a "lessons learned" that is not necessarily upbeat but reflects your perception of the experience or person.
Concrete details in this type of essay are very important. A vague description of the event or person will lead to a reader's vague understanding of how you have reflected on the experience or person you are describing. For every general observation or reflection you make, support it with a highly detailed example that makes the observation vivid and concrete in the reader's mind. Remember always that you and your experience are at the heart of the reflection essay, and only you can adequately convey your own reflection process. If, for example, you tell the reader that an experience troubled you, illustrate what "troubled" means with a concrete, specific description.
Last, keep in mind that reflection essays do not have "right" answers--they describe an experience that is unique to you and, by nature, your reflection may or may not conclude with any definitive statement--in other words, you may always be reflecting on an experience and drawing different conclusions from that experience as you grow older.
National Art Education Association National Convention
My understanding of art education as a whole has been impacted by my attendance at the NAEA National Convention. At the conference I had the ability to listen to, speak with, and connect to art educators from all over the country. This gave me the ability to see and learn about what is going on in art education across the United States, as well as how other art educators are connected with artists and student in other countries. While attending the National Art Education Association National Convention I was immersed in vast ideas of Art Education from Art Educators practicing inside and outside the traditional public school setting. I was given a conference program, which outlined the hundreds of sessions I could attend. Just viewing the titles and abstracts of each session available gave me an idea of what is important to Art Educators today, as well as who I can contact about specific topics. This experience has impacted my understanding of my field in numerous ways. I have gained knowledge and insight regarding my degree program, my profession both at my current Student Teaching placement as well as post graduation, and I have gained a better excitement to embark on the world of Art Education.
As stated above there were a plethora of sessions I could choose to attend. There were so many worthy sessions that it was extremely hard to choose. To get the most out of the conference the group I was with and myself decided to attend different sessions and then share the information with each other. This worked out beautifully, where I cant list that I actually attended all the sessions my cohorts did, I can still say I gained the knowledge and heard the ideas from sessions my group attended.
Prior to leaving for the conference I did some research about Seattle. I knew in order to maximize this experience I had to take in the beauty of Seattle. Seattle is a city rich with arts, community, and a culture different from Grand Rapids, MI. So, my groups and I decided while we were there we wanted to see the art that Seattle had to offer. We attended the sessions and then in the evenings or during lunch we would walk to the nearest gallery or museum. One evening we took a taxi to the Olympic Sculpture Park. One of the pieces at the sculpture part was the highlight of one of the General and Super Sessions at the conference so we wanted to see it firsthand. This gave us the opportunity to connect what was being said about this piece to the actually piece of artwork. Allowing myself to do this heightened my awareness of how I can reflect with my students about pieces of art situated in our community.
I intended to maximize the experience while I was at the conference, but I also want to maximize the experience now that I am back in Grand Rapids, MI. I have already brought back new materials and ideas for the Cooperating Teacher I am working with for my Student Teaching, and the NAEA Student Chapter at GVSU has a day planned where we were going to share our experience with fellow art educators. While I was at the conference I kept a working journal so I would not forget any vital information for others in the Art Education program. I learned a lot about the impact community programs have and I have been searching for a local community program to align myself with. Most of all, I intend on maximizing this conference and my education by continuing to plan and teach meaningful lessons to advocate for the Arts and my students.
I had the opportunity to see student artwork up close so I could really pay attention to details and ideas conveyed in the student work. During my time at the conference I attended multiple showings of student work, as well as an exhibition of the 2010 Scholastic Art Winners at the Seattle Art Museum. The opportunity to see this work was incredibly insightful and it has impacted me in-terms of ideas, ability, and regional specific art education. It was interesting to see how other art educators have used their theories and art ideas that we have discussed at Grand Valley in their own classrooms. It was nice to be able to make that connection between hearing and talking about an idea in class and seeing it through a students work.
I believe being an attendee form a liberal education at an Art Educators conference held great advantages for me. My thought is that a well-rounded education will always benefit a person who hopes to work with people. I believe my time at the conference was not only maximized by my liberal education. While leafing through the sessions I noticed there were a lot of integrative sessions, where art educators are incorporating other disciplines into their art lessons. To some art educators this idea is foreign. To me, and others coming from a liberal education this practice is second nature. Being exposed to classes and people from a vast number of interests in my liberal education gives me the ability to converse with people from multiple disciplines, content-areas, and professions with comfort and sincerity; which I feel is extremely important at conferences such as these, and while I embark on my own teaching journey. I was also able to add to discussions and reflect on how these practices might be incorporated throughout a cross-curriculum unit.
While attending this conference I realized how proud I am of my accomplishments, my university, and the profession I have chosen. Attending this conference lit a fire in me. It gave me new ideas, special insight, it awakened the possibilities that are available to me, and it gave me the opportunity to connect with other educators in my specific content-area. I had the chance to hear what other educators have to say about topics Ive discussed in my Art Education classes, and gain a stronger understanding about how these topics, such as the Big Idea and Visual Culture in art education, look in an actual classroom. I feel like I have greater knowledge of where to begin my journey in looking for a job post-graduation and what my first years as an art teacher might actually look like. A lot of the commentary surrounding Art Education in the past, present, and future years is negative. During this conference my eyes were opened to all the possibilities for my future.