Having recently viewed the movie "Inferno" starring Tom Hanks I thought about reflection vs. responsive learning. The imagery and stage direction used throughout the movie mirrored many themes from Dante's original Inferno.“See how he’s made a chest out of his shoulders; and since he wanted so to see ahead, he looks behind and walks a backward path. And see Teresias, who changed his mien when from a man he turned into a woman, as totally transforming all his limbs that then he had to strike once more upon the two entwining serpents with his wand before he had his manly plumes again” (Alighieri 181). This procrastination or self reflection brings up the many later books written in Western literature with a mirrored theme. Can anyone truly see his reflection and know whether or not he is good or evil? Do dance instructors learn what is right and wrong from their experiences as students or learn the differences between what is right for one student may be wrong for another from adapting material given to the students?
In an essay for a critical perspectives class I wrote," Did those souls know their wrongs and could they have seen them before falling through hell?" At what point in a teacher's career does the teacher realize when harm may be done to a student's body? The teacher must accept responsibility for doing his or her best to prevent injury to the student/novice. A teacher is the student's guide, more physical than spiritual, but sometimes perhaps both. When a teacher recognizes issues or difficulties and adapts instructional methods so the student may come to a better understanding of movement or quality might be considered responsive learning. Responsive learning should help not only the student but the instructor so that both improve from shared mutual experiences. Teachers who continue to teach the same way without consideration for a student's physical or mental limitations may be harming that student emotionally, mentally, and physically. Mental and emotional harm are different but that is a discussion for another day.
So back to the theme of this post. Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”(Santayana). Is reflection a form of responsive learning? Does reflection only aid the individual reflecting or remembering or does the reflection enhance the way others respond to material being given in a new or different manner as a result of the initial reflection? Do athletes and dancers train differently now than they did as recently as one year ago? Do instructors accept that dance will always be taught the exact same way or do instructors/teachers/educators learn to adapt and respond to new methodology that may enhance traditional teaching strategies? Dance and faith or religious beliefs are not equivocal yet many observers might say dance students training for a professional career in dance are fanatical in their pursuit. Mistakes occur. Improvements need to be made. So it is the responsibility of the dance instructor/teacher/educator to ensure dance is not seen as something to be worshiped but as something to be appreciated even relished.
For me reflection leads to interpretation and response through adaptation. But, anyone can respond without reflection. So is reflection necessary to adequately respond?
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno. Trans. Allen Mandelbaum. 181. New York: Bantam Dell a Division of Random House, 2004.
Santayana, George. The Life of Reason. Ed. Brian and Richard Janda Joseph. Vol. One. BiblioLife, 2008.