(not) shooting the second arrow

by Zhenya

A friend of mine shared this post on Facebook about a week ago, and it made me think.

Let me first quote one paragraph for you:

The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied, “It is.”The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that even more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”

As I said, it made me think. Teaching (for many people, including myself, so I will intentionally use ‘we’ in this paragraph) can be a very personal experience, as we often put heart and soul into planning and delivering the lesson to students. As we all know, not every lesson goes ‘smoothly’, no matter what is implied by this word. It gets even more sensitive if it is an observed lesson, and we are worried about the impression we make on the person watching this activity that did not work very well for the students…


Now, when it comes to reflecting on a lesson taught or observed, it is hard or next to impossible to separate oneself from the emotions and feelings about what happened. Often, the stronger feelings are about the parts that were less ‘successful’, or helpful for student learning. Sometimes, the feelings are so strong that they don’t give a chance to take a step back and describe what actually happened, or be objective.

I thought that the idea of ‘(not) shooting the second arrow’ could become a nice way to introduce the concept of reflection and reflective cycle on a training course for teachers. Will try it and see how it works! Thank you for reading 🙂