The Lead Learners

Reflect on the Year

I’ll never forget the last day of my first year of teaching. The bell rang, the halls cleared and I sank into my desk chair. The extreme emotions and the reality of making it through my first year were exhausting. My mentor, Tam Hess, stuck her head in my doorway. “Come on,” she said, “This is the best part.” She zipped out of my room.

I didn’t think I could move, but I followed Tam out the door, through the school and to the bus loading zone. I didn’t want to miss the best part.

Tam kept on walking past the busses and to the grassy corner between the drive and the road. She wasn’t the only one. The entire staff was filling the small grassy area.

The bus doors closed and the front bus tapped his horn. “Here we go!” Tam said and she transformed into  different person. Tam began blowing kisses with one hand and waving with the other. She leaped. She twirled. She giggled.

“Wave goodbye!” she said between leaps.

The entire staff bode farewell, while middle school kids hung out of the bus windows waving goodbye and screaming final well wishes.

I was struck by the glory of the staff. It feels good to know there was a job well done, and waving goodbye to busloads of middle school kids who waved back was just the confirmation we all needed that it is, indeed, a worthwhile profession.

I’ve come to learn our years are much like the rings of a tree. Each year a tree keeps growing, but there are some years when it grows more than others. You can tell when you slice it open, looking at a cross section of the trunk. Have you noticed the different width of the rings? It’s an indicator of growth. The years when there is a lot of growth, the tree was well nourished.

For educators, it’s reflective practice that is the nourishment for growth. Growth has less to do with the events that happen, students’ responses to lessons, and the mistakes we make and more to do with our attitude toward reflective practice.

Reflective practice can occur through conversation or through writing. It depends on how you’re wired, but most of us benefit from a little of each. Take a moment to make a plan for reflecting on the past school year.

Consider:

  • Will you reflect through talking or writing
  • If you plan to have a conversation, write down three names who will cheer and challenge you in your reflection.
  • If you plan to write, consider the place you will stack your words. I still keep a traditional notebook and spend time writing, doodling and making charts and tables on page after page. I also do a significant amount of blogging and writing articles, both are acts of written reflective practice.
  • Use these questions as a springboard into your reflection:
    • What about your instruction makes you proud? Be specific and unfold it bit by bit.
    • Who impressed you this school year? Consider a student and an adult.
    • What surprised you this school year? I love the way considering surprises almost always pushes me into deeper reflection.
    • If I handed you a magic wand, what is ONE thing you would like to change? This always gets to the heart of the thing that matters most.
    • How do you plan to unwind this summer? Then consider if you can add more of this activity into the school year. It is important to take care of ourselves all year long — not only in the summer!

Let us know your plans to reflect on the year. Leave a comment and let us know one of your best reflective practice questions. We’d also love to hear how you plan to reflect — through conversation or writing?

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