Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beyond the Mirror and Through the Looking Glass: Why I Reflect

First as a teacher and now as an administrator, I have always been engaged in thoughtful reflection on my practices.  I reflect often and deeply. These reflections oftentimes take place in the form of quiet contemplation, journal entries, notes on scrap paper (aka quick writes), edits to my lesson plan book, and conversations with trusted colleagues.  These reflections were often followed by action steps for improving whatever area I was focused upon at the time.  Many times these action steps required me to investigate a particular topic more or to seek professional development opportunities that would help improve my practice in a particular area.  You see, for me, reflection wasn't just about thinking about what happened.  It was about discovering the key to unlocking my potential as an educator.  

Reflection fuels my passion for improvement and keeps me engaged in the learning process.  As an educator, I know that there will ALWAYS be new things for me to learn (content) and new things to try (strategies).  Nothing made this more clear than after I joined Twitter and have expanded my PLN.  Like thousands of others, I read posts, retweet posts, favorite posts, check out blogs, view videos, etc.  As a result, my opportunities for reflection have increased exponentially.  And, I have committed to using blogging as a new way to reflect.  Blogging, by the way, was one of those action steps from a reflection I had on how I could better model technology integration in my role as a leader.

 However, as much as I reflect about my own learning, there are also experiences that lead me to reflect on the learning of others.  A teacher in my previous district (who was frustrated by the district's required language arts PD) stated, "I'm a National Board Certified Teacher.  I already know a lot about teaching language arts and there's not much more I can learn."  For the past two years, her comment has stuck with me.  Initially, I walked away feeling disappointed and discouraged that a fellow educator was not as committed to lifelong learning as others in our building.  However, in the past year, I have learned a lot about professional development, adult learning, and motivation (with admittedly, a lot more to learn).   I now have a different perspective about that conversation.  I believe this teacher was being reflective of her practice and trying to communicate that what she needed to learn wasn't being provided.  In other words, we weren't meeting her needs as a learner.  If that same conversation were to occur today, I feel better equipped to ask her probing questions and provide her resources that would be more closely aligned to fit her needs.  

I am beginning my third year in a "new to me" district.  As their newest leader, I have made mistakes.  I have also done many things well.  Most importantly, I still have many things to learn.  I will never be a perfect leader, but I will be a leader who is focused on using reflection as a way to constantly and consistently improve.  As we begin a new school year, let's commit to becoming more reflective practitioners together and sharing our learning.  And as we reflect, let's remember...Reflection isn't about perfection, it is about growth.  

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