Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.
Margaret J. Wheatley
My morning started with a quick check of Twitter and always enjoy seeing the #Hacklearningdaily questions and they get me thinking. Today Sylvia Ellison @SylviaEllison asked “How do you and/or will you measure the success of your strategy selection?”
I always tell staff or mentees that an initiative is a success once you commit to move forward with it. After the completion of the idea (or mid-way if it is a yearlong initiative), reflect to enhance the idea. Self-reflection is one of those “buzz words” that we use, but often without the strategies to support the phrase “we should reflect on that”. Hence the latest blog was hatched.
This year we started with an inspirational session from Pam Garramone. She was an inspiring speaker and gave the energy to kick off the year. She is a trained Positive Psychology Speaker, Workshop Leader and Coach offering programs for middle and high school students, teachers and corporate and community organizations to improve individuals’ ability to accomplish their goals. Click here to visit her website and follower her on twitter @pamelagarramone
As I think about her coaching it motivated me to think internally more and pause to ensure “self” is at its best. This post will focus on strategies to “self-reflect”. One of the benefits of summer break is that we get the opportunity to try and explore new ideas and reflect on past ideas. With all the PD workshops or events in the summer, new ideas will be plentiful. However, when we have new ideas and solutions to problems, we must first evaluate and assess our current practices.
One skill I did not use enough early in my principal years was self-reflection, but now a skill I use regularly and find great benefits in. Reflection takes many forms, and I think it is an integral part of education and our own growth. Great leaders/teachers reflect on their practice and tweak their plans, units, interactions, and attitudes. With a profession as challenging as teaching, self-reflection offers leaders and teachers an opportunity to think about what works and what doesn’t in their schools/classroom.
Self-reflection is about asking yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper level of understanding yourself. New thoughts lead to new emotions and consequently to new actions and personal growth. Too often in education we are so busy that you aren’t even aware of how you’re really feeling or take time to take a breath. As we enter the break and get rejuvenated and excited for “new” we can take time to reflect on what was launched this past school year. I recommend these strategies to support your reflection.
Look in the mirror: I think the first step is to consider looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself. Before you can look deep you should examine your beliefs and successes or areas of improve with ideas you launched this year.
If you do what you’ve always done you’ll get what you’ve always gotten: Jessie Potter used this expression in 1981 and I have heard it and used it many times. It is unavoidable, but we all get comfortable with certain strategies and methods, and as educational setting evolves and changes, we should be willing to update and modify our approach to educating students. As hard as this may be, we must reflect on our approaches and see if it is best practice for the student needs.
Write to reflect: I was not someone who liked writing, but recently have found this reflective practice provides key insights and allows for free-flowing thinking that you can look back on overtime.
Use a critical friend: I know I can be biased toward my own strengths and weaknesses, and because of this it is extremely important I use a critical friend during self-reflection. The best thing about using a trusted colleague is they will give you honest advice and feedback and notice about you that provide insight into who you really are as an educator.
The above are a few I like to use for individual self-reflection. As leaders of a building or of a classroom you also should reflect on the culture you created this year and enhance or make some shifts next year. In my work at Boston College and as an administrator in a school and district, I work to ensure collaboration is high and build a healthy school culture. Putting strategies in place to build culture also need reflection, both at the school level and at the classroom level. When a school develops a healthy culture, it encourages all stakeholders to work together toward shared goals and objectives.
Healthy school culture has a huge effect on:
- Innovation and creativity
- Reducing teacher turnover
- Sharing talents and knowledge
- A sense of wellbeing
According to Goleman (2000), an accurate self-evaluation entails a realistic evaluation of an individual’s limitations and strengths. The following questions can begin your self-reflection time focused on collaborative culture or to support launching a collaborative community next school year.
- What words do you immediately associate with collaboration?
- Are there structures within the school day that help foster collaboration between you and ______ (fill in the blank dependent on your role, i.e., students, teachers, principals)
- Are there processes/protocols in place to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas and creativity?
- Do I have an environment that supports collective decision-making?
- How often do individual employees get recognized for going above and beyond?
- Do I keep an eye out for potential problems among team members?
- Are there collaboration spaces in my school and how are they used?
- Have I hired the best team to do the job and the right person for each role?
- Are there opportunities for staff to learn and grow as professionals?
- Is coaching available to ensure collaborative practices are effective and implemented correctly? Who ensures such? Is there flexibility/fluidity in collective decision-making responsibilities?
- Who are the staff members in your building/workplace that are great resources for collaborative skill development between students and staff and staff and staff?
Almost everything we do in education requires an evaluation along with reflection. A new program, a new idea, a tweaking of an assessment, and any other piece of education we use should be subject to reflection and evaluation. I hope these strategies aid in your reflection and look forward to further collaboration with current and future PLN colleagues.