Reflection is Evaluated Experience... What's on your resume?
May 18, 2015
In John Maxwell's book, "Sometimes You Win - Sometimes You Learn," he says that to win, you can't just keep attempting the same thing over and over again. You must stop, take responsibility for your choices, reflect on what went wrong and what went right, make adjustments, and try again. That's the only way to be successful. Life is not about winning. It's about learning from mistakes, making adjustments, and celebrating the successes. In teaching, we ALL want to be successful. We want to celebrate student success. In order to get to the finish line though, we have to reflect and evaluate our experiences.
If you really love teaching students and you believe in making a better tomorrow for your students, you have to be a reflective person. Someone once said that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. To improve, you have to reflect. One of my strengths is the art of reflection. You have to look at what you did in that particular situation with your students, and you have to ask yourself several questions. How did that go? What were the results? Would I go back and do anything differently? Was that my best effort, and was that my students’ best effort? When you answer those questions on reflection, I believe you highlight my two key components towards improving your teaching craft. Those components are refining your talents and collaborating with others.
When I think of prioritizing your plan and refining your teaching talents, I am reminded of the Pareto Principle. This principle says that 20 percent of your priorities will give you 80 percent of your production if you spend your time, energy, money, and personnel on the top 20 percent of your priorities. Basically, if you have 10 areas that you want to improve on, you should prioritize the 10 and focus on the top two priorities that will yield 80 percent of your production. Here’s an example. When I make classroom observations, a majority of my comments pertain to the teacher’s delivery techniques for lecturing and/or questioning. Strategic pauses in your delivery can solve many of the behavioral and academic problems in the classroom. Pausing for 5 to 7 seconds will allow you to see the engagement and participation level of your students. To me, this is a powerful tool that will yield production on so many different levels. That’s one priority. Now you just need another one that will give you “more bang for your buck.”
I like to think of someone who is reflective is very coachable. Take for example a pitching or hitting coach. These coaches thrive to improve their players, and they push the players to evaluate their performance on the mound or at the plate. But the key component is ensuring success on the mound or plate occurs only if the players have “buy-in” to reflect and evaluate their performance. Just like in teaching, novice and experienced teachers must look for ways to improve their talents. All teachers need someone with more experience to assist them in the journey. If we, as educators, chose to take this path without someone, the path will be lonely. You have to take others with you. To take others with you is one of the keys to building legacy and leadership. With collaboration, teachers can reflect together, build stronger relationships with each other and their students, and unite to maintain and sustain a positive school culture.
I have a friend in my school district that is an assistant principal. When we worked together, she once said that “it’s time to retire when you say that you have learned it all.” I am always looking to improve job performance, and I hope that ALL educators will continue to reflect and improve on their craft. The art of reflection is a continual process, but I believe that through focusing on the action steps and collaborating with others we will become more successful at teaching students. Thomas Edison has a great quote. It says “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that it won’t work.” I encourage all educators as we close the school year that we reflect on what worked and what didn’t work this school year. Whether you are a first year teacher or an experienced teacher, you should evaluate your performance and your students’ performance. We update our resume to reflect teaching experiences. I challenge teachers to regularly reflect on their profession and craft, and I challenge them to place evaluated teaching experience rather than just teaching experience on their resume.