Year End Reflection Time

One of the things teachers ask students to do is to reflect on their learning. Sometimes that reflection happens at the end of a project or a unit of study or the course but teachers know that reflection is a key part of the learning cycle.

It often looks like this in real life: pre-assessment…set goals for learning…instruction and practice…assessment of learning… and reflection.

Now this process is not just one found in education. It is found in lots of places but with different terms like debriefing, project review, grading of product implementation, evaluation of programs, examination of business goals…or a number of other terms, but in the end, all of these are forms of reflection.

In fact, the Harvard Business Review recently shared research showing the power of reflection in the business world. At the conclusion of this study one researcher noted, “When we stop, reflect, and think about learning, we feel a greater sense of self-efficacy. We’re more motivated and we perform better afterward.” (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/reflecting-on-work-improves-job-performance)

According to my paraphrased Webster’s definition, reflection is serious thought about a topic, event or project that is written down or otherwise recorded/documented.

As important as reflection is, teachers may be the ones who practice it the most poorly. That is usually because they do not do it. Teachers are either feeling the pressure to move on to the next thing, or they are so tired by the end of the school year, that their only plan is a series of long naps alternating with “umbrella” drinks on a beach.

However, before both of these well-deserved things take place, I would strongly encourage all educators—teachers, counselors, and administrators—to spend some time in reflection. Doing so will allow you to grow and be even better in your work.

Additionally, if I could be so bold, I would like to suggest a few questions that you might use in this process. While the questions are important, the actual process and time spent on it is the key. In addition, you do need to write the answers down…though complete sentences are not required.

Ten Reflection Questions

1. Three great moments from the last school year were…
2. Three moments that were disappointing from the last school year were…
3. Three ways I grew in my job were…
4. Three areas that could be improved are…
5. A funny story I never want to forget from last year is…
6. A few activities that went really well last year are…
7. How I am I better now than I was a year ago? How can I build on this?
8. How have my ideas about my work changed over the last year?
9. What do I need help with to be better at or continue to grow at my craft?
10. What person(s) made a positive impact on me in my last year of work? Have I thanked them?

Some Rules for Teachers when Communicating with Parents

1. Be Proactive – make the first call. Make a call anytime there is something going on in your room a parent might need to know about. Share everything all the time. It is hard for a parent to call the administration and complain that the teacher is reaching out too much.

2. Speak with Kindness…Remember you are talking about someone’s flesh and blood. Speak kindly and with great respect. Use very good manners. Remember to address parents as “Mr.” or “Ms.” until they tell you otherwise. Kindness is the most important thing to remember.

3. Be honest, but remember that the parent may not agree with you. Speak the truth…with kindness…but do not ask the parent to agree with you. Maybe the child cannot sit still in your room but does at home. Many times, you can avoid conflict by saying, “I see this” or “this happens with me.” (I statements rock!)

4. Document, document, document…you must note every conversation and communication…there are lots of ways to do it from apps on phones to paper and pencil…choose whatever method you want—just do it.

5. Make a point to call with good news…try to make one positive call every school day. This way when the time comes for a concern, the parent will know you are also seeing the good in their child.

6. If a conflict is inevitable in a face-to-face meeting, be sure other people are in the room. Another teacher…a counselor…an administrator. It’s not just about safety in numbers; it is also about having someone less emotionally involved to keep it focused on the child/student.

7. If whatever you need to tell a parent will take more than a couple of paragraphs, or if you aren’t sure how it might be received, then DO NOT USE EMAIL. Either call or do the face-to-face meeting.

Bonus – Keep your admins and supervisors up to date – especially when conflict is occurring. Admins would rather have too much information than not enough.

The Most Important Thing a School Administrator Can Do

I was recently asked what one thing I would tell a new school administrator that they should do to support the staff they work with each day.

Now I am sure some folks could give impressive statements about unpacking standards, interpreting data, or recognizing which interventions provide the most impact for student achievement. The idea would be that helping teachers with efficacy is the very best thing and administrator can do for the entire School community.

Others might say helping teachers take care of themselves and their mental and physical health is the most important thing an administrator can do. Or perhaps that helping teachers to feel supported in both word and deed is of central importance. Or maybe doing the very best that one can do to keep “nonsense” things off of the teacher’s desk if they can be handled in the office so that teachers can concentrate on teaching and not paperwork.

Now each of these things is important and could be the correct answers to the question. I am also sure that there are other ideas far more impressive than what I have considered that could be noted however none of these are my answer.

My answer probably sounds quite simple and I guess that it is but the one thing that I would tell an aspiring school administrator that they should do for their staff is simply this…

Pray for them!
Pray for them every day.
Pray they have patience and wisdom and strength and enthusiasm.
Pray they show tenderness and mercy.
Pray they share compassion and love
Pray they listen with their heart.
Pray they have courage.
Pray they teach boldly!
Pray they push each child to become their best.
Pray they help students learn and that they teach students to love learning.
Pray they remember to take care of themselves and their own families.
Pray for their health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Pray for them as individuals.
Pray for them by name.
Pray for their unique needs.
To offer these prayers you must get to know the people you work with.
You must learn about them and their families.
Their past and their present.
Their hopes and their dreams.
You must be available.
You must seek conversations.
You must take time to be present.
You must listen. Listening not to respond, but to really hear.
And then you must pray…every day.

There are a lot of other things a good administrator should do for those whom they have been entrusted to serve.

But the most important thing I do (and that I doubt most of my staff even know about) is pray.
And that is what I would encourage any school administrator to do – be they new or old.

As in so doing you will connect in a very different way.

And you will remember that any impact you have and, any leadership you provide comes not from you, but from a partner located in a place much higher than your building, the district office, or even the state department of education.

And I would tell any aspiring administrator God is the very best partner anyone can have.