For the last two years I have been welcomed into many classrooms as a coach, or as my favorite mentor Jan so accurately describes: a thought partner. When she used that language two years ago during our first New Teacher Center Mentor Academy, I had no idea just how connected I would feel to that phrase today. I have partnered with some incredible thinkers over these two years. Some of these thinkers have been my fellow coaches, the teachers I support and their administrators.
Today though, I am focused on the teachers. I am grateful to have had the privilege of being a part of each of their journeys during their first year of teaching. It is humbling to be welcomed into a classroom after a teacher has had a challenging day; to listen as he carefully and thoughtfully reflects upon his “could’ve s,” “would’ve s,” and “wish-I-had s” eventually landing on a “next time.” Some of my favorite moments have been those in which I witness the birth of a new idea, asking clarifying questions along the way until I felt like I was in the front row at the idea’s premiere!
As I close out my work this year with teachers, I am optimistic about their futures in education- proud to call them my colleagues, and at the same time sad to part ways. One of my goals was to support teachers in developing habits of mind, encourage teachers to become reflective practitioners. I did… I know I did because they reflected with me- and I loved every minute of it!! They thought aloud. They thought in emails. They thought all weekend and were beaming with “You’re gonna love this!!” excitement when I walked in on a Monday morning. As I think about my hopes for them in the coming years, I think about the value of reflection and of having a thought partner. In our busy classrooms, when our prep finally rolls around- we have so much to do. Teaching is one of the careers that takes the cake for “not enough hours in the day.”
There will always be papers to correct, parents to call and guilt about whatever you’re not doing in the moment. I hope that in the midst of all of these pressures- teachers will prioritize their own professional growth, and reflect. To be a reflective practitioner is to truly carve out and protect time and space for reflection. It’s knowing that spending these 15 minutes reflecting instead of entering grades into the online database will best serve students. I learned that as I watched teachers grow over these past two years, and as my practice evolved alongside theirs.
In the past two weeks I have watched teachers connect the dots between their professional growth and their students’ learning seamlessly. It was a “well, obviously” kind of moment every time. I hope each of these teachers are able to hold on to that through the onslaught of demands and the isolation that often characterizes our profession. I hope they provide encouragement and reassurance to each other and all of their colleagues as they come to school to do this incredible work every day for many, many years. I hope they focus on solutions instead of problems and by example, lead others to do the same.
With the help of some of my (very creative) fellow coaches and thought partners, I made these Jars of Reflection to give to the teachers I support.
Each jar is full of questions that I hope will spark reflection, discussion and growth in the coming years. As teachers, whether we reflect in a paper journal, somewhere in cyberspace or aloud in our professional learning network, it’s what keeps us going, breeds innovation, fends off stagnation and keeps us hopeful! I have a jar myself here on my desk and as I use it, I will know that I am in great company!