Monday, June 18, 2012

Reflecting On The Reflecting

Come join the Tuesday Slice of Life, Hosted Weekly by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  The Slices of Life are just terrific to read.  



On May 30th, Ruth Ayres, at the Two Writing Teachers blog, posted an end of the year reflection post.  Here are her words that spoke to me in her intro to that post:

So I’m going to complete just a handful of statements, with the purpose of growing in my understanding and practice.
1.  I learned…
2.  I was stretched by….
3.  I am excited about…
4.  I’m beginning to realize…

I wrote a response quickly, in the comments, but these prompt beginnings have been in my mind since then.  Now that I’ve been finished with school for a week, I thought it was a good idea for me to return to my rather hasty answer, and reflect a bit more on the year. 


My original comment is black.  What I added is red.  See if some of these reflections fit your own experiences.

I’ve been reflecting alongside those with whom I work lately, too, Ruth, & talking about next year, finding that people reflect so differently, so your prompts are helpful & possibly would have helped last week, too. I changed some of the planned questions as I spoke with colleagues & adjusted.  I found that when I spoke with those teachers with whom I work, it was difficult for them to reflect during those final weeks of school.  They were simply too busy, too immersed in the final weeks of evaluation, having more than one goodbye celebration, ending portfolios, and so on.  This summer I need to plan for ways to reflect when teachers are more relaxed, in a frame of mind that will open their minds and hearts for looking at the past to see what worked and what didn’t.  And then look at possible changes that make sense at the beginning of next year.
I learned that planning ahead is good, but it helps to be resilient also when, as is said, life happens. There is always a later time to do a meeting.
 I hope to set a schedule next year for everyone with whom I work, and then if it doesn’t work I can be flexible.  I tried to change for everyone last year, but that way involved so many e-mails or me finding someone to check about a meeting.  Our school does do things more spontaneously at times, but structure helps too. 

I was stretched by a big challenge in my life and knew that I could get through it by taking steps slowly & surely. 
This did help me find a positive path to navigate some very crazy days.  When there are quotes that say things like ‘don’t do it alone’ and ‘ask for help when you need it’, I would say don’t ignore the advice.  Asking for help along the way was critical to my survival during this challenging time, and it continues to be helpful, although not as much as earlier.  
       I found a quote by Lena Horne that I printed out to read every day:  “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.”

I am excited about new ideas that I want to implement professionally for next year, have talked with some about them, & will talk to everyone else soon! 
  I have been asked to increase my hours in order to work with all the teachers, youngest to oldest, next year.  I am excited and plan to emphasize the teaching of younger students in some of my professional reading this summer.  I am also planning to begin a study group for one day after school, so far unstructured until those who choose to join decides the priorities of study.  I hope to read some about facilitating this kind of group this summer as well.  Finally, I am also advising three interns and their mentor teachers this coming year.  They teach at our school, but are participating in a program at another independent school that runs a teacher-licensing program.  I’ve done this before, but never three at a time, so it will pose some new time challenges.  I am excited because it’s fun to work with educators in other schools.  I find I learn quite a lot by those interactions too.

I’m beginning to realize that I cannot be all things to all people, but need to choose sometimes. It’s a difficult realization, but also helpful.  Like my writing for my blog, I’m trying hard to have it be more focused, particularly on writing--teaching writing and writing for myself, which also informs my teaching.  I cannot do all the things that sound good; although there are times I wish I were three or more people.  And I have quite a few personal things to do this coming year, and those too will need to be highly prioritized.
       I hope this expansion of Ruth’s wonderful and challenging prompts might be a challenge for your own reflections about the past year.  

Thank you Ruth for helping me post today!

photo credit: scatcat2009 via photo pin cc

48 comments:

  1. Linda,
    The picture at the bottom cracked me up. ;) I really love that you went back to your reflection. The teachers in my building attempted to reflect on these questions the last week of school but I too found that I think they were just too busy and immersed in year end craziness to really reflect. We work in such a go go go atmosphere that sometimes the reflection, which is so important, doesn't fit in real well. I struggle with how to help that grow. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for continuing to be such a support for so many. I really don't know how you do it all!

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    1. Thank you Dana! I guess we need to encourage the individual to find his or her own special way of reflection, but how to approach a group is the challenge, to give them space to choose. That's a summer goal of mine for sure.

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  2. What a great point. I've still got a few more days of craziness left - so Iwill put off any serious refelction until then!

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    1. Hope you have a wonderful final few days. It is the time to put off the reflection until you have finished the goodbyes.

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  3. I like how you went back to add to your reflection. Finding the right time for a reflection matters. I still need to wait a bit not to let emotions cloud the thinking. Your realization about choosing is easy to understand but, oh, so hard to follow. This is when the pause for a reflection is necessary to decide what to let go and what matters the most.

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    1. Yes, that choosing is difficult. I like doing so many kinds of things that I squeeze a lot into them, then wonder where the time went. Summer is for relaxing & doing less I hope!

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  4. Linda,
    I think it's great that you continued to think about your original reflection after the fact...and then went back and added even more about your thinking. By doing this, you will have it as a model to refer to as you do p.d. for teachers and when you teach students...

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    1. I think you've given me a spark of an idea, Amy. Perhaps the question is "At the end of the year I thought, but now I also think..." Thanks for this.

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  5. Great post, Linda. I can tell these questions resonated with you. I sure wish I was one of those teachers you worked with. They are lucky indeed!

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    1. Thank you Deb. It would be fun to all work together, wouldn't it? I would guess there would be constant talk! Hope the lake-time is going wonderfully!

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  6. I'm with Deb, I wish I was one of the teachers that has the pleasure of working with and learning from you. I soak up as much as I can through your writing, but in person would be so wonderful. Someone should tell the future teachers how very lucky they are.
    Tammy

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    1. Thanks Tammy. I see by your posts that you are soaking up lots at those conferences, too. I admire you for jumping right in after all your end-of-year craziness.

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  7. You are so right, those last days are not when teachers want to or can reflect deeply. You have given me an idea of a way to start off next year with a group of teachers. I think this might be the perfect way to get them thinking and knowing that they have responsibility in their learning. I love the Lena Horne quote! I must remember it.

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    1. If you have a specific idea, Elsie, I would appreciate it if you'd share it. I too have the challenge of wondering where the responsibility for summer learning rests, in addition of course of having some R & R without thinking about the classroom. Thanks!

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  8. Yes! The end days aren't for reflecting.. it takes some time and distance to be able to reflect clearly.

    Loved this: I found a quote by Lena Horne that I printed out to read every day: “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.”

    I picture the difference between carrying something in your arms vs. in well made backpacking gear. Or sharing with a friend...

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    1. Love the analogy, Maria. I do worry that if reflecting isn't done somewhat soon that plans for the new year will take too much space. It's a balance to do both, isn't it?

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    2. Linda's reflections and Maria's quote: powerful combination. I definitely have to do my own reflections in a few days (just finished school--not ready to reflect yet)! Thank you for both of your ideas and thoughts!

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    3. You are so right, it does take some break time so that you can stop the reeling from those final days. I hope you had a good end!

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  9. Reflection is the one of the most important components of effective teaching. I believe in it, but I find it's so hard to take the time. I can quickly review in my head, but I love that you took the time, put your thoughts into written words and then shared them! Just awesome and inspirational!

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    1. I suspect that we all are constantly reflecting and evaluating, don't you? It's always in my head, things like "how's it going, where can it be better, etc."

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  10. Thanks for posting! I used these with students at the end of the year but have not gone back to reflect myself. I have been out for a week now - already done some PD classes but have time to think and review before I begin building for next year. Thanks for the reminder of these questions. It is always good to have a kick start to the reflection.

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    1. How great that you did this with your students! It will be interesting if you compare some of the things they said with what you say. Thank you Joanne.

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  11. I remember seeing Ruth's post about reflection with the prompts and thinking at the time that I just couldn't do the reflecting yet...I was still too busy with end-of-the-year stuff. When I'm that busy I just can't focus my mind enough to do any meaningful reflections. I wanted to come back to those prompts and spend some quality time with them...thank you for reminding me. However, I'm going to put it off until next week; until after the All Write conference. I'll surely have some heavy reflection time after that!

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    1. I'm envious of your time at the All-Write. I just can't make it this year, but maybe next time? With all that new info in your brain, your reflection will be rich indeed. Thanks Robin!

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  12. Thanks for this reminder to do my reflection... I was "too busy / not ready to reflect" (like some of your teachers) when she posted it, and then I forgot, and now I keep seeing people like you (and someone last week... Marissa, maybe? I forget!) answering the prompts and reminding me to do it! Maybe this time I will... soon... I already wrote for today though! Anyway, I love your thoughtful expansions, and I especially love the last one, which is something I constantly struggle with. "I cannot do all the things that sound good". So true, and yet so hard to deal with sometimes! :-)

    On a personal note, I thought of you a lot last week because my mom and I visited her hometown and while there, we visited her cousin, who lost her dad in WWII as well. You are always in my heart because of that. (and because you are an amazing writer, teacher and friend!

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    1. Thank you Jennifer. You never fail to boost my spirits! I thought of you too today because I helped interview for a new French teacher. I was in charge of the 'teaching' experience questions & I asked her to give some ideas of projects that she uses, & used your idea of letting the students go shopping. She thought it was a great idea, & said connected to your idea she had students pretend to be new friends & ask each other questions, like interviewing. Anyway, because I've been reading your posts, I looked at this person in quite a new way. So, thank you. And remember that sometimes I've seen you reflecting during your post. I suspect we all do it constantly!

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    2. Ooh, that's neat! I love the way that connecting with all different types of teachers while slicing opens up a window to their subject, and you never know when that window might come in handy! :-) And yeah, I'm definitely kind of a constant reflector... but I do think it's valuable to sit down and do a big summative reflection every once in a while too!

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  13. Love the idea of revisiting an end of the year reflection to add or revise. Ruth's stems have also stuck in my mind. I wonder if I could shift their focus to work as goal setters too... something like
    I want to learn...
    I may be stretched by ...
    I am excited about...
    I wonder...

    I could use them as a beginning and an ending. Thanks for prompting my thinking, Linda!

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    1. Terrific idea, Lee Ann. I know that I will print out this reflection with spaces to help make the goals for next steps, but I didn't think of re-wording the same prompts. Thanks!

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  14. Such thoughtful reflections. I have been reflecting as well - like the idea of going back and adding to what you wrote earlier.
    I will try this a s well - thanks for sharing so much.

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    1. Thanks, Beverley. As things change, I guess we might often add to our thoughts as I did. This time, the short answer was just bothering me. I knew I needed to add more.

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  15. Wow, awesome reflection....I love the colored ink format. Favorite part... I found a quote by Lena Horne that I printed out to read every day: “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.”

    Today was a day like that for me; I feel like my heart was holding the whole load...I have determined that I have 'thin skin' and need to shift my load. xo nanc

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    1. It's always good to share, no matter what. You need to ask sometimes for help. I have learned that so well. Thank you, Nanc.

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  16. With reflections sometimes I think we have to make the effort right away - as your first thoughts were done - to give us the foundation to ponder on and then have time to create a deeper reflection, as you did (in red.) You have given me many things to think about myself and to plan for next year. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you. You are right about the quick response, then the slower pondering. Then see Lee Ann's idea above for a way to look forward too.

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  17. I recently read a reflection at http://writingmehome.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/reflections-on-my-school-year/ that made me want to go back and take time to think through my responses to Ruth's prompts. Your post is another such nudge.

    That Lena Horne quote is empowering. I am glad you sought out such fortifying words to carry with you through the past school year.

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    1. Thank you Christy. When you finish your conference too you might find a way to weave all the learning into your reflections. I remember your up & down year that ended so well after all. I'm glad this might help your response.

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  18. So much wisdom here, Linda! Some memorable pieces for me are:

    - Your way of facing challenges slowly and steadily as in one deliberate step at a time.

    - The quote; “It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.”

    - What you wrote about not being able to be all things to all people and prioritizing. In this last category, I think I sometimes put pressure on myself to keep up with self-imposed structures and routines that others really don't care if I maintain or not. (Maybe it's my first-born-child's over developed sense of duty?!)

    I think it's great that you're revisiting these questions at a time of greater leisure!

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    1. Thank you Violet for the feedback. I too am a first-born child, so never thought of things that way, but maybe that is part of the drive? It was an exercise of reflection also partly in order to begin the next steps I think.

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  19. So many wonderful thoughts here. I truly love how reflective and thoughtful you are, it seems with everything you do! It is commendable and an inspiration. It can be so hard to choose when there are so many directions to go and be pulled toward, I hope the next year is full of great paths for you!

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    1. Thank you Betsy. It's tough when one wants to do 'everything'! But, I do try to set some limits. Hope your time at the All-Write is terrific!

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  20. I've been reflecting with Ruth's questions too - I like seeing your process with the two ink colors. I think I want to do that for myself just because - it's almost like holding a mirror up to my thinking.

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    1. I just kept thinking of the original comment with my thinking and that I had been too hasty, not thorough enough. The two colors make it interesting, I agree. I hope it helps you, too Amelia.

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  21. Beautiful reflections, Linda. And wonderful metacognition as you reflect on your own reflections. Will link my teacher students to this lovely post of yours. :)

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    1. Thank you Myra, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Always a good idea to do a rearview of the year, or the month, or lesson, or? Aren't we always doing this, just not always putting it down in words I guess.

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  22. Linda, thank you for your prolific and inspirational blogging! I had to get through the wild ride of the end of my year before I could read this and respond...you have many more posts that I have missed and will be looking at this week...I really admire your thinking. Regarding reflection, which I am hoping to do lots of this summer, I do think it helps us teachers when we are asked to reflect on very specific things. I am working with my early childhood team to hear their thoughts on what has worked best and why on curriculum, planning, materials, etc. I've been wondering if it is additionally important - when working with the team - to emphasize "what works BEST", rather than get caught up in grousing, venting. I don't know! It is so essential to have collaboration - and reflection is a big, big part of collaboration, I believe. You've given me lots to think about. Here's to time for reflection!

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  23. And - wow! I admire your fortitude in working with three beginning teachers! I worked alongside one this year (as I will each year, as it is the structure of my school, master/apprentice, if you will); it is very demanding - a whole other side of one's brain.

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    1. It isn't quite the same as working with a student teacher, but I've never done three before so I'm wondering how it will all go. I love your words, Maureen "what works best" rather than just "what works". It's a good way to narrow focus since when we do collaborate, we are usually pressed for time. I don't like to get into the venting either. It serves no purpose in a group that I can see. And it makes some rather anxious I think. Thank you for the good words in response. I hope you've had a great ending to your year!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!