Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Reflecting on another year

I think an important part of being an educator, whether you're educating students or educating teachers, is reflecting on your own professional practice. We're constantly learning new things to update our toolkit, coming into contact with new situations that force us to find innovative solutions, and well- we're always adapting to the new initiatives that come year after year. It's important to reflect on the areas where we were strong or made gains, and just as important to recognize those areas we are weak in so that we can work on them.

Throughout my life, I've always admired people who can admit that there's always something to learn. I had the greatest respect for teachers who, when asked a question they couldn't answer, simply said "I don't know. Let me research that and get back to you tomorrow," rather than those who made up something or simply went with "That's just how it is." When I waited tables in college and grad school, I had a manager who always told us, "If you're not getting the tips you want, don't blame the guest. Take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself what was lacking in the service you provided the guest. What was it they wanted or needed that you didn't provide?" I've always tried to apply that same line of thinking to my professional career as well. If my students aren't achieving, I should stop blaming things out of my control (family situations, etc) and start taking a look at the things that are in my control first and foremost, because those are the things I can change.

This was my first year as a coach. One of the hardest things for me was striking a balance of being there to support my teachers, but not encroaching on their valuable time- like planning or lunch. I wanted to be a boon of support rather than another obligation demanding their time. I wanted to offer constructive and positive feedback, without too much of "add this, do this". But always with "I'm only an e-mail away if you need something. Let me know and I'll make time for you the very next day". As always, you can't please everyone.

Some of my coachees got exactly the level of support they wanted. Some felt it was too much, others felt it was too little- and they didn't reach out for more. So, this is an area I'll continue working on. I need to be able to recognize which teachers want more and will not ask, and some who are content to be left alone until they reach out, so that I can differentiate and individualize my coaching more.

I've already considered things I can do to improve my practice and keep a more constant dialogue with my teachers. One thing I will do is send out a monthly "coaching" newsletter- recognizing awesome things I see; offering a strategy of the month and a chance for teachers to write/vote on last month's strategy; a question column; and anything else I think to include. Some teachers will love it and those who want to can read it, while those who don't can delete it from their inbox.

On the side of strengths, the schools that I worked with this past year all made excellent growth and met their AMAO goals. This is truly exciting! I did learn to manage some aspects of my new position, get to know my team, and bring some of my assets (like my tech knowledge) to benefit my team. I really love my new job- it's actually what I've wanted to do since my second year of teaching! I really love working with teachers and helping them solve problems. Sometimes I was able to offer a simple solution to their issues by thinking outside the box.

So, now that school is out and summer is here, take a little time to ask yourself- what were my strengths and weaknesses this year? How can I improve next year? How can I step out of my comfort zone to benefit those I'm working with and ultimately, our students?

Here's a great 1 page reflection form to help you out:

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