Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What does your reflection say about you?

On the first day of every school year, one of the class procedures and promises I made to my students was that there was nothing I would ask of them that I haven’t already done or would not be willing to do. We discussed how important my role as a learner was in the classroom and that while I (for the most part) had more content knowledge and skill as a teacher, my job was to learn about each and every one of them, as well as learn alongside them. I explained that there were times we would try out a new web based tool or use a device that I was not 100% familiar with and that we would be on an equal playing field. There were many times they taught me quite a bit about the tools too. They loved to show off and teach me.  My job was to develop a worthwhile academic purpose for using the tool, even without being an expert on it. There were also times where I was asked to play a bear or a tree or any number of inanimate objects in class skits or presentations. My students hopefully understood that I believed that we were in it together and that I meant what I said about learning and trying new things together.
Before I go and pat myself on the back, it also makes me realize just how many times I did NOT practice what I preached. One of my favorite statements is that we as educators often hold our students to a higher standard than we hold ourselves.  Want proof? Ask yourself about how often you emulate the following “habitudes” in your personal life? What about in your professional life? How often do I...
  • ... imagine or wonder?
  • … use my imagination and creativity to solve problems?
  • … allow my curiosity to drive me?
  • … allow myself time to explore or question or follow my curiosity?
  • … reflect?
  • … make changes based upon those reflections?
  • …  seek out challenging or difficult situations?
  • … stick to it, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be?
  • … rise to a challenge presented by others, even when it goes against your current      belief system?
  • … commit to patience
  • … commit to hard work without complaint?
  • … learn from my mistakes?
  • … rise when I fall?
  • … seek to understand the why before the what and the how?
  • … reflect on what success means?
  • … put myself in my students’ shoes?
  • … put myself in my colleagues’ shoes?
  • …. in my administrator or bosses’ shoes?
  • … set goals and evaluate my success on the goals with data?
  • … reflect on what is my opinion and what is validated by research and information?
  • … support my beliefs and opinions with facts and citing evidence from research?
  • … listen to ideas and opinions that are different than your own without judgment?
  • … kept a positive attitude in the face of criticism or a difficult situation?
  • … reflect prior to reacting?
  • … recognize the changes that were occurring around me whether I liked it or not?
  • … share my passions and interest visibly with others?
  • … bring energy into my experiences with others?
  • … exude confidence and promote confidence in others?
  • … model flexibility?

When we hold up the mirror to ourselves, we need to ask ourselves if we are living up to the standards we set before our students?  When we ask them to do hours of homework each night, are we committing to spending our own time away from the classroom, providing them meaningful and timely feedback to promote growth and learning? When we ask our students to care about our content and our classroom and to engage with new information and try new skills despite fear of failure,  we must ask ourselves how we ourselves feel about new learning and experiencing failure. What is our reaction to information shared by colleagues, at faculty meetings, by district professional development?  When we ask our students to work in small groups, to engage in collaborative learning, we should be examining our own attitudes about working with others and collaborating with colleagues. How can we reject working with others, while demanding it of our students?
If we want our students to be engaged, to be creative, to be caring, to show perseverance, to adapt, to be imaginative, to collaborate well, to ask deep and meaningful questions, to be confident, to reflect, to be honest, to be courageous, and to love learning, then we must believe these virtues and live these habitudes.  As educators, we rightfully expect so much of our students and we must demand the same of ourselves..  When I look out at my students, I want them to be a reflection of all of those demands and expectations. I also acknowledge that ultimately, they, are a reflection of me.  When you look out at your students, what does their reflection say about you?

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