At this time of year reflection is taking up a lot of my head space. What has gone really well and what I still need to work on. I am at the stage of my career now, that I have to work harder to keep up and to keep myself motivated. It has nothing to do with whether I like my job or not, but even though I hate to admit it, a lot to do with me being older and generally having less energy to go around.
One of the things I am always focused on is innovative teaching practices. We spend a lot of time discussing this as a staff and I recently sent out this thought provoking article by A.J. Julliani, “10 Ways Teachers Can Inspire a Generation of Innovators.” I really think it is important to think about our classroom practices and never stop thinking about what is the very best way we can use our time in the classroom. Innovation in the classroom does not mean just inserting technology and it does not mean we have to throw away everything we are doing. Rather, to me it means we must always be thinking ahead about the very best way to use the time we have. We need to ask ourselves:
- Is this the best for my students?
- Is there a different way that might be better?
- What are my students getting from this? Skills or information or both?
- Why am I doing this activity and will it give me the best result?
We cannot keep doing the same old things just because they have worked before. Our students are always changing and we are living in a world that is always changing. To me this means we should always be changing as well.
One of my professional goals this year was supporting classroom practices. This is one area I feel like I have always struggled with a little bit. It seems like there is no perfect system to support the ideal I have in my mind about how it should look. I tend to go back and forth between being content with growth and practice and wanting progress to move along at a quicker pace.
Over the years I have made a lot of mistakes and learned a few things.
- My passions are not necessarily everyone’s passions.
- I have to accept where people are and try to support growth from wherever that might be.
- Sometimes I have to go beyond “gentle nudges” and have crucial conversations when growth is not quick enough or moving in the same direction as the team.
- It is important to decide which hill I really feel is important enough to die on.
When thinking about my goal for this year, it was important that I find time to schedule classroom visits into my calendar. We all know what happens to good intentions if we do not have it in our calendar. I haven’t met a principal yet who complained about having too much time. I try to put it into my calendar each week when I am organizing my week. The next thing I did was make a digital chart I could keep on my desk top to help me keep track of where I had been and when.
Sometimes I planned for brief visits to a number of classrooms and other times I planned to stay for an extended time. I never consider myself to be the visiting “expert” in the room, but rather look at it as an opportunity for us to learn things together. The last key element that I felt I needed to address was taking time to give feedback or create a conversation about what I have seen. There is really no sense me being there if it does not turn into a conversation and/or reflection. I managed this in a variety of ways depending on the day and time and the length of the visit. Some of the ways I used were a quick note left on the teacher’s desk stating something I saw and why it had a positive affect on a student, an email sent to the teacher when I returned to my office or a face to face conversation held later in the day.
I learned a lot this year, but still think I have plenty of room for improvement. Some of the things I learned were to try and be more focused and not to get distracted from my plan. I learned that fair is not always equal and equal is not always fair. When I started the year, I was hoping to try to visit each classroom equally, but then I realized that classroom visits will not all be equal. During the year I also had to allow for times when teachers needed greater support and during those times, I did have to cut back on the number of visits to other classrooms. I learned the most important part is the learning and reflection that comes from two colleagues working together.
I saw so many wonderful, innovative teaching practices as I did my walk throughs and visits this year and tried to make sure our teachers knew how much we appreciate the hard work they do. We will continue to look for ways to innovate our classroom practices and remember that every action and inaction on our part matters to our students.