During the academic school year, we work intensively with our students to teach them all the core subjects. Students take tests, and we move on to the next goal. Educators are moving at a record pace, trying to prepare their students for whatever the next objective might be, while also meeting deadlines for reports cards and other administrative duties. When the end of the school year comes, we feel like a marathon has been completed–we abruptly finish the race and fall to the ground wondering what the heck just happened that year.
As an educator, I have been trying to focus this academic school year on reflecting and celebrating the successes along the way rather than just running the race as fast as possible. I have been taking time out intentionally throughout the week to reflect on what has worked well for me. I keep a personal journal with specific questions about growth I have had both in the classroom and administratively. I also jot down professional development, such as what books or articles I have read and workshops I have given or attended to enhance my teaching pedagogy. This helps me to stay accountable to using what I have learned but also purposeful in seeing my own growth and success.
I encourage this reflection among my teaching team as well. I ask for a brief email each day on something positive that happened and also an area of growth they have. It can feel difficult when we first begin, but, as time progresses, many teachers are so appreciative of taking this time to purposefully reflect on their work. It is also important for me to deliberately reference these reflections when sharing my appreciation for a team member’s hard work and specifically what they have done that week to make a difference to their students or their colleagues. Giving our appreciation in times where it isn’t obligatory or expected can make a huge difference.
Of course, reflection and celebration should not only benefit teachers but our students as well. Using student portfolios can also be helpful for reflection and recognition. Each student will have their own folder where their writings and work can be stored, along with assessments. Brief notes can be taken after each class for each student’s progress being made and goals being met. I focus on the social-emotional goals of our students, which often go overlooked in our systems. Depending on time and the number of students, I set aside time to meet with students individually throughout the year to specifically go through their portfolio and celebrate their successes. I can see instant results of these meetings. Students leave the meetings feeling more confident of what they can do and have a renewed sense of determination to work on goals.
As human beings, we all need to take time out to reflect on our lives and our growth or we risk continuing to do the same thing we have always done. As educators, the idea of reflection and recognition is crucial to our success and sustainability.