“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” (Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 12). How can we grow as educators if we are not open to changing our practice or trying something new?
Self-reflection is a key piece to being a successful educator. I was excited when I was able to pick an individual reflection practice to implement over a few week period as an assignment because from my past experiences, this has truly allowed to me see not only works really well with my instruction but it has also helped me see patterns and some kinks where I have room to improve. When I first began this assignment I took a look at what I thought my strengths and weakness were as a teacher in a Strength and Intentions Paper, I took the suggestion to target my reflection around a piece of the Danielson Framework criteria. However, through the process of reflection my approach seemed to transform into something I did not expect. I kind of meshed journaling and dialogue together as my individual reflection practice to implement. As stated in chapter three, “Don’t evaluate or judge thoughts as they pour out. Just let them flow (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 2006).” I have used journaling as a form of reflection before and reading back over my entries after a few weeks, I found that I was able to notice patterns that helped me identify areas that I needed growth. Initially, I was hoping to connect this assignment to 1a: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy in the Danielson Framework because this is a section that I would like to see myself improve in. I began the implementation of this practice by getting a spiral journal and keeping it accessible as much as possible throughout my day. I did my best each day to write in the journal before school sharing my vision for the day and what my plan was for the day with my students. I would also designate a few minutes to journal while students were in specialist, at recess or lunch. Once the students left for the day, I would designate 10 minutes to a free write/open dialogue in my journal recapping the day. I shared everything from successes to lessons that I feel didn’t go well at all. I also noted my thoughts and feelings on the day as a whole. I would then use the journal at night for writing that fit more of the dialogue practice. I would spend evenings rereading the questions in the text and letting my answers flow onto paper.
After just one week of writing in the journal I started reading back over a few of the entries, by combining the two reflection practices, I was able to critically analyze areas for growth, I quickly noticed patterns in my journaling, I also noticed something missing, something that I feel, is extremely critical for a successful educator, the principle of intention. For our other class, Leadership in Education, we are currently reading a book called, Spirituality in Educational Leadership. This book is framed around eight spiritual dimensions of leadership. The first principle discussed is the Principle of Intention and it states, “Before you can have a plan, you’ve got to have an intention (Houston, Sokolow, 2008).” In my journaling each day before school, during school and directly after school I often found myself mentioning visions I had for performance in my students, but nowhere in my journaling did I note or mention my intention behind those visions and plans. I discovered that while answering a lot of the dialogue questions mentioned from the text at night like, “How do you want to contribute to the lives of children? What do you want students to learn from you and with you? (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie, 2006).” it truly required me as an educator to think about my intentions. It forced me to answer the why behind a lot of what was missing in the journaling from during the day. By combining the two forms of reflection I was able to cue into a huge piece of what I feel was missing in helping me become more intentional in my practice.
One last piece that I noticed after looking back onto my journaling from each day in the classroom was that my journal because a great “dumping ground” if you will. It was a safe place for me to share my frustrations from the day. These frustrations varied from, lessons that went astray, to students who I felt I couldn’t reach for that day, to frustrations that were out of my control that were professional/ curriculum based. By using the journal as an outlet for dumping my those negative feelings, it allowed for a more positive interaction with my closest teammates during passing time when we would typically spend a few, but much needed, minutes to vent. After analyzing the outcome of this reflection experience, I feel it has had a very positive impact for not only myself, but my colleagues and my students as well. I am now able to spend my time with my colleagues focusing on positive improvements with the students and being a good role model professionally, but I am also starting each day looking at my overall intentions for the day.
In terms of collaborative practices, I was able to take on a leadership role during a partner reflection/coaching session. When done properly, partner reflection and cognitive coaching can be very beneficial to strengthening your craft of teaching in several ways. In Coaching: Approaches and Perspectives, Knight, Ellison and Hayes define cognitive coaching as “focusing on impact by assisting in identifying the results one is striving for and clarifying the success indicators and strategies for doing so” (Knight, Ellison and Hayes p.73). I was fortunate enough to be able to practice these skills when a grade level teammate asked me during our team meeting if I would sit down and go over how I am currently teaching my writer’s workshop non-fiction/informational unit because her students were struggling to understand some of the key components of this genre of writing. To help myself prepare for this partner reflection/cognitive coaching opportunity I gathered all of my materials for my informational writing unit. This included my unit plan, a breakdown of individual lessons, mentor texts, anchor charts, classroom charts-student created, my binder filled with different types of writing paper pertaining to informational writing, and a few different student writing folders to show student samples.
Before ever getting started, a skill that I know I need to improve on during reflecting or team meetings is my ability to listen without wanting to jump in with my own thoughts and comments. This is something I made sure to be very vigilant about while reflecting with my teammate. Listening allows you to be able to reframe your way of thinking about events and circumstances. “If we cannot listen well, the potential for learning and support will not be realized for ourselves or others” (York-Barr, Sommers, Ghere, Montie p. 115). Going into this meeting, I was aware that I needed to improve in my listening abilities while my teammate was sharing her concerns regarding her writing lessons. Because of this, I feel that I was much more cautious which ultimately allowed me to hear what her true concerns and struggles were, and continue the reflective process by asking her in-depth questions on where she could use my assistance. Later in my partner Partner Reflection-Cognitive Coaching, it discusses my reflection on how I could strengthen my skills as a peer coach for future opportunities.
In addition to cognitive peer coaching, I have worked closely with my grade level team to look at and analyze student data each month. We have spent the year focusing on writing content for informative, opinion and narrative writing. As seen in my Instructional Plan, I laid out the data from baseline data with my team and found students to put into a focused group to track and analyze. We looked collaboratively as a team at their Writing Samples each month and analyzed next steps and ways to enrich those who have already grasped the concepts. Each month this is tracked in our PGE logs (Professional Growth and Evaluation logs). This has helped me broaden my understanding and abilities to reach all of my student’s needs in the classroom. The phrase, work smarter, not harder fits well with collaboration within your team!
In the future I would like to continue to keep a journal to allow me to reflect and note pieces of my day. I feel that keeping record of my days and what worked well and what failed is a great thing to track over time. I am confident that even more ah-ha’s would surface from my teaching habits. In the mornings I will continue to not just look at my plan for the day, but what are my goals and intentions. A true look at why these are my goals and what I want to see come from these goals. I also plan on continuing to engage in my collaborative practices with my team. I would like to try in the next year to broaden that collaborative team to something school wide or even district wide! I now feel confident in my collaboration skills to challenge myself in a higher role! I would love to transition into a coaching position within my district. “…coaching that focuses on helping teachers implement new practices leads to implementation of new strategies” (Knight, 22). I would love to be able to help guide and coach peers into broadening their teaching practices!
Garmston, R., Linder, C., & Whitaker, J. (1993). Reflections on Cognitive Coaching. Educational Leadership, 51(2), 57-61. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct93/vol51/num02/Reflections-on-Cognitive-Coaching.aspx
Houston, P., & Sokolow, S. (2008). Spirituality in educational leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Knight, J. (2009). Coaching. National Staff Development Council, 30(1), 18-22
Knight, J., Ellison, J., & Hayes, C. (2009). Chapter 4: Cognitive Coaching. In Coaching: Approaches and perspectives (pp. 70-90). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.
York-Barr, J., A. Sommers, W., S. Ghere, G., & Montie, J. (2006). Individual Reflective Practice. In Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.