Saturday, February 11, 2017

Time for Reflection: A Gift to Ourselves

Leaving the classroom, the coach and I walked side by side.  She had just finished teaching a lesson with young writers about growing stories.  "I wish we had time to talk," she lamented.  Unfortunately, she needed to be in another classroom and I needed to be in a meeting.  I paused taking in what she had said.  As teachers, we hurry about our day-to-day work without the time to step back to reflect.  It was at this moment I realized that our conversations with colleagues around the work we do are a gift we rarely seem to find time for in our daily busyness.

The Need for Reflection
The need for reflection struck me again the other day as I was waiting on a friend for lunch.  The restaurant was quiet, and for the first time in days, I felt like I had a few minutes of unscheduled time.  I paused and just started thinking about the week.  It wasn't long until I found myself taking a few notes, reflecting on a few interactions across the week, and planning a few next steps.  Honestly, I was amazed at what had been accomplished in less than ten minutes as my friend entered the restaurant and joined me.

It seems in our world, especially in our teaching worlds, it's hard to find time to pause and reflect.  As teachers, our lists remain long so we move from one task to another.  As teachers, it can be a challenge to pause when we are busy working alongside young students with little break in our day.  I'm going to be so bold as to say I think we even feel guilty when we take the time to pause and reflect.  We are always on a path of doing.

That day at the restaurant I don't think I would have paused had I not been given a few unexpected minutes.  We talk all the time about reflection; we understand its power, yet we rarely carve time to pause.

Collaborative Conversations 
As I work alongside instructional coaches and teachers, I'm continually struck by the power of pausing to reflect.  Often in our side-by-side work with colleagues, we do the work inside the classroom; because of time constraints, we settle for moments of demonstration teaching, observation, or quick touches of learning, but it is the deep dive into focused conversation that helps us to grow in our practice.  It is the small reflective conversations before and after our time together we struggle to make the time to have, yet it is these very conversations that lift our work.

While I am trying to be more disciplined about taking the time for personal reflection, it is when I am reflecting with a colleague that I learn the most.  It is in these conversations where new thinking pushes against what I understand.  It is in these conversations that my words are sent back to me in a way that brings fresh understanding.  It is in these conversations I find new perspectives.  It is in these conversations that I find strength for next steps.

As I sit beside coaches and teachers, I've come to realize that the short pre and post conversations we often skip, are truly a gift.  As I observe collaborative conversations I'm always struck by what both people take away after a few minutes in reflective conversation.   Our work is too complex to do it alone.

Whether it is sitting quietly for ten minutes or finding a colleague to bounce around a few ideas, I'm trying to find ten minutes each day for a bit of reflection.  Instead of thinking about it as a something I have to do, I know it is a gift I give to myself.

A Bit More About Reflection
Watch It:  



Live It:  
  • Take time to reflect (find the white space in your day to think, time to journal, talk with a friend)
  • Grab your favorite notebook (or app)
  • Apps for written reflection:  Google, Google KeepEvernote (organize notebooks, tag, type, audio, insert images, and you can write --- but that feature is still very limited), Noteshelf App (set up notebooks with paper-like turns, write, type, insert images), Notability (for fans of handwriting.)  
  • Daily Habits  (set reminders for your reflection time...)



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