Recently, I wrote the post “3 Reminders for the End of the School Year“, and asked for suggestions from readers. Joann Merrick sent me the following thoughts via email:
Some thoughts about the end of the year…
To me this is a time to reflect…Whatever your position in education, think about your successes and areas that didn’t work out so well.
This is also time to gather feedback from those you serve. Teachers could ask their students for ideas on their programs and their teaching. Principals could ask the same of their teachers…I have always found I gained so much valuable feedback by asking a few questions.
With her permission, I wanted to build on her ideas, especially on the importance of reflection. We move forward not by only looking to the future, but learning from the past.
With that being said, here are four questions that I think would be helpful as you go into the summer break, but also as you start a new year.
What did I do well this year? Too often when reflecting our work, we start with what went wrong as opposed to what went right. I am a huge advocate of always starting with strengths, which doesn’t mean neglecting weaknesses but starting from a positive place. When asking went well, ensure you ask why it went well. Take those lessons and apply them to the places where you need to grow.This leads to question two.
Where do I need to grow? Although starting with strengths is crucial, we need to identify what are areas of growth and how you will address them. Instead of picking on several spaces that you can improve on, try to pick one, at most two, and think about ways you can adjust them. If you focus on every weakness you have, none of your deficit areas will improve. Find a point of emphasis and build on it. For both questions, I would encourage you to look at the “8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset” image. Many educators have used this as a space to focus on places where they would like to grow.
What things will I challenge myself with next year? Setting some goals based on questions one and two are where looking back meets moving forward. If they see you taking risks in your learning, they will be more comfortable making their own. What are some of the things that you will try next year that will push you out of your comfort zone? Not only would it be powerful to find those challenges yourself, but share how you are promoting your growth with colleagues, and more importantly, students.
How will all of these answers impact the learners I serve? None of the previous questions matter if they have no impact on the learners you serve. Why I do not use the word “student” here is that these questions should not be reserved for teachers specifically, but administrators and central office people as well. The importance of each person in education is that their growth should lead to the improvement and development of the learners around them. If it doesn’t impact the learners you serve, we are spending time on doing things that do not give us anything in return.
Too often, teachers are asked to do something without watching administrators do the same. If any school administrator is looking to use any of these questions or a modification of them, please be willing to share your answers as well to lead the process by example, not authority.
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