Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reflecting on reflecting

Finished up the National Boards and put 'em in the mail two weeks ago.
I first certified in 2001 and it was time to renew. Eight years in, you can re-up if you don't mind paying the $1000 renewal fee.
Looking back over eight years turns out to be a lot of ground to cover. Who knew?
When you are in teaching it is often difficult to see the forest. There are so many trees --probably because a teaching day is akin to a work week in most professions.
I think I can make that comparison fairly since I have done other work besides teaching - radio broadcaster, advertising copywriter, a summer stint at the Economic Development Commission. The only job I found comparable in terms of the sheer number of human interactions among various groups while simultaneously making dozens of decisions was the year I spent working as a bartender.
Most days in a high school match the cerebral firing of mixing and serving the multitudes on a Friday night.
A teaching day is intense and dynamic (and often fun). And in the midst of the millions of decisions made while we stand and deliver, it can be hard to see what has happened.
Reflecting is good.
What did I discover? Some things that are second nature now were learned at great price early on.
For instance, how do you offer highly motivating choices while keeping everybody headed toward the same goal? It's a no-brainer now. It wasn't always so.
How can you prepare students to lead and learn from their own discussions? Scared the heck out of me at first. (Trust them to do it themselves? You're kidding.) Pretty natural now.
How can you get a group of adults learning at high levels and teaching each other? Learn the model from those who have already done it. Set up the parameters and let them go. Most people enjoy intellectual work anyway.
These are the things I know I know--now. After taking the time to reflect in writing.
The writing process lets you define what you've learned. Its all about talking to yourself so you don't forget that the little trees planted have grown in to a full fledged forest.
Taken as a whole, I enjoyed looking back. I had done more than I realized. The change was clear in the 2001-2010 slice of experience and I felt good about it.
Kids need time to reflect too.
Writing down what they have figured out lets them see what they have accomplished. They feel proud. I don't have to tell them they did it. They tell themselves.
Much better than bubbling in a circle on a standardized test.