By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
It won't be long now. Real soon the holiday break begins and teachers and students will enjoy a two-week change of pace. Both groups will welcome it. Both groups deserve it.
Some educators are already packed and ready to head to Florida. Others will be staying closer to home, visiting extended family and relaxing in their own living rooms. Some will shovel snow. Others will rub on suntan lotion. Regardless of where you go or what you do with your winter break, enjoy it. Relax, lighten up, refresh, rest and recuperate.
And when you are ready, why not use the art of reflection? Invest just a few minutes of your well-deserved break reflecting on the school year up to this point. The short time you invest in reflecting could well make the rest of your year run more smoothly and productively.
We don't learn from our experience. We learn from processing our experience, reflecting on it, debriefing it, thinking about it, writing about it, and talking about it. One half hour of your holiday break spent in reflection and planning could well pave the way for an exciting and rewarding rest of the year.
Following are ten reflections that could change your professional practice dramatically. Reflect on these sometime in the next two weeks.
1. How have you supported your peers so far this year? Did you use positive talk in the teachers' room? Did you refuse to gossip? Did you listen to the new teacher who needed a shoulder to cry on or a place to vent? Did you contribute some time to the teachers' organization? Did you pat people on the back or leave positive notes in their mailboxes? Just how supportive were you?
2. Did you make a big mistake this year? Did you see it as awful or as a learning experience? Are you still beating yourself up over it or have you made amends and moved on? Are you congratulating yourself for the learning that occurred? Are you grateful for that experience?
3. Identify one student that you don't feel a connection with. What can you do about that situation the rest of the year? What are three things you can do to connect with that student the first week back? How will you reach out?
4. Did you take a professional risk with your teaching this year? Did you attempt something new with technology or group work? Did you move out of your comfort zone? What did you learn from that? What will be your next risk?
5. Rate your attitude so far this year on a scale of one to ten. Are you content with that number? What can you do to bump it up in January? If you are pleased with the number you gave yourself, what can you do to keep it there?
6. Are you getting the support you need in order to be the professional educator you desire? Did you ask for help when you needed it? Have you asked openly and honestly for what you want? Have you created a support group where people can give and receive emotional support from one another?
7. Have you been observed by an administrator recently? How did you rate the feedback? Did you use that experience to reflect and set new goals? Regardless of whether you agreed with it or not, have you used it to move in a positive direction?
8. Can you identify a teaching skill you want to improve? Perhaps it's time to make a plan to address that issue. Is there a workshop you can attend? Another teacher you can observe? A summer class to take?
9. What is it like to be a student in your classroom? Can you put yourself in your students' shoes? What would you like about you if you were your teacher? What would you prefer to see changed? Will you make one change this January?
10. Imagine that your students' behavior is telling you something about you rather than about them? What is the message they are communicating? What is the lesson you can glean from their behavior?
What do you think would happen if you invested a half hour contemplating the ten items above during the winter break? Whether you're sitting in the sun or by the fireplace, why not give it a shot? The results could be surprising and worthwhile.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the coauthors of The Teacher Talk Advantage: Five Voices of Effective Teaching. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for educators and another for parents. To sign up for the newsletters or learn more about the seminars they offer teachers and parents, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com and www.thomashaller.com.