The ability to reflect is not something that defined the early years of my teaching career, instead my approach was defined by a carefree, can do attitude! Implementing new ideas and initiatives were and continue to be my strengths.
Some time ago, a senior colleague of mine entered my classroom and sat down to watch ‘the show’. With enthusiasm, drama and fun the lesson whizzed by. Students sat with smiles on their faces forcing their hands high into the air, eager to be selected to answer the next question. A plenary took place; the bell signifying the end of Friday’s matinee. And then it happened…The moment in time that would shape my future in education. The senior colleague who had sat, open-mouthed at the back of the room asked me a question: “Why did you do what you did today?” I remember my initial thought being one of bemusement. “What do you mean? The children were smiling! The children put their hands up! The children were engaged!” My colleague didn’t disagree. Instead of asking me to answer him immediately, he suggested I thought about it overnight and spoke to him the following day.
In my own young, naive head I was frustrated. Tomorrow was another day; another performance. I didn’t have time to think back to this lesson, to reflect. Tomorrow would be part 2 – the concluding saga and I couldn’t wait to get started. That night I remember sitting at home thinking about his question and struggling to find an answer. The following day we sat down to talk. He engaged me in discussion about delivery of lessons; about purpose, pace and adaptation of mini plenaries instead of the more traditional, three part lesson. In short he helped me to understand the importance of reflection.
Too often in life we run from one thing to the next not caring to reflect on what we have just done. We are too busy focusing on the end point rather than taking time out to look at our previous performance, results and the impact of our actions. If school life (or life itself) is about continuous learning, then it stands to reason that the capacity to reflect on our actions in order for continuous learning to take place is essential. The benefits of in depth reflection cannot and should not be underestimated. If you continue to do the same thing, you can expect the same result.
And so it is that 20 years into my career, I have learned the personal importance of reflection. As a school it is of paramount importance that we discuss this in the classrooms and in the meeting rooms. What works? What doesn’t work? Why do we do it this way? How could we achieve better results if we were to do something again but in a different way?
This morning, a Friday three weeks into my first term at Terra Nova, I reflected on my own approach to leadership. The importance of leading in different ways for different circumstances whilst keeping the end goal in mind. The only difference today was that rather than this happening on my drive to work through mist ladden fields as in my first blog, I reflected during our first ever bi-weekly senior games session. Looking out across fields, glistening with morning dew, our boys and girls engaged in skills based work supported by wonderful teachers and coaches. Friday morning; smiles; exercise; fresh air – only in teaching can you be surrounded by this many happy people! Have a good weekend and remember to stop and smell the roses!