This post is about the value of reflection and the opportunities that provide it!
What a gift these past two (about to be 3) snow days have been. I have been given the opportunity for Snowflection!
When it snows in North Carolina, it is a good gamble to assume school will be closed for a handful of days.
The expectation is that the day becomes a teacher work day; from home if you document your hours or at school if you can get there. Hands down, I work harder, longer and more deeply at home than at school. Although my body is less tired after 2 (going on 3) snow days, my mind and spirit are both happy and exhausted. I have accomplished much physical documentable work, but have spent countless hours reflecting internally. How do I (can I) document these reflections as hours worked? Even if I cannot, I close out the week working/reflecting from home feeling energized and extremely accomplished.
Late last night I received an email delivering good news I had been hoping for, congratulating me for being accepted as a Google for Education Certified Trainer; an accomplishment I had, at one time, consciously decided I would NOT pursue.
But with that notification came a huge relief and I began to reflect on those who cheered me on, supported me and assisted when I had doubts about my success. I have SUCH a tight media-tech team at my school @atrowell and @LeoLibraryDog. I don’t even feel whole without them. After I texted them the news, I was overcome with gratitude for their support and texted them what now feels like (and I chuckle about it now) an acceptance speech:
“I don’t discredit you two in your role in my certification. You two are the reason I had any hope at all…the editing but keeping the words true to me and the tech knowledge to get it done! Not to mention the confidence you showered me with!”
Another teacher friend of mine @cathy_vogt tweeted a question to me today asking me what this Trainer Certification means for me. When asked that prior to today in anticipation of the “what if” I was accepted , I had answered something along the lines of, “Nothing really. Although it makes me more credible”. It “meant” a lot to me but I wouldn’t get a raise or a promotion for it. Today, my brain was in reflection overdrive after my challenging #NCsnowchat (more on that later) and I had a much better, more true answer for her.
It means I met a challenge head on! It means I realized I had more in me than I thought I had. But it also means I am charged to teach others how to take advantage of what Google can do for learners and leaders. I am now obligated to do so…and I want to!
From this Google Certified Trainer acceptance @Google ET I have spent a good part of today appreciating and realizing my PLN, my accomplishments, and what drives me…and why. I feel purposeful and SO part of a team who wants the best for each other. I am surrounded by and am part of a group of dynamic teacher leaders which ironically leads to more reflection I had the honor to partake in.
A colleague of mine who I call a friend and a co-teacher leader needed my help. Amanda Gary (@AGarysClass) is a grad student and 2nd grade teacher where I work @underwoodgtm who needed to choose a teacher leader to interview; one who she admired! She chose ME!? And followed her request with words I do not take lightly:
“I look to you as being a leader in our school in so many ways. You are a risk taker and a think outside the box teacher and your ideas always inspire me to want make a change in my classroom and thinking…to me that’s important in leaders 😊 so if you are willing to fill this out and be as detailed as possible I would greatly appreciate it.
I spent nearly 2 hours answering her 6 questions. More accurately, reflecting on her 6 questions. Here is what I had to reach inside myself to articulate:
- How would you distinguish the difference between a good teacher and a teacher leader?
- How would you define your roles as a teacher leader?
- What do you consider to be characteristics of an effective teacher leader?
- What are some of the greatest challenges of being a teacher leader? What strategies have you used, or seen used by others, to address these challenges?
- What skills have you learned over time that has helped you become a more effective teacher leader?
- How have you seen the role of teacher leaders change over time and what are your predictions about the role in the future?
I got to know myself pretty well after those 2 hours. It took much time to answer honestly because I felt like I knew what the right answers “should be” but if I were being honest, my whole being had different ideas. It was like when you know what people want to hear but it actually conflicts with what you actually do? It was like that. I also knew that she would be influenced (hopefully inspired) by my responses…no pressure there! So I soul searched and had to differentiate between what I “wanted” my answers to be and what was true to me. At first glance, the questions might seem pretty straight forward, but I challenge YOU to really think about them. How would YOU answer those for someone who YOU consider a leader; one who admires YOU for being a leader. I did it. That was one more reflection opportunity for me and 2 hours I documented on my work log sheet.
Amanda’s Question 6 made me think about a twitter question put out there by another leader I admire; Kyle Hamstra @KyleHamstra. (Check out his blog #Hamstrahilights https://kylehamstra.com if you want to really go away thinking deeply!)
I had to really think again. In these changing times, I so often hear the skeptical opinion that digital tools and virtual learning are going to make real teachers obsolete. And I can’t disagree with them more. Statements like that make it easy to also want to quickly answer Kyle’s question with A) Yes research is becoming less relevant. Look at how many people think this! I almost picked A as well since I believe MEMORIZING is less relevant, but when I really thought about research and its role in my teaching and how I approach it, there was a huge HECK NO moment that overcame me and I had to say B. Research is so much MORE relevant now! And then I went inside myself and made sure I could justify that this was really the case and why it SHOULD be the right answer. More reflecting that I don’t know how to document on a timesheet! But nonetheless, I am really liking who I am as an educator, but more so, who I am becoming as an educator and leader the more I reflect!
By the way my answer to Amanda’s #6 is as follows:
How have you seen the role of teacher leaders change over time and what are your predictions about the role in the future?
I think in the past, teacher leaders were seen as those who knew something (learned it from someone), taught it and expected others in their proximity to do the same. Seeing their ideas become practiced by others was gratifying. But it was right in front of them. Now, and in the future. I see the characteristics of teacher leaders becoming so much more global. Leaders don’t lead just those they encounter daily, but they make others they may never see think, rewind, ponder and reflect…and in turn, those virtual colleagues then share back with the world. Teacher leaders are connected to and challenged by other leaders on social media through twitter and blogging, for example. A modern day teacher leader seeks out a professional learning community; intentionally building a network of others with a like mindset with an intent to learn new perspectives, gather resources, share experiences, deliberately challenge the philosophies of that and finally seeking out others to add to their professional learning community. They then put those philosophies into their own practice of teaching, mold them as needed, and bank them for use when the right teachable moment arises among their close proximity colleagues.
Your thoughts on this??
This snowy week has provided so many opportunities and TIME for Snowflection.
I have enjoyed this week’s #NCsnowchat sessions. Especially today’s.
For Day 1’s #NCsnowchat I had quick answers to contribute, I “liked” a few responses (those I could keep up with), and enjoyed the connections I was making. I found a few more people to follow (I grew my PLN)! I love how that happens. But today’s Day 2 #NCsnowchat was a more difficult chat; clearly a topic I should add to my PDP (Professional Development Plan). I found myself needing to read several responses from others before I could relate and realize I indeed had something to say.
And growing my global PLN.
I found a few more people to follow (again) and read many perspectives on how to interpret issues related to this very important and relevant topic. There are more resources I know about to better myself and my craft. I think I grew a little bit as an educator and was left with much to think further about. I read some answers that fit the earlier mentioned category of “what people want to hear” and I question the real likelihood of such responses. Conversely, I read some that were really thought provoking and brilliant. Now, hours later, still, I think and reflect.
I know I am never going to be my best self personally or as an educator because reaching my potential means I will stop needing to grow and reflect. But days like today bring me a little closer to who I want to be. I realize more who I “can” be.
I am grateful for these snow days, for #NCsnowchats, and for time to reflect. I don’t know how to document these never ending thoughts on a timesheet, but I know they count for so much more than just documented work. They make me better at what I already do. They help make me a leader, a dreamer, a potential seeker, and a lifelong learner.
And this week more than ever I feel like “snowday”, #NCsnowchat” and “reflect” are synonymous with each other and consume more of a day than one can prove!
My Snowflection results: I am proud of where I have been, where I am, and where I might be going, as well as of all the people who have and will accompany me there!
Thank you Mother Nature for this week of rejuvenation, good news, and reflection. May it never end!