Approaching my 35th year as an educator brings me to a place of reflection—a series of comparison-contrast moments. Who was I as an educator then and who am I as an educator now? Sounds like an intriguing exploration.
Then, I acted like I was the sole influence on learning in my classroom. I knew the content. I loved the content. I taught the content. Now, even on my best day I know that my influence is simply one of many.
Then, being the “cool” teacher was a personal hot pursuit. Now, the hot pursuit is discovering how cool each student is.
Then, I diligently marked up papers with comments and corrections so students could learn from their mistakes. Now, I know that in their drive to gain competence, students crave feedback and most often zero in on the greatest area of growth.
One of the professional habits I have developed over my years in education is to actively reflect as I go along. By decreasing the amount of time between my “then and now” comparisons, I am able to adjust more frequently and with a higher degree of effectiveness. It also allows me to model an active reflection process with those I teach. Tracking your own progress and making strategic adjustments as a learner is a hallmark of a professional educator. This is my encouragement to you: set aside a weekly, if not daily, time to reflect on your own classroom effectiveness.
One thing has remained constant from then until now: helping students discover who they are now and who they are becoming. And to think I get to influence that—this could be the most important work on the planet. Wouldn’t you agree?