The Power of Reflection

I received a text message from a friend who wrote, “I found your 2nd year portfolio in the book room, do you want it?”  I immediately responded, “Yes!  Thank you!”  I took a few minutes this morning to quickly review what is in this 2nd year teaching portfolio that helped persuade the administration of West Islip Public Schools that I deserved to be awarded tenure.  I quickly switched my focus and decided to look for answers the following question: What in this portfolio highlights the importance of reflecting on one’s craft?”  The three artifacts noted below prompted my own reflection and will guide my leadership this year.

#1: My first paragraph of my portfolio reads:

“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” -Carl Rogers

Every September marks a time for change for teachers and students.  For students, it is a chance to achieve higher grades than in previous years.  For teachers, September is a chance to alter their delivery, practices, and mental models.  Seeing the lines at CVS and smelling the crisp September air immediately forced me to reflect on last year’s success.  In that reflection, I questioned how I could bring my students to a greater level in their open-minded journey to excellence.  I am anxious for this opportunity.

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In looking at my chosen quote and the first paragraph of this portfolio, I realize that students and teachers understand the importance of a new school year.  The possibilities are endless.  Change is inevitable.  Yet, I wonder how much of this thinking is targeted?  Is there an evaluation of previous goals and future ones?  Is this reflection conscious? I sit here on the Sunday following the first week of school and think about the timeliness of finding this portfolio.  It is only September 7th, we can model the art of reflection for our students. Bring them back to their accomplishments from last year.  Were they good enough?  Did they live up to our individual expectations?  What are specific goals for this year?  The future?

As an instructional leader, I reflected this summer on my leadership and my goals for this year will certainly guide my staff to even greater success.  As I noted in my second year of teaching, I am anxious for that opportunity.

#2: A letter to the parents of my baseball players

I wrote in this congratulatory letter that I believed their “sons’ priorities should be in this order: family, school, and baseball.  My philosophy of coaching will guarantee the best possible future for the West Islip High School baseball program.  My job as the freshman coach is to get the players ready for the varsity level.”  

My message in those brief statements highlight our job as educators.  It is incumbent upon us to prepare students for the next level.  Their next level.  I believe in the state’s goal that we need to make our students college AND career ready.  And we do.  Preparing our students for the important steps in life is what needs to saturate our craft.  When we focus on the future, our present seems to find success.  I still search for ways in which  the rushed testing program fits into this recipe.  My baseball team was undefeated that year.  Two years later, the varsity team won the Suffolk County Championship.  There are ingredients to success.  Setting priorities, reflecting, and seeing the future are three keys to becoming the best.  

#3 The handwritten note

I added a section to this portfolio titled, “Evaluations/Observation Reports/Professional Notes,” and in it, I put artifacts that had an impression on me as a new teacher.  My favorite is the handwritten note from the assistant superintendent from West Islip, Lou Zocchia.  He wrote, “I just completed reading your teacher observation dealing with The Great Gatsby.  It was a lesson that intrigued me.  Your style is exemplary-great work.  Thanks for all your dedication to West Islip.” – Lou

Wow!  Reflecting on this note brought me back to that day.  Finding this handwritten note in my mailbox from the assistant superintendent validated my hard work, my fierce passion, and the importance of reflection.  Not only did he read an observation written by the Director of English, but he was moved by it and felt the need to let me know of his appreciation.  I love how it wasn’t typed- it was too genuine to be.  This short note forced me to reflect.  Do my teachers know how much I appreciate them beyond writing nice sentiments in their observations?  Do they really know how much I value them?  This year, I am going to add this piece to my growing leadership.  Handwritten notes.  Perhaps one day a teacher will reflect back on his/her portfolio and come across it.  It will force the art of reflection and make another’s craft that much better.

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