A couple of years ago, I attended a conference and had the opportunity to sit in a session run by Kathy Nimmer (@Kathy_Nimmer) who was the teacher of the year for Indiana that year. The session was entitled: Emphasizing Reflective Practice: How Contemplation Can Foster Excellence. (I decided to attend this session because I believe in the power of reflection. I initially started this blog to not only reflect on a regular basis, but to share my reflective practice and what I learned with others.) Kathy Nimmer, who is blind, shared stories of her highs and lows as she moved into and through her educational career. After a few short minutes listening to her presentation it was easy to see that Kathy is a phenomenal teacher and clearly deserving of the Teacher of the Year recognition.
She shared the following questions during her presentation that she uses as a personal reflective practice to help her improve each lesson:
- Who provided a moment that defined the lesson for you?
- What worked or didn’t work with this lesson?
- When during the lesson did you feel most awesome or most frustrated?
- Where could you go to seek more information/strategies to make the lesson go even better next time?
- Why does the lesson belong in your “keep” or “discard” pile?
- How will you use what you learned here to improve next time?
She also shared similar questions she uses with her students to promote reflection:
- Who among your peers really sparkled in class today?
- What was the one, most important, thing you learned today?
- When during the day did you feel most satisfied or most frustrated?
- Where could you seek more information about something you are wondering about from today?
- Why do you feel the way you do about today’s learning?
- How could you change what you do next time?
In the months following this conference, I modified these questions to a basic set of questions I ask myself each week when working on my blog posts. Kathy’s presentation helped clarify and organize this information for me.
Asking the common question set of: who, what, when, where, why, and how, has changed my reflective practice greatly over the past four years of blogging. Each idea for my blog starts by looking at things a little differently during the week. I find myself not just looking directly at situations, experiences, or problems, but looking at the spaces between them. I try and find ways to make meaning out of an ordinary experience by examining many weekly scenarios and what they have to teach me about life and leadership. The more I reflect on my learning, the easier it is to find moments, experiences, and opportunities for learning. My question set that I work through each week is:
- Who (or what) provided a moment this week that can be connected to my personal leadership or learning?
- What was the most important thing I learned from this moment?
- When during the moment did I feel inspired, affirmed, frustrated, or confused?
- Where did I go to look for a connection? Where do I need to go to seek more information about my learning?
- Why is this important to me? Why did it impact my leadership or learning?
- How am I going to change/improve? How can I use this moment to inspire others?
Although I don’t answer all these questions every week, each component makes me think differently about my work and life. It would be an easy to take this post and answer each of those questions about it. It’s not rocket science, it’s simply reflection! I believe reflection is one of the few ways to truly grow in our daily lives and our work. Regularly taking an objective look at what we do each day and finding ways to make it better is the path to true learning. All it takes is the the time, willingness, and commitment to look at things differently, and then create some space to reflect, learn, and grow in our lives.
I know personally there is always a gap between the person I am and the person I want to be. This blog, and these reflections, help me to identify the small changes, the tweaks, I need to commit to in my life to close that gap. Reflecting each week helps me move closer to the person I want to become.
So, I challenge you to reflect more. Maybe your new school year’s resolution can be to start a journal, start a blog, or just turn off the radio on the ride home every once in awhile and think through these questions. I guarantee it will be time well spent!
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!