Reflection & Growth as an Urban Educator

Regardless of my job title, I am a teacher. At my very core, God made me a teacher.
I can officially say that I am entering my 20th year as an educator. Like any teacher
who works to be highly effective for students, I spend time at the end of the
school year reflecting. John Dewey, the “father” of American education, defined
reflection as “turning a subject over in the mind and giving it serious consecutive
consideration. It enables us to act in a deliberate and intentional fashion”.

There are a series of questions I ask myself at the end of every year. What worked?
Which students succeeded? Why? Which students failed? What did I do that caused
that failure? What does my students’ data tell me about what ACTUALLY happened
this year? What energized me? What drained me? What will I do differently next
year?

Instead of teaching 4th graders, I now teach teachers, lead those who support
teachers, and coach teachers. However, reflection still remains a part of my end of
year ritual. As I reflect on this past year and consider the question “What energized
me?”, I would say it was my work with two of our second year Graduates.

This year I had the privilege of renewing my coaching relationship with two
members of our first Residency class. Each time I observed them this year I was
awe struck by the amount of growth they have made as teachers. Their confidence,
their delivery of instruction, their ability to lead students seemed almost effortless.
They made it look easy. However, I knew the look of ease stemmed from hours of
planning, lots of failure, a resolve to never quit, and constant reflection on how to
get better.

The best part of the monthly observations were the debriefs that followed. These
teachers knew exactly what worked and why. They could tell you what did not
work, but now they were no longer Residents looking to a Coach to tell them what
to do to “fix it”. They were interested in a Coach as collaborator, a partner in the
process of reflection, someone to listen to them as they thought aloud about what
to do differently the next time. These teachers wanted someone to help them hone
in on individual students’ needs, a mirror through which they could view their
practice.

Seeing the growth of two teachers and the role that constant reflection played in
that growth, that’s what energized me this year. Among the knowledge and skills
they were given as Residents, they have mastered the art of reflection and use it
daily to guide their work as teachers. Their use of reflection allowed them to be
deliberate and intentional about their instruction. Their use of reflection allowed
the to be confident that they were making the right decisions for their students,
decisions that would ultimately lead to student success.

So what will stay the same at the MTR as a result of what I learned this last year? We
will stay committed to training teachers who are reflective practitioners. It’s a must
to be a highly effective urban educator.

 

-Dr. Robin Scott