Maintaining the 180 Spirit Cycle—Part 3: Reflection

This part of the Professional Learning Cycle is by far the most challenging. Reflection requires each of us to get real and do this often—which, let’s face it, is not something that's easy. You can ask my friend Patricia. Last Friday was a challenging day for me—full moon, immersed in planning, and a cancelled flight. It took a conversation with her to spark my desire to flip into my reflective mode. 

What did she remind me? Her words were simple: "You matter and are valuable. Take a breath and let yourself have this icky moment." And with that, I got up and remembered that I've always embraced the icky and utilized my friends to call me on it. Join me on my career reflection. 

You may not believe that this teacher of 25 years ever had self-doubt and thought about giving up, but I did almost give up in year one. Because I'm real about decisions and equally consider people, within my DNA is a pragmatist who loves to see others have their best moments. Thus, I love connecting to build relationships. 

So at year 25 of my career, I'm going there. I'm going to reflect on the full journey and what I have learned and the goals this process inspires.

Before the 25-Year Journey

When my high school classmate posted a picture of us back in the day on Facebook, I was at first glance HORRIFIED! Literally, I shouted, "Gag me with a spoon!" And then, I quieted down the former-mullet haired insecurity. Why not own this moment and reflect beyond the icky hair style? 

I loved everything about school. I had so much fun that night with friends whom I keep up with thanks to social media. Each of us have great lives, families, and still awesome smiles. My favorite color is still pink, and I wear Swatch watches every day. You can say my watches are part of my signature look. After I calmed my vanity, I took a deeper look at the picture. Here are my top three reflective notes that started my year 25 reflection.

  • The young girl was not sure what she would become, but she knew she would be packing up to move into her Florida State University dorm in two short months. She needed to cement those summer experiences to catapult her into a world of independent learning and be prepped for her mindset to be challenged.
  • My confidence in spotting trends (fashion and otherwise) is evident. Equally, I had to learn to be OK with letting go of what no other should have to endure—shoulder pads.
  • Being center of attention, if only for one's own ego, does not impact the future. So getting to know more about your personality will help keep you happy, in the game, and easily transitioning into the mentoring phase of your career. It is very rewarding to inspire others' ah-ha moments.
Years One and Two

Most of my professional circle today knows my story of how I started. In fact, my friend Dr. Monica Robinson shared with me the other day that she's buying her first pair of Birkenstocks this summer because of my story. I am so happy for her choice of footwear, but why do I have a bigger smile to my face? 

The first reason is because I persevered through my official first year of teaching, and now I have the opportunity to expand my friendships. The second reason is that the friendships that I make do move me to motivate my good to great shifts. Finally, the third reason, with each new educator I connect with, I still impact a change in trajectory from striving reader to a confident reader having more options than he/she did prior.

Here's a sampling of some of what I learned during those years:

  • Make sure to use the majority of your planning time to plan, reflect on how the lesson flowed for other classes, walk the room, and be ready at the door. But once a week, sit with your BFF and enjoy a coffee, hot tea, or water. (It used to be Diet Coke, but I've made a switch to Hint water for a better choice.) Talk to each other. Share what is working and what isn’t. Talk about your favorite books. Invite each other to observe and give feedback.
  • Greet students at the door. It's the best way to complete a quick formative assessment to manage pace, energy, mindset, and tone.
  • Trust your mentor and coach. Listen, ask for help, and request modeling to have the strongest mental model and understand key instructional moves. When your mentor and coach points out a strong move that you naturally have, quickly write it down, make a mental note, and notice how students respond so that this will be a teacher trait made permanent.
Years Three Through Five 

Make it all about the reading, strengthening theory to practice, and creating a routine of reflection. These will be the years that pave the teacher confidence with consistent results, being asked to deliver professional learning for others—requesting to learn something new or being asked to move classrooms two years in a row. For some of these moments, it's still possible to roll your eyes like a boss, but because you get beyond it, you are even better. Begin to share more of your reflections so that your mentors, coaches, and BFF can support reassurance, tell you to get over yourself, and celebrate with you. Then, when your principal asks you to go to a meeting, don’t fret. That meeting can actually lead to something beyond measure. 

On Nov. 8, I turned 49. Each of the 25 years of teaching has brought me much happiness, offered opportunities to be challenged, create, and add change agent to my personality. Many fabulous life moments have happened, the brown to gray to white hair has happened, and the desire to teach, inspire, and learn has added to the awesomeness of mentoring and coaching.

Years Six Through Today
  • Always enjoy meeting new people.
  • Don't jump right into action or problem solving. Give others the chance to share their need, vision, and expectations first.
  • Talk books.
  • Find who you want to follow on Twitter. (I happen to love @CyFairREAD180, @MistorMinor, @MsDendinger, @VBSAcaSupport, @wallerread180, and @ILAToday.)
  • Laugh.
  • Notice.
  • Don't forget the icky. Reflect. Phone a friend. I used two yesterday—they know who they are.
  • Look for those learning moments that add to your professional learning network, feed your teacher spirit, extend your friendships, and bring smiles to others because they see that their best work matters and is noticed.

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This post originally appeared on the 180 Educator Community blog on Nov. 1, 2018 and is part of a series on the 180 Spirit Cycle.