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Reflection & Appreciation

The school year is barreling toward the finish, yet you still have a list of things to do that is a mile long. In spite of this, we want you to pause, breathe, and take some time to reflect on all that you’ve accomplished.

By our very nature, as educators we have our eyes on what’s next. But, if we don’t take time to reflect, how will we learn? As importantly, where will we find the energy to keep going?

In the chapter entitled “Less is More” in our book More Than A SMART Goal, we talk about cultivating the habit of reflection. “Educational theorists, researchers, and practitioners have long held reflective practice as essential for high-quality, focused learning” (p. 44). We urge you to make reflective practice a habit and, as you engage in reflection, to appreciate all that you have learned.

We maintain that appreciation goes hand in hand with our reflections. It seems appropriate that “appreciate” means to grow in value according to one definition. Researcher John Gottman has suggested that successful relationships reflect a 5:1 ratio of appreciations to criticism. This ratio is a great reminder to quiet that inner voice that deprecates ourselves and others, and to refocus on appreciating that which we’ve accomplished.

Consider what you’ve accomplished as a school community this year. Perhaps your focus was on learning and implementing a new school improvement process, as was the case with a large district with which we’ve been working. The entire district engaged in learning a standard method of school improvement – the SMART School Improvement Process. As we trained and coached the school teams, we regularly asked them to reflect and acknowledge what they were learning. School change can be a circuitous journey; we must be mindful to stop and appreciate each turn.

Consider what you’ve accomplished as a PLC. Did you discover new ways of sharing your practice with each other? Did you celebrate each other’s classroom successes? Have you developed a deeper sense of trust as you disclosed what you most need to learn? These are your comrades, your closest professional colleagues, who choose to help each other through collaborative practice. Find the time to celebrate all that you’ve been through together this year as a professional learning community.

Consider what you’ve accomplished as an individual. What did you learn that improved your daily practice? Did you experience an aha moment or was it a slower, more deliberate change in practice over time? Did you make a conscious decision to seek something out? Who were your learning partners?

Now that you’ve reflected on your school, professional community, and personal accomplishments, how would you like to show your appreciation? At a minimum, take the time to jot down your top 3 accomplishments in a Journal or in a letter to yourself. You might choose to extend the idea:

  1. Be the one to put a poster up in the teacher’s lounge where colleagues can jot down an appreciation.
  2. Write individual appreciations on small pieces of paper. Fold them and put them in a bowl. Ask colleagues to draw one and read it aloud. As an alternative, roll the pieces of paper and insert them into balloons, then blow up the balloons and give them to others.
  3. Take the time to say “I appreciate you for . . .” to a colleague.
  4. Finally, thank your students for all you have learned from them this year.

We join you in reflecting on, and appreciating, another year of learning.

Anne E. Conzemius

Anne E. Conzemius, a trainer and coach, has served as director of employee development and training for Wisconsin’s Department of Employment Relations, and as assistant state superintendent at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Terry Morganti-Fisher

Terry Morganti-Fisher has 30 years of collaborative, results-driven, continuous organizational and professional development experience that includes senior-level management in a large urban public school district.

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