After a particularly rough day in the classroom, I came home feeling defeated and questioning my ability to make a difference in the lives of my students. I picked up my copy of The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros, which states one important characteristic of being innovative is the process of reflection. George asks his readers, “Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?” Gah! Would I? After this day I figured that I had to be honest and really mull this one over. Can I even begin to examine myself as a teacher with complete transparency?
Taking an honest look at the classroom environment, how the content is being taught, and relationships with students, is rough. I want to believe that I am “rockin” this teaching thing. But there sure are ups and downs … I can honestly say that my answer to the question changes with the tide, the lesson, the student interactions, the day. What a tough pill to swallow.
When reflecting upon moments that are filled with accomplishment, innovation, and pure joy of learning, I am pumped. Students are excited about learning. They are so focused and engaged, I have them eating out of the palm of my hand. During those times, I happily pat myself on the back. I walk about with a little hop in my step. Yes, today was the day!
But… there are those days that just don’t go the way I planned. Students are not engaged. They are discontent with something -- or someone, maybe even me -- throughout the day. There may be something happening at home that is impacting their time in the classroom. And let’s be honest, sometimes we just rub each other the wrong way. I get it, my kids don’t want to be in my room and if I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn’t either. What a terrible feeling. It is hard not to take those days personally. I have invested so much of myself into the classroom, lessons, and students, that when things go to pot I assume the blame. The messiah complex of teaching: “All of my students’ shortcomings happen because I failed!” I dropped the ball in some lesson. I didn’t thoroughly read through my curriculum. I … fill in the blank.
Ok, so what do I do? Reflect. As teachers, we have to look into the mirror. Our job is to remember who we are and what we look like, so that when we walk away we can remember. I am a teacher. I am teacher who is growing her craft. I am a teacher who has magnificent days and rough ones too. I am a teacher who cares. I am a teacher who will not give up the good fight to do what is best for students. I am a teacher who is human and makes mistakes; mistakes to learn and grow from. I am a teacher who is innovative, creative, and inspiring. I am a teacher who will not forget where I came from or where I am going. I am a teacher.
In The Innovator’s Mindset, George reminds us that, “Looking back is crucial to moving forward … to make connections, and again deepen our learning.” Reflection helps us look at our classroom, lesson plans, student progress, and professional growth with a critical eye that will only help make tomorrow better. Sometimes solutions come with a quick fix. Other times, we have to look to colleagues and collaborate to find an answer. Change cannot happen without going through the honest process of reflection.
Mena T. Hill
Educator, Wife, Mother, Colorado Native