I have been engaging in two activities in recent days and weeks that have me thinking about what is to be reflective as a teacher. First, I have been recording my band a lot lately. More than ever before I have been sitting down and really trying to listen carefully to what my band sounds like via these recordings. It is amazing what you hear when you force yourself to really listen to what is happening in rehearsal each day. I am discovering many great things in my daily rehearsals and I am also discovering a long list of things that I want to correct and improve upon. The second activity that has me thinking is the opportunity I have this year to watch other teachers in their classrooms in my role as a Lead Teacher in my building. I have found it incredibly insightful to be able to watch my colleagues work with young people. Every teacher that I am able to observe has a unique skill set that challenges me to look at my own teaching in a new way.
I have always considered myself a reflective teacher who was willing to confront the brutal facts (a term from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”) of my own teaching. With that being said, both of these activities have caused me to really take a hard look at the strategies I am using in my classroom every day. I have seen teachers doing some incredible differentiation in their classrooms and it makes me wonder if I do that as well as I should be. I definitely have some students who would benefit from some differentiated strategies in my classroom, but the nature of the large ensemble that is my class makes it difficult. Each time I record my band and listen back to it I find things that need attention. I am fortunate to work with very talented students and I know that we have something close to perfection within us. But, is that really what I value?
So, I’m being more reflective. That’s a good thing, right? Well, there is certainly a lot of good coming out of the time I spend reflecting, but I also find that it has it’s perils. For instance, during this period of high reflection I have found myself less confident in my day to day teaching. While I hate to admit that, it’s true. I find myself questioning my strategies on a teaching front and my ears on a musical level. I often feel great about how my band sounds until I sit with those recordings for a while and I recognize all of the things that could be improved. I believe that I know how to motivate my students really well until I see someone else do it even better. What I am coming to believe is that I have to actively monitor the way I reflect. I have to see these opportunities to reflect as part of an organic growth to my teaching. I have to celebrate the positive things that I am finding when I reflect as well as the areas that I find to improve upon.
Change comes slowly, particularly to those of us who have been teaching for 20 or so years. It’s good to reflect. I know that I won’t get better without this kind of reflection and there is no doubt that I have become a better teacher because of the opportunities I have had to watch great teachers in action. But, I also have to embrace the things that I have always done well. I encourage everyone to be reflective, but be sure to look into the mirror and appreciate what you do well. It’s not about change for the sake of change, it’s about embracing growth.