Using the Summer to Reflect on Your Practice
When the end of the school year has come and gone, educators have the opportunity to close out the chapter of the year we’ve just closed. How amazing is our profession that we typically have a solid beginning and end to those that we serve? Whether you’re a campus leader or a classroom teacher, it’s important to be able to step back, reflect on where you’ve been and what you want to do moving forward.
As I enter what will be year 16, I can say that no year has ever been the same. From changes in students to staff to even campuses/districts….there’s always a way that I move backward in order to move forward. Reflection is such an incredible tool for educators, one I hope to model for my staff. While that reflection may look different for everyone, here’s what I do to decompress and get ready for the next year.
Clear Out/Clean Out
Piles on your desk. Files stuffed with papers. Stacks of books behind you. Take advantage of the downtime to clear out all that you can. Things that you “think” you might need and aren’t willing to toss, try scanning them and save as a digital file. If it is paperwork that you think might be useful for next year, file it somewhere clearly so that you can put your hands on it. Naming your files with intention and a clear idea of why/how you might need it is important, especially when you have a calm moment to do so.
Take books home that you want to read, create a schedule in order to make it happen. I have a goal of ten books a month for 2018…which sounds more impressive than it is since they’re mostly NOT educational reads! I will take home the stack behind my desk though and balance out those summer reads with the new resources I’ve added to my collection.
Despite the techiness that I claim, I am a strong supporter of a paper planner. It allows me to see my month at a glance as well as use colors to help separate all the people in my world that I attempt to keep track of. At the end of the year, it allows me to review #allthethings that have happened throughout the year and make notes for the next year. I have next years calendar out and will add events by the month in which they occurred, and transfer any notes that I made. For example, in August we had a “chalk the walk” event for students and families. Everyone drew happy messages to help start the year off on a positive foot! We provided several boxes of chalk but afterward, I stuck a post it on the event in the calendar that said, “Next year, provide water”. Apparently, that hot afternoon sun was more than I bargained for! Here in May, I’d already forgotten that, but when I wrote the event down for the 18-19 school year, I was able to add a “don’t forget the water” note as well!
As an office team, we meet every Monday at 7:45. We go over the immediate week but also look ahead at what is coming up in the next month. In an attempt to delegate and allow more contributions from our leadership team (including teachers!) next year we’re going to try and institute a quadrant system, based on Covey’s time management system.
Quadrant I is for the immediate and important deadlines.
Quadrant II is for long-term strategizing and development.
Quadrant III is for pseudo urgent tasks. Tasks that are not really important, but someone wants it now.
Quadrant IV is for those activities that yield little value. These are “brain break” type of activities.
Many people find that most of their activities fall into quadrant I and III. Quadrant II is often discussed and planned for and yet can be the most impactful if we manage our time accordingly. In our Monday meetings, I am going to have each month broken up by month in google docs. Then each event within that month will have a checklist assigned to it. We’ll all have access to what progress is being made and can follow up as needed. These low-stress summer days allow me to set up the skeleton of that system with clarity,
Regardless of how you choose to close out your year, I hope that you’re able to take advantage of a calmer pace. Take some mental breaks, take some physical breaks, and have time away from your position. You may never stop being a “leader” but you can definitely be a leader on a break!