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The Power of Personal Reflection

classroom management education consultant educational leadership educational leadership programs keynote speaker leaders in education leadership coaching leadership for educational equity leadership styles in education motivational speaker professional development public speaking reflection stand tall steve steve bollar within our ranks Dec 17, 2023

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” 

Is it? It can be!

Gang, I get it.  We are in the full holiday craze. The period of time between Thanksgiving and Winter Break is its own time zone.  Between spirit weeks, grades, shopping, traveling, family visits, cooking feasts, and all the everyday stresses in life, how is there ever enough time to do it all? 

Reflection is not an additional thing on your to-do list, and it should be on your must-do list. Take some time to reflect.  It is not only the end of the calendar year, but for educators this winter break approaches the halfway point.  This is the perfect time for personal reflection.  Don’t wait until after the ball drops to reflect with your students, as an educator, or administrator. Before you turn the calendar to 2024, let’s do some reflective work.  


The Imperative of Reflection

It may be too late once you leave your school building doors on the last day of break.  Set aside a few moments for reflection in your classroom routine with your students. Lead by example and model a reflection.  It can be as simple as taking a finer look at your organization, a particular lesson, a unit of study, or a project. 

Here’s the most important part.  You need to start with the positive.  Don’t be too critical of yourself, especially when modeling with the students. The world is full of critics. Let’s make this a chance to accentuate the great things you or your students are doing! Celebrate success with experiences to foster the positive climate and culture you want to see each day in the classroom. Every milestone, no matter how small, deserves to be acknowledged. 

  • What worked well?
  • How did I demonstrate mastery of this skill?
  • What am I most proud of?
  • How much did you know about the subject before we started?
  • In what ways have you gotten better at this kind of work?
  • What did you learn about yourself as you worked on this?

Then, dig into the areas of improvement. 

  • What would you change if you had a chance to do this over again?
  • What will you change next time?
  • What's one thing that you would like to try to improve upon?
  • What's one goal you want to set for yourself next time?

If you need help figuring out where to start, check in with your elementary teachers. Here are some solid pairs for reflection: 

  • Praise and Push
  • Glow and Grow
  • Triumph and Try


Adapting Classroom Management

Within this reflection process, if you discover something about your classroom routine, assessments, unit of study, level of engagement, or anything at all, NOW is the time to change it.  In fact, you can modify your approach at any point in the school year. This flexibility allows for ongoing reflection and adjustment based on the evolving needs of students and the classroom environment. Reflect on lessons, curricular content, and connections with students.

Classroom management can evolve throughout the year.  Adapt your classroom routines, procedures, and expectations, rearrange the furniture, and switch it up! Come back after the break refreshed with a plan, ready to rock the rest of the year.  

The Three Levels of Reset:

Throughout the year, keep this in mind.  There are three levels of reset: set, reset, and hard reset. 

  • Set involves immediate corrections during a lesson.  Address the issue as it arises.
  • Reset allows for more comprehensive adjustments and start over.
  • Hard Reset, the most drastic, may involve suspending regular instruction for a day. Press pause and practice the new plan.  

These reset levels empower educators to address issues promptly and effectively. Learning takes a backseat if you do not adjust your plans and methods along the way. Remember the concept of "reduce, not eliminate," recognizing that perfection is unattainable. Educators should aim to reduce issues and challenges rather than expecting complete elimination.


Countering Negativity:

If you have been a Stand Tall Leadership family member, you know how I feel about countdowns. I strongly oppose countdowns, such as the typical "days left in school" countdown. These countdowns instill subconscious negativity about the school environment. Instead, foster positivity through activities like:

  • "12 Days of Christmas," maintaining an optimistic atmosphere in the classroom
  • “Make the Days Count”
  • Character Trait Challenges
  • Values or word of the day
  • Positive Affirmations

Check it out: Stop the End of Year Countdown

Documenting Reflections:

Get it out of your head! There is a more profound value in documenting reflections, particularly through writing. Writing down reflections helps in recalling emotions attached to specific situations. While my approach uses symbols and a structured journaling system to organize thoughts, ideas, and experiences, some ways will work for you.  

Different ways to document your reflections:

  • Journaling
  • Lists
  • Calendar notes
  • Color coding
  • Vision Board
  • Attach emotions to a reflection
  • Create your own code and annotate it with symbols or emojis
  • Sticky notes
  • Designated notebooks
  • Doodle notes
  • Highlight 

What works for you? Try one, and let me know how it goes in the comments! 

 Don’t know where to start? Embrace one aspect of reflection. I find myself navigating the complexities of the school year with renewed vigor. Accentuate the positive aspects of reflection to advocate for timely adjustments and resets. As I continue to embrace the practice of reflection, I equip myself to navigate challenges, celebrate successes, and continuously elevate my craft. These insights underscore the transformative power of reflection in my own journey toward educational excellence.

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