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'Tis the Season for Reflection

One of the best ways we can support the growth of our teams and professional learning communities is to provide enough time and space for people to pause, breathe, and reflect.

To enrich and deepen our understanding of process (or anything) we need time to think metacognitively about our progress and decisions. This is true for both individuals and teams. Reflection is a learning tool--it helps us decide what has worked, what has flopped, and what exactly we might implement as our next steps. Students need time to process and reflect (whether we give them this time or not is up for debate). And as adult learners, we need this time, too.

How can we support our PLC teams and teacher leaders? We can prompt them to reflect and share what's working, what's not, and what they want to do about it. As you enter into the final weeks of first semester, or as you plan your entrance ramp into second semester, be sure to include some meaningful time where teachers and teams are prompted towards reflection.

Depending on the climate in your building, you may opt for group reflection through a whole staff activity, or you might lean towards individual reflection with a handout or protocol.

Individual Reflection Protocol

If you do opt for the individual reflection, I recommend actually printing out a paper (see our Semester Reflection: Team protocol PDF) to have teachers pause and process. There is something a bit more formal about going straight to an online feedback survey. Not to say that surveys are bad--but a district survey is meant to provide feedback to leaders--not necessarily to facilitate individual or team reflective conversation.

Honestly, I wouldn't collect these handouts--I'd just build in the time for teams to do this reflection, and then provide your teams with this (or another) reflective sheet. There's power in allowing teachers time to process as individuals first, then, asking them to share with one another as a team. It's much easier to open up about my personal thoughts if I've had a chance to write them down first.

Providing a scale is also a helpful way to prompt analysis, so consider adding some scaled questions to your own questions if you decide to DIY-it.

You can choose to leave categories blank, or pick a few essential team skills you'd like them to reflect on. I created this handout in Canva in about 10 minutes, so use our PDF--or better yet--create your own!

Group Reflective Walk Around

Another thought you may consider is to ask your PLC leaders to submit 2 questions they'd like to reflect upon with their teams. Once you have the questions compiled, post them around a common meeting room and ask teachers to choose 5-6 questions to respond to with sticky notes. Co-creating reflective activities with your teacher leaders is a simple, powerful way to strengthen their collective efficacy as leaders.

Leaving the questions up as a visual as you head into next semester (or if you do this activity to start 2nd semester) is also a helpful reminder to staff of their shared commitments in the process.

Whether you decide to keep the reflection individual/team, or you facilitate a reflective activity with your entire staff, be sure to prioritize time for reflection. If we are trying to cultivate real spaces of belonging for our teachers, then we must provide them with opportunities to share their authentic experiences. Sharing real, reflective conversations is a vulnerability builder--utilize this time to deepen the relationships among your teams!

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