Saturday, February 11, 2017

Time for Reflection: A Gift to Ourselves

Leaving the classroom, the coach and I walked side by side.  She had just finished teaching a lesson with young writers about growing stories.  "I wish we had time to talk," she lamented.  Unfortunately, she needed to be in another classroom and I needed to be in a meeting.  I paused taking in what she had said.  As teachers, we hurry about our day-to-day work without the time to step back to reflect.  It was at this moment I realized that our conversations with colleagues around the work we do are a gift we rarely seem to find time for in our daily busyness.

The Need for Reflection
The need for reflection struck me again the other day as I was waiting on a friend for lunch.  The restaurant was quiet, and for the first time in days, I felt like I had a few minutes of unscheduled time.  I paused and just started thinking about the week.  It wasn't long until I found myself taking a few notes, reflecting on a few interactions across the week, and planning a few next steps.  Honestly, I was amazed at what had been accomplished in less than ten minutes as my friend entered the restaurant and joined me.

It seems in our world, especially in our teaching worlds, it's hard to find time to pause and reflect.  As teachers, our lists remain long so we move from one task to another.  As teachers, it can be a challenge to pause when we are busy working alongside young students with little break in our day.  I'm going to be so bold as to say I think we even feel guilty when we take the time to pause and reflect.  We are always on a path of doing.

That day at the restaurant I don't think I would have paused had I not been given a few unexpected minutes.  We talk all the time about reflection; we understand its power, yet we rarely carve time to pause.

Collaborative Conversations 
As I work alongside instructional coaches and teachers, I'm continually struck by the power of pausing to reflect.  Often in our side-by-side work with colleagues, we do the work inside the classroom; because of time constraints, we settle for moments of demonstration teaching, observation, or quick touches of learning, but it is the deep dive into focused conversation that helps us to grow in our practice.  It is the small reflective conversations before and after our time together we struggle to make the time to have, yet it is these very conversations that lift our work.

While I am trying to be more disciplined about taking the time for personal reflection, it is when I am reflecting with a colleague that I learn the most.  It is in these conversations where new thinking pushes against what I understand.  It is in these conversations that my words are sent back to me in a way that brings fresh understanding.  It is in these conversations I find new perspectives.  It is in these conversations that I find strength for next steps.

As I sit beside coaches and teachers, I've come to realize that the short pre and post conversations we often skip, are truly a gift.  As I observe collaborative conversations I'm always struck by what both people take away after a few minutes in reflective conversation.   Our work is too complex to do it alone.

Whether it is sitting quietly for ten minutes or finding a colleague to bounce around a few ideas, I'm trying to find ten minutes each day for a bit of reflection.  Instead of thinking about it as a something I have to do, I know it is a gift I give to myself.

A Bit More About Reflection
Watch It:  

Live It:  
  • Take time to reflect (find the white space in your day to think, time to journal, talk with a friend)
  • Grab your favorite notebook (or app)
  • Apps for written reflection:  Google, Google KeepEvernote (organize notebooks, tag, type, audio, insert images, and you can write --- but that feature is still very limited), Noteshelf App (set up notebooks with paper-like turns, write, type, insert images), Notability (for fans of handwriting.)  
  • Daily Habits  (set reminders for your reflection time...)

Friday, February 10, 2017

10 Nonfiction Picture Books of Promise for Our World #nf10for10

Today's the day for our nonfiction picture book event:  #nf10for10.  This is our 5th annual nonfiction event.  In the past Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, Julie Balen of Write at the Edge, and I have cohosted this event.  Again this year all activity will be collected on our Picture Book 10 for 10 Community.  Stop by to read, share your favorites, and/or link up.

Ways to participate:

10 Nonfiction Picture Books 
In previous nonfiction events, I've shared:

My 2017 List:  10 Nonfiction Picture Books of Promise for Our World
In school, we often talk about our 20 square feet.  If we each take care of our own 20 square feet, we can help the world be a better place.  However, the world is much bigger than our 20 square feet.  Here are books that remind us of our obligation to make the world a better place.

We can make a difference.
The Water Princess, written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter Reynolds.

We can share our gifts with others.
Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe.

We can bravely speak against injustice.
Iqbal:  A Brave Boy from Pakistan, Malala:  A Brave Girl from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter.

We can stand for equality.
The Youngest Marcher, written by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.  

We can raise our voice.
I Dissent:  Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.

We can take care of our beautiful earth.
The Earth Book by Todd Parr.

We can reuse items in new ways.
Ada's Violin:  The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport.

We can protect our endangered species.
Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins.

We can help care for our oceans. 
Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey.  Kids will enjoy this book full of information about sharks.  The book ends with ways to help keep oceans healthy.

We can respect the delicate balance of life.  
No Monkeys, No Chocolate, written by Melissa Stewart, Allen Young, and illustrated by Nicole Wong.