Sunday, August 19, 2012

Finding Your Fortress of Solitude

In my last post, What's Your Superpower? Lessons Learned from Superheroes, I drew some comparisons between superheroes and educators. There is one additional lesson I feel like we can learn from superheroes that needs to be a separate post.

As a general population, I think we can easily identify with superheroes because they are seemingly ordinary people who do extraordinary things. They come through in a time of need and bring hope to those whose lives they touch. As teachers, we want to do the same for our students.

However, often, and especially at the beginning of the school year, it is easy to become overwhelmed. There are so many things to accomplish, many of which don't actually have anything to do with the actual teaching of our students. Then as school gets under way, we have data meetings, content area meetings, IEPs, grade level meetings...the list could go on and on. With each of these, there is usually a pile of work to be accomplished in addition to our classroom repsonsiblities.

For me, I tend to think in to-do lists. But the lists seems to grow so long, and then they jumble up with all of the plans and ideas I have for my students (even though I diligently use many productivity and time management tools). For many of us, it becomes a jumbled mess inside of our brains. What are we to do with all this scary gibberish inside of our heads? (If you find yourself struggling to stay organized and effectively manage your time, be sure to check out Frank Buck's website and blog...he's an educator's organizational guru.)

Let's take a cue from our favorite superheroes. After all, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude and Batman has his Bat Cave. They realize the importance of taking time away from the ensuing chaos to regroup, analyze, and strategize. Don't we deserve the same? If all we are doing is jumping from one fire to the next instead of stopping to clear the our minds, we aren't doing anyone any good...including ourselves.

I learn. What's your SuperPower? I feel strongly that for us to become the most powerful and effective educators that we can be, we must take time to become a reflective practitioner. Our success with our students depends upon us taking time each day to analyze what we did in class and how it impacted student learning. If something went well, we need to be able to identify what we did that caused that success so that we can recreate it and adapt for other lessons and learning activities that we lead. If what we did was unsuccessful and didn't positively impact students and learning, we need to identify the causing factor and strategize how we can make improvements in the future.

The thing about reflecting is that we each need to be transparent and honest with ourselves. No one, not even a superhero, is always successful. Situations changes, students come in with different life challenges and even disasters happen. The only way we can help each of our students every day is to diligently reflect and refine our teaching practice. This is how we learn and grow as educators.

This time may be while your are driving home at the end of a school day, when you are taking a shower, or through writing a blog. For me, this blog is serving as a reminder that in spite of all the deadlines and demands on my time, my primary focus must be how I use my time with my students. It's the choices I make with them that will impact them in the long run...not all the chaos filling up my mind.

Set aside some time to find your Fortress of Solitude. Become a reflective practitioner. Be strong and teach on!

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