Professional Development Opinion

Take Time to Focus on Your Successes

By Starr Sackstein — April 06, 2017 3 min read
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“I can’t believe I haven’t been able to focus on a coaching cycle all year!”

“I feel like a failure because all of my students aren’t on board yet with the shift away from traditional grading.”

“Why won’t more of my colleagues come into the center to take advantage of what I have to offer them and their students?”

These messages play like a broken record sometimes.

As a recovering perfectionist, I have a tendency to see all the things I haven’t been able to do successfully, leaving a rather large blind spot for the many positive outcomes I’ve been able to achieve. It’s almost like the good stuff doesn’t matter as it pales in comparison to the large gap of what I perceive to be “bad.”

Traversing this new role as a hybrid teacher and instructional coach has made me hyper critical of my performance. The expectations I have of myself are really high and sometimes when I don’t make the mark, I’m likely to punish myself for it.

On an intellectual level, I understand that it is unrealistic for me to have achieved the many things I thought I might by now and appreciate those who remind me regularly that change takes time. However, patience and time are some of my challenges and therefore it’s often easier to focus on what I haven’t accomplished yet.

That being said, now that the year is three-quarters complete, there are many positive things I can focus on and not doing so would diminish all of the hard work that has gone into this year.

So here are some takeaways that I’m proud of:

  • I’ve developed close relationships with my colleagues that have established trust and collegial respect for my capacity to care for and help them in their pedagogical practices and personal endeavors.
  • I’ve been welcomed into administrative circles and have been asked to be present for important meetings so that I can understand and better support initiatives the school is working on.
  • I’ve given professional learning opportunities on our regular PD days for several departments and I’m a trusted person an administrator can come to share ideas or brainstorm to help their staff.
  • I’ve grown as a coach from the professional learning I’ve done to better support and listen to my colleagues in a way that helps them help students.
  • I’ve continued my progress with mastery learning in my own classes, with students ranging on the spectrum of understanding. However, despite lack of understanding, they have grown to trust me enough to try even if they don’t get it yet. This process of reflection and self-assessment has helped me develop relationships with my students that helps me, help them better.
  • Ongoing feedback is occurring between me and my students as well as me and my colleagues in terms of their own and my own learning.
  • I’ve been able to offer continuing education credit classes for the teachers at my school around topics I think are important that are encouraging them to push their thinking around social media and technology.
  • I’ve been able to develop digital citizenship and technology standards in the classroom that have encouraged my students to be more pro-active in their own learning. Despite many challenges, students are becoming more independent in spite of themselves.
  • Being in an extremely productive and functional co-teacher relationship in my dual language class has been a tremendous learning experience and even better collaborative one.

As silly as it sounds, in addition to helping my colleagues also consider their grading/assessing practices which has come up in smaller conversations, I’m super proud of the fact that I’ve brought wellness into the teacher center too. To keep things moving throughout the day I often run in place to get my heart rate up and to get some steps for my Fitbit competition. At first my colleagues thought I was a little nuts, but now I have some of them running with me.

Over the course of this year, there are many positive experiences I will have brought to the school community and I think that many will continue with the practices we are working on now. The relationships I have developed will stay with me no matter what.

What successes have you ignored this year that should get recognized? Please share

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