Ask any teacher. As soon as they enter their pre-service training, there is one message that resounds the loudest: in order to be a good teacher, you need to be reflective. You need to take the time to think about what works and what doesn’t work, and, most importantly, what you can do next time to improve your instruction in the best interest of your students.
I guess the same thing goes for being a coach. How can one get better without reflection? Let's take football for example. Are the greatest coaches of the National Football League able to push their teams forward without reflecting on what they could have done differently in Monday night's devastating loss? I highly doubt it. Moving forward without reflection is, well, impossible.
As an instructional coach, I always begin my post-conference meetings with teachers using questions designed to prompt their own reflection: What did you like about your lesson? What don’t you think went well? If you could teach the lesson again, what would you do differently?
It’s funny, really. I find myself asking the teachers with whom I work to reflect, but upon reflection (ironic, huh?) I realize that I take very little time to reflect on my own work with the same individuals I am coaching. Of course I think about the teachers I work with after a coaching visit. I think about the great lessons I saw, the enthusiastic students who hung on their teacher’s every word. But...do I really take the time to reflect on my role in the cycle? Was I an effective listener? Did I provide meaningful and relevant feedback? What could I have done better? Am I really making a difference?
At this point in my career, I think I know what my strengths are, and I hope that I’ve learned how to capitalize on them during formal professional development sessions and workshops. But, to move forward, I realize that I’ve got to make reflection more of a priority. Because, unlike the NFL and Monday Night Football, our students just can’t afford even one devastating loss.
Jennifer Fischer is a former middle school English teacher, full-time instructional coach, and part-time edtech nerd, who strives to help next JENeration educators transform learning for all students.