Reflections on a School Year: 3 Perspectives

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As the 2023-2024 school year comes to a close, many educators are taking on the essential practice of reflecting on the triumphs and hurdles of the past ten months. In my moments of introspection over the past few days, I've realized that the most important lessons I've learned vary depending on which of my roles, both professionally and personally, I take on. Here are my three biggest takeaways from this school year viewed from my lenses as a teacher, technology specialist, and human being.

Teacher: Tech as a Stepping-Stone

As a Language Arts teacher with a passion for effective technology integration, I'm always on the lookout for ways to elevate lessons by utilizing hardware and software. Sometimes, the excitement of a new platform can cause that tool to become the focal point of a lesson instead of a specific learning goal. Even if a single digital tool can help reinforce a concept for students, many specialize in certain tasks and can't authentically replicate all classroom experiences. This year, I made a concerted effort to utilize technology platforms as stepping-stones to relationships and in-person interactions in the classroom.

Digital platforms are excellent for opening dialogue in learning spaces. This is particularly true with introverted students who may feel apprehensive about initially sharing ideas. For example, Padlet is my go-to for Do-Nows and initial collaborative brainstorming, allowing everyone to share ideas in various formats. These activities are made more meaningful by following through with discussions and activities to build upon these initial ideas, nurturing these digital connections. Tech platforms are limited when used in a vacuum but are powerful when combined with personal relationships.

Tech Specialist: Get Feedback & Adjust

Along with bringing technology into my classroom, my role as a technology specialist includes sharing tech tools and strategies with colleagues. With the sheer number of tools available, selecting certain platforms and strategies to present can be daunting. Furthermore, choosing platforms to invest in can be equally intimidating. I was able to maximize the impact of the resources and tools I shared by continually receiving feedback from teachers and adjusting based on needs.

From casual conversations to formal surveys, keeping track of the front-of-mind issues of teachers, particularly those in different departments, was helpful and essential. Being proactive and planning PD opportunities well in advance can be helpful, but all educators know how logistics and priorities shift from month to month. Aside from collecting feedback on what PD teachers want, taking the time to fully digest and act on the feedback is essential. It can be tricky to stay on top of, but keeping that dialogue open and being receptive has allowed me to provide timely and relevant assistance.

Human Being: Process is Paramount

Most of the reflection practices I take part in begin in the classroom. They're meant to optimize my energy to help students and coworkers. However, I've made it a point this past year to prioritize my health and well-being, and one lesson has emerged that has positively affected my work and everyday thoughts. I've felt stuck and trapped when bogged down with thoughts of completing tasks and waiting for results. This is why I've made a concerted effort to embrace the process, savoring the journey instead of being preoccupied with the destination.

One of my biggest hobbies is baking bread. Part of why I love it so much is that it is a process that requires patience and care, and the end product is consumable and fleeting. It's a wonderful practice for staying in the moment and enjoying every step. This notion of being present and enjoying the process has also been helpful for moments of anxiety when an upcoming moment invades my headspace, and I remind myself to look around and take in what is directly in front of me. From an educational lens, this mindset is essential for students, particularly with the emergence of generative AI in the classroom: I want students to be present and focused when completing tasks and learning new information instead of taking the fastest route, minimizing the process and optimizing the product. The process is the good stuff.

With another school year ending, I know these reflections will mold my mindset heading into the fall. It's all a process, and I intend to enjoy the ride.