"Reflection is a fundamental tenet of learning, and therefore a fundamental part of teaching." (Terry Heick, "Reflecting on Reflection: A Habit of Mind" http://www.edutopia.org/blog/reflecting-on-reflection-habit-of-mind-terry-heick).
Recently I've had an opportunity to share some of my most formative experiences as a teacher leader. As part of this process, I've taken the time to read back through several of my previous posts, as my blog is an invaluable component of my reflective practice, functioning both as a digital artifact of my professional growth and development, as well as an active and living document. As I noted in a previous post, I quite often actively "write my way into understanding". So while my blog is an opportunity for me to collaborate and share some of my formative experiences with others, perhaps more importantly, it also allows me to make sense of those same experiences. In this way, my blog functions as both a private and a public platform.
And so if reflection is such an essential or fundamental element of professional learning and growth, shouldn't we be providing educators with the time to reflect, in the same way that many schools now provide time for educators to collaborate? In the midst of increasingly demanding schedules, filled with seemingly endless and varied tasks, is it realistic to ask that educators now somehow also find the time to incorporate daily reflection into their busy days?
As department leader of Learning Partners, a program that facilitates and supports peer-mentoring, collaboration and teacher inquiry, I've been privileged to experience first hand the numerous benefits of providing teachers with that most valuable of commodities, time. I am also mindful that the existence of programs such as Learning Partners relies heavily on the support of both school and district leaders. And let's be honest, financial support. The reality is that providing teachers with the time that is so essential for collaboration and reflection is a significant financial investment. Release time is expensive, and justifying that expense can be a challenge. I would argue that the difficulty lies in the intangible nature of "reflection". What does "reflection" look like? How long does it take? Where can it happen? And should there always be the expectation that there will be a concrete or tangible product as a result of that reflection?
Ultimately, when many district are challenged with budget cuts and stretched resources, is it realistic to ask our school leaders to invest in providing educators with the time to reflect? But in the same way, with teachers struggling to keep pace with innovative instructional and assessment practices to effectively support student learning and achievement, can we really "afford" not to?