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An Exercise in Reflection-Five Steps

What is the most precious commodity in any organization or even in any individual’s day? Time. Our days are so full and crowded with things to do, people to meet, and the perennial fire that needs to be put out, that we often don’t make time to think and plan.  The result is rather than thoughtful responses, we often react.  Summer time is a good time for reflection—with the goal of continuing the practice throughout the year.  Here are five steps to consider.

Learn from Reflection

Step One: Step Away from the Fray

The school year is over and students are enjoying their summer.  Just like most leaders, your work continues. The good news is that you can schedule some time to begin the practice of reflective planning.

For some, first thing in the morning works.  For others, later in the day is more effective.  What is important is to step away from the daily fray, and commit to carving out time for reflection.

Step Two: Leave your Bias at the Door

All of us see issues and situation through our personal lens. That, of course, is important because it allows us to use our experience, expertise and knowledge to interpret information and guide our actions. At the same time—and this is a balancing act that takes practice—we use our experience, expertise and knowledge leaders need to set the bias that is the result of experience aside. When reflecting we need to take time to look at information with a new lens-without the prejudice of past failures or even past successes. The goal is to improve and both the bias of failure and success can get in our way.

Step Three: Determine Your Focus

Reflection needs a focus.  The focus can be your goals for the next year. It can be a specific problem like teacher retention.  Whatever it is, identify the data you need to review to help you make informed decisions.  This presupposes that you have data to analyze. If not, then a good topic for reflection is what data needs to be collected during the year to help you make informed decisions.

Step Four: Create a plan

Create a description of your vision/position based on the data review.  What are you trying to accomplish? What behaviors are you looking for among teachers and students? What resources will be needed? How will you determine you if you are being successful or not?

Step Five—Sharing

Information, ideas, plans—knowledge—need to be shared with others.  Sharing, effective sharing, allows for input, especially input from the people that will be implementing your vision. The act of sharing is another instance when you need to set your bias aside and listen to others.  An indicator that you are sharing effectively is your vision or plan should be changed by the sharing.

Technology has made sharing easier and easier.  There are sites like SurveyMonkey-- https://www.surveymonkey.com/ --that offer a free option. Post your description and then set up a survey to allow for input and comments. Send it to all of your stakeholders. This can be teachers, parents, support staff and yes, even, students.

Here is an important part of Step Five that people forget.  Get back to the people and let them know the results of the sharing. Thank them for their participation and input. Be specific on how their contributions changed/improved your (really now it yours and theirs) plan.

Conclusion:

Leading should be a thoughtful process. Time needs to be identified and set aside for leaders to identify what they want to accomplish or how they want to address an issue. Reflection is a time saving strategy.  Although we are often led to believe that leaders are born and what they do comes naturally to them, the truth is that leadership takes practice and reflection.

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