Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Lost Art of Self-Reflection

While a lot of attention is placed on the struggles and realities of states developing an accurate system of teacher evaluation, I wonder how much value is ever placed on teacher self-evaluation. I ask because I do not know.

Are there schools out there who ask their teachers to self-evaluate their practice? To that end, are there schools who ask their teachers to set their own goals? I suppose some may argue that any self-directed professional development programs would serve as an adequate substitue.

What if we were asked to write a response to the following question:

What have you offered this school over the past five years that I would not see had I hired someone else in your place ?

Is that a fair question? Is it dangerous enough that we can smoke the union heads out from their family dinners, screaming? When I press "publish: will I start to feel the electromagnetic panic in the air?

Narcissus and Echo by David Revoy
I'm not suggesting a witch hunt just as I not suggesting an exercise in narcissism. Is the art of introspection only appropriate for Yom Kippur, Alcoholics Anonymous, and readers of Any Rand?

I'm truly wondering where the conversation has been among educators regarding meaningful, written self-reflection...and then maybe a follow-up conversation with a peer, department head, or administrator?

I am wondering about the promises we make when accept a job in any business let alone education. Do we take a job, learn the ropes, and then settle into the routine of the expected? Do we feel compelled to push for more--to achieve greatness? Or do we fall back in with the gang--don't do too much because then they will expect it.

Well...shouldn't "they" expect it...our best? So I ask myself...what is my best?

In education we are asked to study the scores, find areas where we can be better, and then address those weaknesses...raise up the tired, the weak, the huddled masses. Educators are so used to being on the defensive, that posing the question I crafted above can not seem like anything other than a threat or an accusation.

But are we ever asked to reflect on anything other than numbers or how we can demonstrate that the kids have learned more?

Is sound self-reflection happening in any schools? Are any of you self-reflectors?


  1. I don't think it happens regularly. I find myself wanting to do more reflection (many of my blog posts are about school), but I still feel I could push myself. My colleagues have told me I'm a bit too self-critical.

    Thanks for making me stop and think this evening.

  2. Reflection is the cornerstone of my public charter school (Inspired Teaching Demonstration School, Washington, D.C.) Love this question of yours - "What have you offered this school over the past five years that I would not see had I hired someone else in your place ?" and think that, if written in future tense, it would make a great question when hiring staff.

    Reflection helps make our work much more meaningful - it is essential in our schools.

    Thank you for this!

  3. I'm with Maureen--that is a really powerful question and one that I need to remember. What makes us different/better/more reflective? Thanks for a post that has really made me think.

  4. For several years (maybe half of the 14 I've taught) our yearly evaluation was based on goal setting and self evaluation. At the first of the year, each teacher had to set and submit 2 or 3 goals. At the end of the year, I had to reflect on the progress I had made toward meeting those goals. Now we are asked to collect data to prove we are adding value to our students, but I try to add some self-reflection to it. I think self-reflection is key to improving, to doing more than the same year over and over. I like the question you pose "What have you done for our school in the past five years?" If I'm not adding to the school community, what am I doing there?

  5. Our district also has us set goals and then evaluate them at the end of the year, but I love your idea of long term reflecting. I am a believer in self-reflection. I think that I should be reflecting on my practice all the time so I can modify my practice for the better. I think that teachers who don't self-reflect should consider why they are in teaching...