The Yin Yang of Self Reflection

It’s 4:00 a.m., and I’m awake. Thinking to myself that I might as well get up, I head upstairs to start my day. It’s a Saturday, so I should be able to sleep in, but anxiety about the week ahead prevents me from falling back asleep.

Why be anxious about next week, you ask?  Well, next week represents some high stakes visitations, as both my principal and a college professor are coming to observe me. I’m not a baby teacher; this is my 17 year, and you’d think this stuff would be water under the bridge. And before our observation model changed, it would have been. Heck, normally I wouldn’t care if my principal or this college professor (who’s certifying I’m good enough to teach community college English to my high school kids), came in and watched. But it’s this self reflection that’s keeping me awake.

As I labor through the “pre-observation” forty question extended response pre-assessment, I am forced to explain all the things I do every day. This lesson isn’t “special”-I’m not changing what I do to make the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System happy. I always try to engage my students, to evaluate using multiple methods, to assess what they know and build upon it. This self reflection forces me to write it all out, to justify the wherefores and the whys. And it’s painful.

Dig out your “pre-assessment’ scores. Find the “self-assessment” spreadsheet. Add up the number of students who x….I am not a numbers girl, but I understand the underlining reasoning. We are supposed to be data driven, to show with numbers the reasons for our instructions. It feels tedious, and 2.5 hours later, I’m arriving at the end. My Yin is freezing (as are my toes-the temperature dropped last night.)

And then I reach the moment of Yang: where the fires of heaven start to heat up. The last question asks me to demonstrate my professional responsibility. Why would this heat me up? Well, the truth is that my principal has no idea what I do in my teaching life, outside of how many parents (if any) call him to complain. He doesn’t know about the book chapter I’m writing for Touchcast. He doesn’t know about my ISTE pilot participation. He doesn’t know about the Twitter book club I’m running, or how many Twitter chats I participate in. He doesn’t know about the conferences I attend, or all the millions of things I do as a professional teacher. This one question lets me tell about all the things I do; the things that get other principals to say on Twitter what a great teacher I am. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be more than a prophet in my own land.

Even if my principal doesn’t care, this self reflection has helped me to see that I am a great teacher. Now let’s hope that these two people who have been out of classroom teaching for a while can see it.

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