Our teaching teams will each be embarking on a new initiative over the coming months that I am excited to share with you. Over a period of two to three weeks, each team will chose one area of their classroom and teaching practice to use as the focus of study and reflection. Teachers will reflect together as a team on this area, and ultimately produce a short piece of reflective writing on what they have learned. They will share this piece of writing with the parents in their classroom. The idea and form of the Reflective Writing initiative came out of the school’s Leadership Team, a group of teachers and administrators who work together to strengthen and support the school’s mission.
Our hope is that Reflective Writing, and the process of thoughtful reflection and investigation that comes with it, will help teachers dig deeply into an area of the classroom that might otherwise be only glanced at. As such, I am asking teachers to take a break from their Daily Reflections during the two to three weeks during which they will be preparing their Reflective Writing. This will be a shift for all of us, as I know many of you have told me that opening up the Daily Reflection in your inbox is a highlight of your day. Time spent on creating these Daily Reflections will instead be used to prepare the Reflective Writing. Each team of teachers will be deciding when during the second half of the year they will begin this initiative; they will notify you when they decide.
Reflective Writing represents a departure from traditional understanding of the role of the teacher. Thomas Hatch, co-director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (and a professor of mine next semester at Teachers College), writes,
“The industries of education are designed to provide teachers with materials and information and to test them on what they do with it, not to help them share their own work with a wider audience. Instead, what is shared widely is the work on teaching – produced to a large extent by researchers and others – rather than the work by teachers.” Hatch continues that when teachers investigate pedagogy rather than digest the ideas of others, they can “develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between [their] pedagogy and [their] students”. Our hope for Reflective Writing is that it will allow our teachers to reflect, develop, and express their thoughts on a specific aspect of their teaching and share it with you.
Just like our students, there is always more for us to learn. Our systems and expectations must reflect that. Robert Schaefer, then dean of Teachers College, wrote that, “The school must be a center of inquiry – a producer as well as a transmitter of knowledge…an institution characterized by a pervasive search for meaning and rationality in its work. Fundamentally, such a school requires that teachers be freed to inquire into the nature of what and how they are teaching.” We strive for our school to be, as Schaefer writes, a “place not only where youngsters are pressured to learn a little of what is known but also where adults investigate matters not yet understood.”
Reflective Writing will hopefully allow our teachers to do just that – investigate matters not yet understood. Spending time with children, as you all know, brings up many moments of, “I wonder why that happened…” While our teachers’ schedule allows us to come together on discuss many of these, this will provide a new format and focus for each teaching team to dig into one of these many wonderings. As Schaefer continues, “There must be less concern for job information already discovered and far more interest in the strategies for acquiring new knowledge. How can children fully know the dynamism of learning if the adults around them stand still?”
I look forward to supporting our teachers in this new process and for each of you reading their reflections.