As the school year closes on what will be considered as one of the most challenging and stressful years in our careers, it is important that educators take time away to relax and reflect. Balance is key to a productive life and career that will leave a lasting impact. Excellence in education is about quality over quantity. Putting in many hours and always being productive does not necessarily mean that an educator is innovative or making a lasting impact. Relaxation is an investment that allows the body to recharge and the mind to get to a state where reflection is possible.
Reflection allows a skilled educator to evaluate current practices to see if they are leading to desired results. If practices are not producing the desired results, an educator can refine current practices or brainstorm new ideas that could lead to heightened student achievement and growth.
Relaxation is necessary for a person to be able to grow and adopt new ideas. Time off is earned and allows a person to recharge for the journey ahead. While off from work, educators should avoid frequent building checks. Calling the school is harmful in two ways. First, it sets the tone that the person does not trust colleagues to make decisions and run the school effectively. Effective leaders understand that trust grows leadership. As a leader builds leadership capacity among the staff and staff build capacity within one another, building leadership grows exponentially. A second way that school checks are harmful is that it keeps the mind on the managerial parts of the job and hinders relaxation needed to open the mind for reflection.
The Importance of Sufficient Time Away from Work
Time away from work is earned and should be enjoyed to its fullest. Teaching and administration are extremely stressful careers that demand so much daily. Unlike many other careers, educators continue to work at home through grading, lesson preparation, answering emails, and communicating with stakeholders. There is no contradiction between loving your job as an educator and looking forward to time away from work. While working in education brings daily joys and fulfillment, it also is draining to the point of exhaustion on many days.
Few people will be remembered decades down the line for the amount of time spent at work. Yet, some people will be remembered within their careers for making innovative and lasting changes that bettered the future and led to a higher quality of life. Further, people who truly focus on making the school a better place for staff and students do not draw attention to the quantity of work they complete.
An educator’s own children provide the best opportunities for reflection as educators often gain new perspective in skill development, learning struggles, and adjustment periods as they watch their own children progress through the education program they had a hand in creating. We often see the parts that need refinement as we view the system through the eyes of a parent. Our children and family are an opportunity to leave the world a better place beyond our own existence. As such, it is important that we do not leave our children and family only the time and effort that is leftover. Time cannot be bought back so we must make the most of our time through modeling a good balance of hard work and time away from work. Few will say at the end of life that they regret not spending enough time at work.
Ways to Relax
Relaxation is a topic that is best personalized. An educator should relax doing what he or she enjoys. Ways to relax include swimming, running, hiking, visiting the mountains, visiting the beach, reading, and enjoying lazy days at home. While relaxing, you are not wasting time as these activities have a purpose, which is to allow you to reenergize.
Why Reflection is a Vital Piece for Quality Instruction
Master teachers reflect constantly to determine ways to refine and improve future instruction to maximize student achievement and growth. Reflection is necessary for educators to grow and improve their skills. As such, all educators can improve and should never beat himself/herself up during the reflection process. Being critical would defeat the purpose of reflection, which is to allow yourself to arrive at a place that builds confidence to try new initiatives that are strategically designed to increase student learning outcomes. A growth mindset is a pre-requisite for reflection as the educator must be willing to evaluate current instructional practices and try new strategies. Reflection is vital because it is an absolute necessity for growth for educators and, in turn, students.
Ways to Reflect
Ways to reflect and relax are difficult to separate entirely as one needs to relax in order to reflect with an open mind. Often relaxation happens before reflection, but at times the activities intertwine nicely. Whether reflecting while reading a book, lying on the beach, sitting on the porch, or attending a professional conference, the educator most often needs to be removed from the traditional career setting. Once a person is relaxed, he or she is more ready to reflect.
How to Fit Reflection into a Summer Schedule
If reading helps you relax, try reading a best practices or school culture book that is an easy read and has deep meaning. This practice is an excellent way to combine relaxation and reflection. As you read, you will get energized and reflect upon the previous year. Next, consider what could have been done differently. Quickly jot down some goals to return to later so as not to take away from this activity being relaxing. Later, this time will prove very beneficial to school improvement planning. When returning to work, use your banked energy from relaxation so that you can withdraw resources to regroup, plan, and implement new initiatives aimed at increasing student achievement and maximizing growth.
Summer Book Studies
School book studies often bring about reflection through open dialogue that fosters both reflection and collegiality. The key to scheduling these studies during the summer is to design a schedule that allows flexibility. School leadership should work with stakeholders to select a book that will energize the faculty, promote self-reflection, and align with the school’s mission and culture.
Faculty retreats can be a wonderful way to promote reflection among the staff. The key to successful retreats is to get the date out early so that staff can plan vacations around the selected date. Further, retreats need to have the appropriate balance of fun, team building, and strategic planning. Strategic planning should come through a data review, reflection, and open discussion.