Taking Time for Self-Reflection: Your Beliefs

Anna Warren

New Year Image

It is September.

September. How did that happen? In my house, it’s time for football & band season. Evenings and weekends seem to fade all too quickly into the crisper, cooler air. School is in full swing. We are looking ahead to basketball season, the holidays, even 2016.

It seems like yesterday, but it was mid-July, when I encouraged you to close your office door and reflect, before your staff arrived, and before all those smiling little faces graced the doorstep of your school.

If you did take a deep breath in the midst of the heat, and you wrote down some of your core values, maybe you were more aware of them as you went about the hectic business of starting school. I hope you shared them with your staff. I bet they were grateful that you opened that door, allowing them a little peek into who you are - as a person, not just an educator. Go here to complete your summertime core values exercise, just a little late, if you wish.

So let’s not allow 2016 to arrive before we review your July reflections and do something with them.

Our core values drive our beliefs. Our beliefs drive our actions.

I value belonging. I believe that including each child and their family in an individualized, special way, positively affects performance in the classroom.

When I was teaching, I called parents, I went on home visits, and I wrote individual notes to kids. In my classroom, each day began with a community circle. I strived to connect with each of my students in some way as I greeted them and said good-bye each day, and I made sure my students felt connected to each other.

As a school leader, I didn’t leave the value of belonging hanging on the coat hook in my former 5th grade classroom. It came with me. Staff members at the school where I was principal might say, “Oh, yeah, that came with her alright!” We were all about inclusion activities. Site-based meetings, ARD meetings, PTA meetings, grade level meetings, any kind of meeting - started with a way to bring people together. And the classrooms? They looked pretty similar to my own classroom back in the day.

Take one of your core values, and think about your teaching. Your classroom. Your students.

What strikes you?

Expand your thinking to your school leader experience.

What do you value?

As a result, what do you believe that makes you do what you do?

Now, write a hope-filled belief statement, based on your thinking.

Here’s mine again:

I value belonging. I believe that including each child and their family in an individualized, special way, positively affects performance in the classroom.

Take time to write a few more.

I value commitment. I believe dedication is the key to overturning all challenges in our school.

I value being impactful, I believe every educator can make a positive difference with each and every child.

So, what’s next?

Time to put away the journal? Not so fast! Before you do, take those belief statements and put them where you will see them. Maybe even where they will hit you in the face on the more challenging days.

Next, engage your staff in this same exercise. Compare your belief statements. Contrast them. There will be many similarities, and at least as many differences. Discuss the differences. Define the common beliefs. Encourage grade levels and other teams in your school to share, celebrate, agree upon, and even discard belief statements within their own groups.

But the work’s not done yet.

Do a little more self-reflection here: Take a moment to consider how we bring who we are into the schoolhouse. We are all teachers, coming together to educate kids. We have a lot in common, but at the same time, there are many differences.

Your core values drive your beliefs and your beliefs drive your actions. If this is so, educators must weave their beliefs together to make sure every child is successful.

The good news is that through the self-reflection of your core values and beliefs, and the studying of those beliefs with your staff, you’re already steps ahead in the process of having a unified vision and mission for your campus. Let’s make sure we work on that before 2016!

Friday, September 4, 2015 Friday, September 4, 2015