My cousin Kevin, vice-principal and educator extraordinaire, has been asking the following question during interviews at his school. What is the most important quality of an effective teacher? His favorite answer is "reflective." I like it as well. A reflective teacher should never lose their effectiveness because they'll constantly be asking the right questions to that "better way." Our conversation about this particular teacher quality and my recent summer reads inspired me to venture into the new year with four reflective questions on my radar.
I can't help but think of the unexamined wallpaper that Donalyn Miller challenges teachers to think about in The Book Whisperer. No matter where the practice originated, whether I was taught that way, a mentor teacher suggested it, it came from across the hall, or it's the way I've always done it, I must ask "Why?" If the answer doesn't align with what's best for the children, then the wallpaper's coming down.
This question hasn't been part of my reflective repertoire before, but I love the possibilities it offers for students and for teachers. It challenges me to think outside of my comfort zone and perceived limitations. What if (fill in the blank)?
What's best for kids?
It's really the bottom line, isn't it? It's why we all do what we do day in and day out. Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome remind us in Kids Deserve It! that "Schools don't exist so adults can have jobs. Schools exist for students." It seems like the most obvious statement ever, but if I truly believe it, then my daily practice had better prove so.
What is best for this kid?
This question obviously takes the previous one to the next level. I must remember that every child deserves to have this question answered on their behalf. There's no giving up on anyone.
There's such a varied number of questions we teachers could be asking ourselves. Whether I've listed your favorites or not isn't necessarily the point. The point is be effective by being reflective. Our kids deserve our best, and we must continually seek it. What will you be asking yourself this year?