Klea Scharberg

Reflecting on How We Learn, Teach, and Lead

To me, summer has always seemed to be filled with opportunities. The weather gets warmer, the days are longer, children are on break from school, holidays are celebrated, and families and friends gather and go on vacation. Summer, particularly for educators, is also a time to look back on the past year—and look forward to the coming one. What worked, what didn't, and what can be improved?

This summer I had the opportunity to observe educators in three settings as they extended their learning through professional development, connected and reconnected with each other and their passion for teaching, and strengthened their leadership skills. At ASCD's Conference on Teaching Excellence in June, attendees were driven to learn about the latest trends in education and engage in more in-depth discussion of proven strategies.

In July, ASCD's Whole Child Network met at its summer institute to bring teams from each school together to share their experiences, delve deeper into how to support change in their classrooms and school communities through a whole child approach, and continue the planning process for the next school year. That same week, ASCD leaders gathered at the annual Leader to Leader (L2L) Conference to collaborate and strengthen their personal and professional leadership skills.

The educators at each of these events took the opportunity to reflect on why they teach and took action to improve how they best serve their students and each other. I asked a few of them to share their thoughts on what reflection means to them as learners, teachers, and leaders:

  • "I want my preservice students to be forward thinking and plan for every student all the time. It is not easy to do, and I am constantly looking for better ways to instill this mindset in my students." Christina Yuknis, assistant professor at Gallaudet University, 2011 emerging leader, and professional interest community facilitator
  • "By reflecting on our actions and decisions—both effective and ineffective—we have the opportunity to ensure that every decision we make or any action we take is truly with the best interest of children at heart." Patrick Miller, superintendent of Greene County (N.C.) Schools and North Carolina ASCD President
  • "Reflection is an essential aspect of the learning process for all of us. Failure is simply a starting point—our first attempt in learning." Matthew Mingle, director of curriculum and instruction for Madison (N.J.) Public Schools, 2011 emerging leader, and New Jersey ASCD Board Secretary
  • "As I reflect on my years as a teacher, I have seen many changes and new innovations. Being able to watch my students gain new information and assimilate this knowledge in the real world is one of the greatest rewards of being a teacher." Verneth Patterson, Bahamas ASCD Executive Director
  • "My decisions and my actions are purposeful and result from lessons learned personally and from best practice of others." Sue Kessler, executive principal of Hunters Lane Comprehensive High School in Nashville, Tenn., and Outstanding Young Educator Award honoree
  • "Reflection is the compass that charts our path and guides our journey." Mary Beth Luttrell, Japan ASCD Executive Director

Educating the whole child and planning for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement requires us to be whole educators who take the time to recharge, reflect, and reinvigorate. How did you reflect on your practice this summer and what goals have you set for the new school year?

Over the summer months, we looked at educators' need to reflect on the past school year, refresh their passion for teaching, recharge their batteries, and look ahead. Listen to the Whole Child Podcast hosted by Kevin Scott—a former history teacher and current director of constituent services at ASCD—and featuring guests Peter Badalament, principal of Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts, and Jason Flom, director of learning platforms at whole child partner Q.E.D. Foundation.

Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read this month's newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

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