All schools, as well as all classrooms, are busy enterprises. There are the daily issues, the weekly schedules, the semester goals, and the yearly plan. Just as every teacher has the pressures of the curriculum, classroom management, reports, tests, grades and other issues, so the school has the pressures of staffing, personnel issues, student discipline, parent communication, budgets, and so forth.
What often gets ignored in this tyranny of the immediate is the reflective moment. People (and organizations) have a tendency to build momentum and move from one issue to the next, hardly pausing for a breath, much less a reflective moment. It is critical to the culture of the classroom and the school to take time for reflective moments – especially when tasks have been completed, goals have been met, and even when attempts end in failure. It is in the reflective moment that we find context and internalize what has been accomplished.
In working with a school that was making significant changes in not only over-all culture, but day-to-day practices, a consultant found the staff committee, late in the school year, significantly depressed, tired, and virtually non-responsive during the committee’s meeting. After assessing the situation and listening to the negative comments, the consultant suggested that they take a break for ten minutes. When they returned, they found a big chart on the board – at least ten feet in length – divided into the months of the school year. The consultant told them to document on the chart the events of the year, the work that they had done on the selected initiatives, and product(s) that had been produced. The group set to work and within half an hour they had filled the board with successfully completed documentation. The start of projects, the results, the number of faculty trained, the reports to the faculty and the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, and the number of students impacted.
They then paused and reflected on the totality of the efforts. The emotions in the room changed from depression to satisfaction bordering on elation. By documenting their work, even in this crude fashion, they realized how much work had been accomplished.