Friday, December 21, 2012

Being reflective

One of attributes of the IB learner profile is reflective.  This applies to all of us working in an IB school:  the students, the teachers and the leadership.  This is how the IB defines reflective people:

They give thoughtful consideration to their own learning and experience. They are able to assess and understand their strengths and limitations in order to support their learning and personal development.
As we are coming up to the end of the year, as as I'm half way through my first year in a new job, I decided today that it was time to reflect on the past 12 months, my strengths, limitations and my own personal development.  Today I also followed a link on Twitter to Marc and Angel's blog which outlines the 12 big mistakes that it is likely that most people made this year.  As I read them through it occurred to me that the first half of the year was definitely characterized by these mistakes, but that half way through the year I switched jobs and that none of these apply any more.  As Marc points out "mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom".  Certainly I have made mistakes, certainly it has been painful, and certainly I am now a much wiser person as a result.  Let's consider what I've learned:

  • I needed to take more risks.  Working in Switzerland was a pretty "safe" option for me 4 years ago when I made the decision to move there.  I also wanted to go back to Europe for family reasons.  For a long while, when my job there didn't pan out as I wanted it to,  I wanted to stay in Europe too.  However when I was offered my current job in India I didn't hesitate for long.  I'd lived in India before, I'd made the decision when I was there before to become a teacher, I felt like it was karma that was moving me back there.  The risk wasn't moving - the school itself is known in international circles as one of the best schools in the world -  the risk was accepting a job on a campus of the school that hadn't even been built at that point.  I took the risk - life has improved tremendously - the school opened on time and it is amazing.
  • I gave in to fears and negativity.  In the first part of the year I allowed myself to become stressed by the situation I was in and this stress was destroying all the good things about me as a teacher.  When I made the decision to move on my thoughts became more positive, and as Marc writes "thoughts drive your actions and your reality will catch up with your thinking."  It occurred to me the other day that there is not a day that has passed since I left my old job where I haven't been truly grateful for my new life.  There is not a day where I haven't been inspired to be a better person and a better teacher.  Fear and negativity are things of the past.
  • I was paralyzed by uncertainty, which was a by-product of what one ex-colleague described as "professional suicide", and I had to learn to relax and trust my intuition, even though this was hard because I'd made what I'd thought was a good decision to move to Europe some years earlier and it turned out to be a bad decision - so it was hard to trust my own judgement again.  However in doing so, as Marc explained, I ended up being the right person, in the right place, in the right time, doing the right thing.
  • I have learned to let things go instead of letting things consume me.   Some of my ex-colleagues tried to tell me this, but I didn't want to let go of what was right because I felt in that situation I would lose my self-respect.  What I have learned about myself from the dark days at the start of this year is that it takes courage to do the right thing, it even takes courage to walk away from a bad situation when it might be easier simply to put up with it, but that I have the courage to let go.
  • I let people drain me.  Marc writes that you have to choose wisely because people either inspire you or they drain you.  I think what I wanted was to be accepted and appreciated as a professional who had a lot to offer, yet I felt I was being squashed into a smaller and smaller hole which sapped my energy.  Now I feel I have a lot of autonomy, responsibility and trust.  Now I'm working with inspiring people who are constantly raising the bar and who are saying that good just isn't good enough because all children deserve excellent teachers.  Now I'm actively encouraged to develop myself and move forward as a professional. I like the way the bar is moving upwards all the time - I like jumping higher and higher.  I love the way that Marc writes that "you never have to sacrifice your dignity for your destiny."
  • My expectations were too high for my situation.  This was the choice I had:  improve your situation or lower your expectation.   I improved my situation.
  • I lacked the courage to make mistakes that I could learn from as I was in a culture that regarded mistakes as failures.  Now I'm in a place that believes in exploring and prototyping and finding out what works and what doesn't.  Finding out that something doesn't work is a stop closer to finding out what does work.
It has been an interesting year - and I'm energized by what lies ahead up to the end of the school year.  First there's TEDxASB, there's Un-plugged which is focused on brain research, there's the Flat Classroom Leadership Workshop, there's the R&D groups, there's Critical Friends, there's facilitating an online course through the ASB Online Academy, there's presenting at ISTE at the end of this school year - and who knows what other wonderful opportunities will come along in my second year here?  I feel like I'm working much harder than I ever have before and yet I'm buzzing with enthusiasm and energy.  When I reflect on how I felt this time last year having just accepted a job at ASB it's hard to realize I'm the same person - but I am - I've just grown an awful lot in the meantime.

Happy 2013 everyone - here's to moving on!

Photo Credit:  Izzy the Ecstatic by Evan Stoecker, 2008  AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

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