Have you ever sat back and looked over your day or your week and said to yourself, “wow! I really rocked it today!”. Or, have you sat down to rest and as the moments of the selected time period run through your mind said, “ugh…I was not the educator I could have been this week”. I had one of those moment earlier this month. I was sitting in my living room while my daughter watched Sesame Street and was thinking about my very long day. And I simply looked at my husband and said, “I was NOT a good teacher this week. I need to get better at understanding that it’s the end of the year and everyone is wiped out – including the kids”. My thoughtful, wise husband just smiled at me and said, “there are times when all of us could be better – the key is recognizing it and doing something about it next time”.
He’s right, of course. We hold ourselves to such high standards as educators. We want to change the world, one child at a time. We are passionate about what we teach, serving our students by providing amazing lessons, and helping them to become independent, innovative, kind, thoughtful people for and in the world. Those are tall orders. Yet, we continually want to be perfect at them. And it’s impossible! You know those “educator of the year awards” that abound in the spring? Secretly, every educator believes themselves to deserve this award, mostly because we do! So we push and strive to be “on” every single moment of the day, yet we are human. We have emotions, too. And sometimes, they get the better of us. But, as my husband so gently reminded me, it’s not an err to be human. It’s a privilege to be able to make the mistakes from which we can learn and change.
My personal reflections of this school year are many and mostly saved for myself. I believe strongly in personal reflections being an honest inward look, and sometimes it’s difficult to do that if you’re preoccupied with sharing them with others. So, there are quite a few that have been written for my eyes only. However, there are some that I believe we can all grow from. If any of these reflections speak to you or to your year, please feel free to comment on what you’re planning to do to grow in that area. The more ideas, the merrier!
1.) Growth is Good. This year, I started this website as a way to record my trials and errors in arts integration, to advocate for the use of arts integration as a curricular method, and to help others in their journeys with this program. I am truly astonished, humbled and honored to have you all as my visitors and collaborators on this journey. I feel a powerful connection to my self-created PLN through Twitter, my online classes, and this website. In essence, this website has helped me to continue my professional growth on my own terms, which is the most influential way that we learn. So, thank you for being a part of my growth this year!
2.) I need to practice the art of patience. I use a lot of various artforms throughout my days, but patience is an art that I have yet to truly embrace, much less master. From losing my cool in the classroom from time to time, to wanting to get everything done “right this minute”, patience is definitely a struggle for me. It truly is an art to take a breath, step out of yourself, and assess the situation for what it truly is. One of my goals for next school year is to actively practice patience within my teaching and throughout my life.
3.) You can only change yourself. As a teacher, part of the very essence of our job is to help change things. Change perceptions, change attitudes, change people for the better by providing them with knowledge. Sometimes, I get this confused. Sometimes, I think it’s me that changes things. In reality, the knowledge is what preempts the change and the person chooses to change or not based on that knowledge. I am simply the carrier and the deliverer of knowledge. I cannot change anyone else; I only have the power to change myself based on the knowledge that I have. This is a type of paradigm shift that will take some getting used to, but I think it will help me to be a better teacher in the long run. I will be able to focus more on the information and the delivery and worry less about how people use it.
4.) Art transcends us all. As a music teacher, I am used to teaching with the arts. Yet, I can get bogged down in the technique and not simply allow my students or myself enjoy the art for its own sake. It’s amazing what happens when I allow my students to simply listen, or draw, or watch, or move. The fluidity of which they accept and mold the art into something new that the world has never seen before today is fascinating to be present for. A speaker at Westminster Choir College’s recent commencement said, “human beings need three things: food, shelter and meaning. The arts provide the meaning”. The connection that the arts provide is real and everlasting – it is good to remember that!
So there you have it! My reflections list for this school year. As practicing educators, we should all be reflecting, changing, and growing from our experiences. I’d love to hear about yours!
Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.