Teacher to Teacher: Personal Goal Setting & Self-Reflection to Welcome the New Year!
by Lynne R. Dorfman
The new year is a great time for both students and teachers to reflect on literacy practices and set some new goals. I decided to share my reflections and goals with you, and hope you all will have some time to do the same. Reflection and goal-setting is something we can do for ourselves, and it is always worth the effort!
I have evolved as a teacher over a career that spans 38 years of classroom teaching, facilitation of the K-5 gifted program, and extensive work as a writing extension teacher. This year is my 6th year as an independent consultant who often serves as a literacy coach. Perhaps my biggest reason for wanting to be in this role is my commitment to the changes in instruction that take place when you put into practice what you’ve learned. I look back on my experiences with the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project, and I know how important it is to “think big but start small!” – as Michael Fullan suggests.
When you begin to understand something new, you try to also figure out how it fits into what you are already doing. I think about the addition of portfolios in my own classroom, and how I first started with just a writing portfolio before eventually creating a portfolio across the content areas as well. As a literacy coach, I had to recognize when a teacher gets it – has this new understanding, and is ready to put it into practice. Then I had to think about what resources and supports he/she will need to be successful.
I have seen so many changes in the last 30 years. It is a constant in the lives of professional educators. Teachers, like their students, are on a continuum of learning. They face new challenges with each group of new students. The quality I rely on the most is my enthusiasm and excitement for learning new things and trying to imagine the possibilities. I think my many years of service and commitment to my own learning through graduate courses and conference attendance has created an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. It is also my constant search for valuable professional reads that helps to keep me well-informed and always thinking about new ways to engage students, to deliver instruction, and to use formative assessment effectively. Engaging in collegial conversations with staff members about instructional practices and how to use assessment to drive instruction is key and should be an ongoing practice. I am willing to put in the extra time, and I am willing to proceed in small steps in order to reach a worthy destination. I see the purpose of coaching as developing confidence and expertise in teachers so that they are able to meet the needs of the diverse learners in their classroom.
I am always searching for ways to more regularly document the work that I am doing. In Upper Moreland, I tried to fill a literacy coaching log on a Friday afternoon, but I knew I was not writing down half the things that I did. My schedule as a classroom teacher was steady and predictable. As a literacy coach, I found that sometimes I was notified about a meeting I was expected to attend with an administrator the same day or with one day’s notice. My plans had to be changed, and things can get messy. I liked the idea of making my schedule transparent so that everyone could know where I would be and what I would be doing. In retrospect, using an app to do some audio recording would certainly be a great option. The best time to talk or write about aha moments is right after they occur. Reflecting on the value can come later.
My two goals at this present point in time are to be faithful to my literacy coaching log when I am in districts for a long-term commitment, recording activities and conversations in a notebook I can carry around with me, and transferring to my electronic file on Fridays. My second goal is to make a commitment to the “we” philosophy – helping teachers solve problems they are unable to solve alone by listening, questioning, and making suggestions to help teachers work through their problems through metacognitive conversations with their colleagues and the literacy coach. Of course, my third goal is about writing time. I am trying to use 5:00 a.m. to 5:40 a.m. daily (or at least five times a week) as writing time for my blog and other ongoing projects. Morning time is most productive for me, and it is the easiest time to guarantee.
Now it is your turn!
Lynne Dorfman is a PAWLP fellow and independent literacy consultant. She is currently working on two new book projects. Additionally, she is working with Stacey Shubitz, her co-author for Welcome to Writing Workshop, on a writing curriculum that uses writing workshop structures.