Do you remember why you became a teacher? What vision guided your dreams back then, and when was the last time you stopped teaching long enough to look back on the road you’ve traveled? Are you on the right path? Have you lost your way? Summer is the perfect time to begin realizing your professional vision, and reflective journaling can help.
I often celebrate the last days of school by spending a long afternoon in our local bookstore with my daughters. There are few things that work the kinks out of my neck better than the silence that weaves its way through a room full of readers–particularly summer readers.
For a brief smattering of weeks, the teachers who often take up space in the café area swap their stacks of school papers for thick new mysteries, and even the college kids close up their laptops long enough to stretch out with a book that is far more silly than cerebral. It’s the perfect place to exhale at the end of a harried and harsh winter.
It’s the perfect place to reflect, too.
I buy myself a new journal every June. I’ve done this since I started earning my own paycheck. It’s one of my favorite indulgences. I keep a few different writer’s notebooks, but this one is special. I use it to check in with myself about the work that I’m doing. I use it to ask myself why I’m doing it.
Does it align with that vision that drove me to teach?
Does it make a difference for anyone else?
Am I on the right path?
Have I lost my way?
These are some of the most important questions a teacher could ask herself, but when we don’t have time to chew on them a bit, they can be incredibly anxiety producing. That’s why I’m inviting you to realize your professional vision with reflective journaling this summer.
Go to the bookstore this week. Soak up the energy and the quiet that you find there. Then, buy yourself a journal and let yourself sit and think and write a while. Prompts like these might inspire you:
- Why did you become a teacher? What was your vision then? Has it changed? If so, how? If not, why not? Are you living the dream you created for yourself? What would you need to change in order to say yes to that question?
- When you remember the year behind you, which experiences filled you with the strongest feelings? Write about them. What do those feelings reveal about who you are as a teacher, how the profession is influencing you, and the path you are traveling professionally? What do you need to do in response?
- Rather than venting frustration or celebrating your accomplishments, use your reflective journal to brainstorm potential solutions or plan for sustainability. What can you do differently? What do you hope to continue? How will you grow from here?
Vision is the most important element of a high quality professional learning plan. Do you have one of those for yourself? Time is precious, and so are your dreams. Use your reflective journal to define your professional vision. Then, begin sketching your own professional learning plan. Be sure the two align.
Use what you learn to model that kind of alignment for others in your system as well. Organizational vision is bigger, but the work of alignment is just as powerful. Be a dreamer this summer so that you can be a doer during the school year.
Even better–be someone who knows how to inspire others to live and lead and teach with vision.
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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.