“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” — Søren Kierkegaard
I cannot imagine going through each day and not taking time to reflect on the day’s events. It is through the process of reflection that I have the ability to move forward. Not taking time to reflect is like going through the day without ever looking in the mirror. How would you know if you’re truly ready to face the future if you never look at what you’re reflecting?
On a daily basis, I find it pretty easy to reflect on the day. I think about my actions throughout the day and think about what I did well, what I could improve on for next time, and how are today’s actions going to affect tomorrow?
However, there are also those times when I reflect on things on a bigger and broader timeline. For example, I just wrapped up my 11th year in education and my first semester as an administrator in a new district. A bigger span of time calls for bigger and broader questions. Here are the things I think about when looking back on a school year.
What did I learn this year?
The year that I stop learning is the year that I need to retire from education. Make a list of the top things you learned this year. It doesn’t matter if you learned it from your students, colleagues, the Internet, articles, blogs, conferences, Twitter, nature, your kids, etc. That’s the beauty of learning. It can happen everywhere.
What did I give this year?
You cannot just take in and never give back; that’s what the Dead Sea does. The Dead Sea takes water in but has no outlets and that is why it has a high concentration of salt and almost no organic life can survive in it. It’s never enough for me to be a learner without also being a giver. This can be giving of my knowledge, my expertise, my finances, my time, etc. Not just how much did I give to work, but to my family and to my community.
Who did I inspire this year?
There is no success without a successor. That kind of goes in line with the saying, if nobody is following you, then you’re not really leading. The majority of my actions are a result of the people who inspire and lead me. Therefore, I should be able to look back and see people that I have inspired. This is not an arrogance thing, it’s an effectiveness thing. I want and need to be an effective leader. This question always starts with my family, then it moves on to my work and my community.
If I am learning, giving, and inspiring others, then I feel like I am succeeding. These questions help me look back at the previous school year and help me make decisions as I move forward.
What questions do you use to help you reflect back on the previous year? Month? Week? Year? How does the process of reflection help you become a better person?
Brett Clark (@Mr_Brett_Clark) is the Director of Technology for Greater Clark County Schools. He is a conference presenter, keynote speaker and host of the Greater Clark Connected Conference. Check out his blog, Education Dreamer.