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Professional Artistry—The Reflective Teacher

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

To reflect on our progress, we first need a to envision a finished reference point.


I have started many school years with the intention to keep the last column of my plan book blank so that I could reflect on the lessons I taught at the end of each day. What I wrote in those squares was usually a brief judgment of myself or the class: “That sucked” or “Don’t do next year!” Eventually, those judgments got shortened to happy or sad faces, and then nothing at all. As teachers, we understand that reflection is a practice that will help us develop and grow, and, ideally lead us to make better instructional decisions in the future, but our reflections are either surface (explaining what happened) or judgmental. But judgment is not reflection. Reflection requires an initial vision, an abstract representation of the ideal—much like creating a painting from a photograph. Our vision is the photograph; the painting may take many forms—artists use many styles, and our reflection on the creation of the vision then becomes the teacher’s professional artistry. Reflection can only take place from within the context of a vision; without an initial image, there is nothing to reflect. To take that further, without a context for that vision, the reflection is simply a memory. To become a reflective practitioner, as Christopher Johns explains, means that we do not simply consider what happened in a particular situation, but that we actually become critical about our actions from within a situation, in order to close the gap between our vision and our experience executing that vision. In sum, we must first create a reference for the ideal and then reflect on the ways we work toward that ideal. I’ve found it useful to track both of these together in the same place, so that at the end of a period of time or after reaching a goal, the vision and reflections of my movement toward that vision creates a portrait of my “professional artistry” as a teacher. Here are five suggestions for places and ways to track vision and reflection together. Think of them as canvases on which to create your own professional artistry:

1. Chatbooks

As a visual learner, I appreciate the photographic nature of Chatbooks, a service that takes photos from a variety of streams and automatically generates beautiful, affordable photo books. You can set Chatbooks to generate a book for the hashtag #reflection on your Instagram feed, for example, and it will beautifully print the photos and captions in books sent automatically after 60 photos. What a great way to view vision and reflection in action!

2. The Ink & Volt Planner

This one will appeal to luddite teachers who appreciate pen and paper. Ink & Volt planners combine calendar planning, notetaking, goal-setting, and habit cultivating all in one beautiful book. You can use the included reflection questions to help you generate your vision and the calendar pages to track your experience of that vision.

3. Gratitude Journal

There are so many benefits to practicing gratitude each day—spiritually, physically, and mentally, we are uplifted by being thankful. This gratitude journal (another product by Ink & Volt) is perfect for reflective teachers to guide vision-casting and to focus reflections on positive actions and reactions. The journal is filled with inspiration and prompts the writer each day to briefly describe the day and then write what was inspiring about what happened. So simple, but so effective!

4. One Second Every Day

This is a video diary app that prompts the user to record 1 second (ish) of their lives every day. After a series of videos, users can create mash-ups that show each bit in succession. I recommend first setting a vision, and then using 1SE to reflect on something specific and relevant every day: a piece of video of a significant movement toward or away from your initial vision. After a week or a month or a marking period, you can view the complication of “seconds” and reflect on them as a whole.

5. Mosaic Instructional Planning

One of the best things about our lesson planning platform, Mosaic, is that reflection opportunities are built in. Way more than “blank-planbook-squares-2.0,” Mosaic offers step-by-step guidance to create a vision (your unit and lesson plans) and provides a space for collaborative discussion, and personal reflection. Use this link to request a free trial of Mosaic that you can use free for a month to start practicing your professional artistry.

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