Harnessing a Cyclone: Reflect on Successes, Not Just Challenges

This post was written by elementary educator Kelly Gresalfi.

This is a four-part series, with installments released weekly. We encourage you to follow Kelly’s journey this month and challenge you to engage in the questions at the end of each segment using the hashtag #ExploreReflectConnect.


I feel it necessary to note that reflection isn’t just something I do when things go wrong; in fact, I tend to start the process from the other end of the spectrum with what is going right. This space might be the most natural place to begin your reflective practice, especially at a time like this, when we are all facing daunting challenges as educators. So start with a strength: what is going well? Where do we notice students and peers reacting most positively? Pinpoint one thing, then consider how you can apply it in other areas of your work and life.

For me, I know a strength I bring to my class of 3rd and 4th graders is that I am energetic: I sing, dance, play music and games, and I can see it gets my students excited about learning. During my reflection the other week I thought: Now that we are doing remote learning, how can I incorporate that strength which worked so well in the classroom? I decided to watch for moments on the video chats where kids were looking away and seemed less engaged, and use that as an opportunity to get silly together. Instead of typing an answer, I prompt them to engage using motion. We take brain breaks, stretch, dance, draw and share creations on camera. I give them challenges to build things from objects in their home and they proudly show off their creations while I watch and laugh in approval.

I am doing my best to keep things flexible and get students out of their seats, and that is a strength of mine I can lean into even from afar. The situation is far from ideal, but I know what brightens my students’ days and through reflection I have been able to pinpoint these areas to lean into each day.

Thank you for joining me for the third stop in our four-part reflection journey. I’d love to hear what unique skills and techniques you use to ensure you’re successful both inside and outside of the classroom. Here are some questions to guide us this week:

  • Reflection is as much about wrestling with challenges as it is about recognizing strengths and successes. What is a technique, experience, or moment from distance learning that you felt was successful? How did you know?
  • Thinking about this particular success, how might you amplify and grow it this fall, either in person or virtually?
  • One way to discover a success might be from direct student feedback, which includes them in the reflection and planning process. How do you (or might you!) solicit feedback from students? How has it transformed your practice?

Come back next week for the final portion of this series!

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