Harnessing a Cyclone: Why Now?

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.

In this particular moment it’s safe to say we feel like fish flopping out of water, which is why we need to do everything we can to adapt to this challenging time. And for many of us, adapting means slowing down and giving ourselves permission to reflect—both in our personal and professional lives—as we have meaningful relationships in both places. What is important right now for me, my students, my school? Am I OK? Are my students OK? Are my colleagues OK? How can I connect with my own needs, those of my students, those of my peers? What can I do to check in, support, and make things better? We won’t be able to fix everything, but through reflection we can create pathways to follow, time and space to check in, and better prioritize and make decisions.

When considering my role—as an educator, daughter, partner, peer, community member, ally—and how reflection helps me be and do better, I have found this piece by Deepa Iyer to be especially meaningful. Given the current events driving educators to build and contribute to a more just and equitable society, it can feel overwhelming to find where to begin in questioning my own motives, impact, and a pathway forward for change. Deepa’s piece beautifully outlines the roles we might assume, situationally, in the fight towards social change, and poses poignant reflective questions to guide us on our journey. I know that something as entrenched as systemic racism cannot be dismantled by an individual alone. But, taking time and space to reflect on how I can best serve and support others has become an active part of my daily reflective practice.

A snapshot of one of Kelly’s recent lesson reflection. Photo by Kelly Gresalfi.

Reflection can be frustrating and challenging work. It is uncomfortable to examine ourselves and try to be objective, to celebrate our own strengths or pick apart the roots of our failures. But it is paramount to who I am and how I will grow tomorrow, the next day, and for many days to come. It is as much for myself as it is for those with whom I interact. I am hoping I am never “fully realized” as an individual or as a teacher. I am a learner as much as I am a teacher, and it keeps me motivated. As an educator, my impact on those in my community is tangible. The more I reflect, the better I will be, and the stronger my community becomes as a result.

At the final stop in our journey, we have the opportunity to look back at our work and think ahead to the future. Here are some questions to guide us this week:

  • Remote learning has redefined how we access and interact with our communities. How have you leaned into your existing or new communities over the past few months? What challenges have you faced?
  • Back-to-school in 2020 will likely look different from the way it has in past years. How are you rethinking your role as an educator and agent for social change?
  • How has your reflective practice evolved in the past few weeks? What will you keep working towards?

Thank you for joining me on our four-week reflection journey. Missed a section? Go back to weeks one, two, or three. And keep the conversation going all summer long with the hashtag #ExploreReflectConnect!

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