Monday, February 9, 2009

Reflect Your Best

Reflection is a critical attribute of effective professionals. Seems, all my life, I have been reflecting. When I was in Brownies (Girl Scouts) there was a ceremony in which the words, I do not recall, but at the end my troop and I got to peer over the edge of the flora and fauna and saw ourselves-the only person we could change. There was a mirror on the floor with its edges hidden by plants. As a student teacher, I had six 42-minute periods one semester. Three of which were 8th grade math - so there was an opportunity to quickly reflect between class periods to adjust instruction to enhance results. During that time, my cooperating teacher supported me in my reflection with questions or observations. As a teacher, department head, and later a writer I have chosen to use reflection as an internal process to enhance my effectiveness.

In this month's issue of the Virginia Journal of Education, there is an article that I co-authored with James Stronge (author of Qualities of Effective Teachers) on reflection.The "aha" for me in the article was classifying thoughts by their reflective state. Sometimes just having a label to attach to a thought can help in the processing of the event. The three states are: emotional, acknowledging, and questioning. Often times, a reflection involves multiple reflective states, but once clear of the emotional response, I feel free to explore the issue. The article addresses in a nutshell developing a reflective process through the use of three questions (an idea I borrowed from my mother who always started her classes with three questions on a topic) as well as how to support colleagues' reflective practice.

The three questions are:
  1. What went well today and why?
  2. What could have gone better and why?
  3. What do I want to remember for the future?

Certainly there are otherways to reflect. The three questions get you started. For me, the questions provide a frame to decompress from work as well as hold onto what was worthwhile and process what needed to be better.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

3 Pet Peeves about Applications

Ever complete an application and wonder “why did they ask that?”

This blog is inspired by my son’s preschool application as several of the inquiries connected to pet peeves I have about job applications that have arisen as I have reviewed them in my work with school systems.

Pet Peeve #1: High School Graduation Date
My son’s prospective preschool (he has not been accepted yet for the 2010-2011 year) uses the same application for preK-12. So there are requests as there should be about prior schools and the dates attended. I just wrote “not applicable.”

The inquiry though made me think about job applications for teachers and administrators that ask for the high school and date of graduation. For positions requiring a college degree, high school graduation date is not job-relevant. In fact, knowing the high school graduation date makes it easy to figure out how old an applicant is given that many U.S. high school graduates are between 17 and 19. So age discrimination could be an issue.

Pet Peeve #2: Social Security Number (SSN)

On the application, the school asked for his SSN (I wrote in that it would be provided upon his admission). Long story short, identity theft is too common to just have social security numbers sitting on applications. A lot of employers put a space for SSN and note that it is optional for the application, and then require it as a condition of employment. Once a job offer is made, the provision of a SSN is necessary. If the SSN is required for being considered for employment there usually is a statement referencing the Federal Privacy Act along with an explanation.

Pet Peeve #3: Hobbies and Extra Curricular Activities
On my son’s application, I indicated that his hobbies included playing with toy cars and his extracurricular activities consisted of outdoor fun such as sliding and riding his bike. Yet what job-relevant reason would a school system need to know an applicant’s hobbies? Perhaps it is for coaching or club sponsorship – the school system may be looking for teaching-related activities that an applicant does. Personally, I like items to be clear-if hiring a teacher ask teaching-related inquiries; if hiring a coach use a different application to gather information about expertise in that realm.

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