“Refinement: The process of removing impurities or unwanted substances from an element.”
You watch the last bus pull away. Students have their head half way out of the window waving feverishly and yelling, “have a great summer.” You pause, look around the empty parking lot and you are filled with different emotions—a touch of joy, some sadness, a hint of relaxation, and an ever so slight nudge of excitement. The school year is over! Now back in your office, you sit in your chair, exhausted, asking yourself, am I pleased with what we accomplished this past year? Did we do all that we set out to do? Could we have done more?
As an educational leader, reflecting on the school year with the goal of refining school practices, evaluating decisions, and looking forward to upcoming year begins with thoughtful questions and a desire to improve. This process begins with you—the leader. Honest self-talk is difficult, but a leader has to be sure there is alignment between his actions, routines, and expectations and the school’s goals. Reflecting on the year through the lens of self-awareness and self-discipline sets the stage appropriately for accountability and responsibility.
It’s difficult to process the entire year, but June is the perfect time to reflect on the school year and evaluate your successes and failures. The following questions are organized into three leveled areas, designed to guide your thinking and to help you determine the necessary changes that need to be made for the success of your organization, yourself, and your future.
The first level of questions are global and have you candidly identify whether or not the year was a success. They also push you to determine how you know and what you need to do differently. Each sub-question forces you to take your responses to a deeper level to ensure that your decisions moving forward are aligned to best practices.
Reflecting on the year
- Did you achieve your goals?
- Did you review them periodically?
- How often did you review your goals with your team?
- What worked and why?
- What was one thing you would have changed?
- What did you learn from the experience?
- What were some “things” you wanted to spend more time doing, but simply did not?
The second level of questions are arguably more difficult because they deal with self-reflection. Remember the words of Thoreau as you answer them, “Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be.”
Reflecting on yourself
- Did you improve as a leader? How do you know?
- What did you learn about yourself as a leader?
- How well did you serve others?
- What is one thing you would want people to know that you accomplished this year?
The last level of questions launch you into identifying and planning the upcoming year. Each question ties you down to just one or two areas of focus so you “refine” your thinking and planning to the most appropriate and critical areas.
Planning for the future
- What are two things you must do differently next year?
- What are three immediate, two near future, and one distant future need?
- What are the expected outcomes based on those needs?
- What are two areas you need help with?
- Who are you going to ask?
- What is one goal that you must achieve in the upcoming year?
As you reflect on the school year, remember the goal is improvement. No school year, month, or day, is perfect, but striving for perfection yields improvement, and the goal for administrators and teachers, just like our students, is to grow and learn. To refine, so that our “element” is the best it can be.
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