At 2014 National School of Character, Smith Street School, reflection is so important that the school made it one of its core values. Principal, Lynnda Nadien, reflects on the impact that reflection has had on the students, the teachers and the school culture.
by Lynnda Nadien
As building principal, I am extremely proud of my students’ accomplishments in terms of their academic and character development. This year alone, I have witnessed children fundraising, sharing ideas, and literally directing programs to support our school touchstone which includes respect, responsibility and reflection.
Taking time to reflect is very powerful for the entire operation. This allows us to know what works, and what does not work. Reflection has allowed us to build our team’s capacity for all facets of social and emotional well-being of children. Children are highly involved in all aspects as well and they have developed skills to be decision makers and to produce high quality work in all areas. Reflection is an ongoing process, as each day is a challenge and we feel that we have high expectations and each child is meeting those expectations, via reflection. For example, a first grader said she knew her “decision was not a good one”, but “if I can think about it, maybe I can do better tomorrow.”
Many of our children will say, “doing more for others makes me feel ‘confident’.” Even in the lower grades, the children will refer to themselves as “givers” to others and will tell you that “being kind” is a good thing!
The majority of our children are involved in service projects and our data shows that they are excelling. Academics have improved and our discipline infractions are slim to none! Children continue to be more reflective and understand that correcting negative behaviors is a goal in some cases, but that they can always “do better tomorrow.”
Teachers realize that modeling is a key factor in this, as there is no handbook for teaching respect. One child in grade five even said to me that ‘you can’t really define’ good behavior, but you can ‘observe a good or kind person.’
Reflection is ongoing for all teachers and administrators. Teachers have been thinking more critically and making those connections in several ways. One is using reflective practice options, such as ‘Did that lesson really work for all students? If not, How can I refine my lesson?’
We have also worked specifically to examine our own practices within the character education framework and have frequent discussions related to each initiative. Luckily, we discuss our goals and have decided that none of us believe in ‘punitive’ measures and strive for a climate in which we can all say, ‘I did not think of it that way’ and ‘Did you notice how involved the students were in this project’?
Reflection is an ongoing process and reflection has clearly improved our school climate because we have made the effort to seek improvement in the manner in which we speak and interact as a school team. We may agree to disagree but we all dedicate our day to our children and being the best that we can be!