One of my favourite moments in my practice are those times when I can sit for a few minutes and just reflect on what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, how I thought about things in the past and where my learning has taken me. Now, let’s be clear, these moments are few and far between (unfortunately) within the whirlwind of a school day but it’s worth finding the time because I often come away with a few “aha!” conclusions. I’d like to share one such moment I had today.
I was thinking back to my first years of teaching when I believed that I not only had to be the best at what I did but I had to travel that road alone. Not because I didn’t want the support (are you kidding? I knew I needed all the help I could find) but because I felt that as a professional who was leading these young minds in their quest to learn about the world around them, I had to be the know-it-all guide. Eight years down the road, I now love the feeling of being in a state of continuous and perpetual learning along with my students. So what caused this shift in my thinking?
My own growth has been exponential and I owe much of it to a special group of people I l call my “critical friends.” This is a term introduced by Andrew Hutchinson, a sector consultant, in 1998. A critical friend is defined as “a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.”
I have been fortunate to work with critical friends as teacher colleagues, administrators, instructional leaders, professors and sometimes my own students. As I sat back today, I realized that their feedback about my practice, the collaboration between us and their willingness to guide me as I work to find solutions and new goals to reach is one of the greatest tools I possess on my own quest in education.
Not a bad “aha” moment for a five minute break
If you’re interested in further reading, this article by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick that summarizes the process.