Groundhog Day

Remember the movie Groundhog Day? Bill Murray played Phil Connors,  a television reporter covering groundhog Punxsutawney Phil’s emergence from his burrow to look for his shadow. Phil relived the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again. He had the same experiences and conversations daily until over the course of time he realized what a schmuck he had been and started to grow as a person. In one incident that repeated daily for him, a child was climbing a tree and fell onto the sidewalk beside him. He coldly stepped around and continued on his way. Through his continuous reliving of Groundhog Day, Phil was forced to reflect on the type of person he had become. Over time his actions changed from self absorption to caring. Finally, he caught the child, helped an elderly lady, did the Heimlich Maneuver to save someone’s life in a restaurant. When he changed, when his core values grew and he became a caring person, his life started to move forward again.

In one regard my teaching career has been my own personal Groundhog Day. Sure students changed, subjects changed, grade levels, colleagues, they all changed and moved forward, but, my teaching practice evolved much more slowly and in some cases devolved. Some best practices were forgotten, new research was not included and some unproductive methods creeped into my tool kit. It’s not that I didn’t work hard, or care about the students, because I did. What happened was the endless stream of issues that come up each school day, the time pressures of papers and parents, staff meetings and lesson prep, and a million other things directed my energy elsewhere or distracted me from reflecting on my teaching.

I think many teachers go through their teaching lives in a similar fashion. They work hard, serve their students’ needs, and love and support them as best they can. They have spectacular successes, heart wrenching failures and everything in between the two. What teachers need is the same thing that Phil Connors  needed, time to reflect.

Deep reflection on one’s practice can be a gold mine of information for a teacher. It can make our strengths and weaknesses glaringly apparent. Lesson planning, classroom management, student success, all come under scrutiny when we take the time to think about what we do each day. Is it working? Does it help my students? Can I change that to make it better,or is there something I can replace it with? Teachers are a conscientious and caring lot and whenever we take a critical look at our work, we understand our processes more fully and make changes to help our students.

Reflection time is something that is rare in most schools. While many of us think about what we’re doing, deep and ongoing reflection is not a regular part of most teachers’ workday. With the implementation of TAP, teachers are being asked to regularly reflect. I see teachers at two school sites wrestling with new and old information, critically examining aspects of what they do each day and then incorporating new methods or resurrecting ones they have used in the past, all to better reach their students.

The message behind the movie is straightforward. Lack of self-improvement is stagnation and life at a stand-still. Reflection is helping us move beyond Groundhog Day and that’s great for our kids!

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One Response to “Groundhog Day”

  1. It is sooo hard to take the time to reflect. I am even looking at parent conferences in a different light. I want the parents and even the student to take more time to reflect. Thanks for sharing and getting us all to think a little bit:)

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