By the time you read this, you may be carrying out your New Year’s resolutions enthusiastically, or you may have given up on them.
Most New Year’s resolutions are about personal improvement – for example, saving money, exercising, eating healthily or spending more time with friends and family. Resolutions represent good intentions about how we want to live.
Have you made any resolutions for your professional life? A suggestion follows.
Colleagues who offer professional learning sessions to educators and I agree that many participants, when viewing video clips of practice or visiting services to observe practice, tend to criticise and find fault with what they are seeing and hearing. My experience has been that, even when the instructions are to suspend judgment and observe objectively, some participants can’t help being negative. It’s as though they are unable to look and listen without judging, and that they are keener to criticise than to praise.
Is this your experience? If it is, why do you think occurs?
Perhaps criticising makes us feel superior: ‘I could do better than that’, or ‘They’re not so good after all’.
Is it defensiveness, borne out of a natural tendency to want to avoid finding out that we might need to change, to improve?
Is it fear of finding out that practice as an educator and in our workplace isn’t as good as we thought it was?
Two important points about the many videos of educators’ practice that I’ve been involved in developing and/or have used in professional learning sessions are:
- It takes courage for an educator or a service to agree to be videoed and to expose their practice to others. It’s a generous gesture on their part.
- The purpose of showing vignettes of practice is NOT to demonstrate excellence or the ‘one best or right way to do things’. That would be foolish and unhelpful – and impossible besides, as most of the time excellent or good practice depends on the context.
The aim in videos is to depict ‘good-enough’ practice that will help others to critically reflect on their own practice, learn and improve.
Investment in our values, lifestyle and professional practice is natural. But that investment doesn’t have to translate into finding fault with others in order to validate our own lives and work.
The next time you watch a video or visit another service, aim to first be grateful for other educators’ generosity. Ask yourself what you are seeing and hearing, and then ask what you can learn from your observations.
We embrace the idea of adopting a strengths-based approach to children. We’re aware that doing so doesn’t mean having a kind of rose-coloured-glasses perspective that blinds us to areas of need and concern. Let’s resolve to adopt a strengths-based perspective toward the work of colleagues, both those we work with and those who feature in professional learning resources.
That’s my professional resolution for 2015. What’s yours?