Last month I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.
February’s habit is to be a learner and the disposition is curiosity.
Being a learner comes naturally to me. I don’t always see myself as curious, but I’m not sure why. I enjoyed developing my curiosity through this month’s practice.
I appreciate the Conscious Competence Ladder shared by Aguilar, as a way to guide our thinking in new learning situations. It’s not often that I am truly learning something brand new, though I would like to try some new things that would put me on the low rungs of this ladder. The word yet is so powerful when thinking about the steps on the rung to grow understanding. Whether reflecting on my own personal skills, or helping students or adults, I remind myself that we might not know something YET, but that we have time and a growth mindset to develop the skills we need. Yet allows us to presume positive intention and to believe that with work and a growth mindset, we can achieve new understanding.
There is an entire section of this chapter dedicated to time management (one of my favorite topics and a blog series in itself!). If you don’t manage your time, you won’t find a way for your new learning and curiosity to bloom. I feel that time management is one of my strengths, but I am still guilty of procrastinating when I have a looming task I dislike or that feels daunting. I love Aguilar’s 45 minute tip. She recommends we set a timer for 45 minutes and work with no distractions (phone off, email notifications off, etc.). When the timer goes off, you can get up, stretch, and take a break, then return to work by resetting the timer again. I remember trying this right away after reading this chapter last year, and I’m reminded to make this a habit once again!
While I am skilled at reading and writing for my own learning, I find it harder to immediately apply some of my new learning to my work or life. This month’s focus on learning has made me reflect on how I can apply my learning more often, and in different ways. Typically when I read a professional book, I write in it and I put post-it notes all over it. These track my thinking as I’m reading, but I rarely go back to these markings. I’ve struggled with this for years (see Flagged for Follow up and Flagged for More Follow up), and I’ve blogged about things I’ve tried to help. Looking back at those old blog posts now, I realize that I was focused on revisiting old articles or blog posts I had saved. I didn’t ever address revisiting or apply learning from professional books.
So now I’m really wondering how I might build a new habit in this way. I’ve tried to journal my thoughts about specific books (through my monthly reading blogs and also in my professional journal). I find that I apply learning most often after I’ve had a discussion (or multiple discussions) about a book; I think this is why I enjoy book clubs so much. I appreciate formal and informal discussions about professional readings and I want to create more of those opportunities for myself in the future. That is part of what has driven this blog series on Onward.
In the Onward workbook there is some great information on receiving and giving feedback. As someone who considers myself a coach, I am often in the position of giving feedback. I appreciate the three types of feedback she outlines:
It is important to be clear what type of feedback you are giving, especially if someone is asking you for feedback. If they are expecting appreciation feedback that is positive and validating, they will not necessarily appreciate it if your feedback comes in the form of a coaching or evaluative message. Sometimes as leaders, we try to give all three types of feedback within one message, but it can become convoluted in the process. This has reminded me of the importance of clarity in our language. As I work with our school leaders on how they provide feedback to teachers, I will be discussing these three elements and how they sound when received.
“What can I learn?”
What a powerful question to ask myself right after a challenging interaction. I’m lucky that in my current job I don’t have many situations where angry parents are yelling at me, or frustrated people are complaining to me about issues. But there are still challenging conversations or experiences and I’m taking this month to remind myself to be curious – curious about the other people and their experiences, curious about where they are coming from, and curious about what I can learn from a challenging interaction.
The workbook goes on to provide a number of ideas to fuel curiosity, from simple taking time to consider, “I wonder why…” to going down an Internet rabbit hole by following clicks that lead to more clicks (I do this a lot!). I commit to seeking out new blogs, books, or podcasts outside of my comfort zone this year – I want to expand my perspective (last month’s disposition) by becoming more curious about the perspectives of others.
What kind of a learner are you? What habits do you cultivate that allow you to be curious? What do you do with new learning?
Posts in the Building Resilience series: