It is the last day of term. The last day of first semester in Australia. And for me the last day of the first semester of full-time work in seven years, since the birth of my first child.
I spent much of the day pondering a couple of coaching style questions:
- As you reflect on the last six months in your role at work, what are some celebrations?; and
- Fast forward to the end of the year. What are the things you ideally see as having been achieved, and of what might you need to be mindful in order to get there?
Today I posed these to a couple of people with whom I work closely, and also to myself. These questions are a deliberate tool for looking back and looking forward. They use the aspects of mediative questions recommended by Cognitive Coaching:
- Plural forms (What are some celebrations …?);
- Positive presuppositions – the assumption that the person has been successful and has the capacity to reflect on their success (As you reflect …);
- Tentative language (Of what might you need to be mindful …?); and
- Open-ended (What are the …?, rather than, Have you …?).
Asking these questions on the last day of first semester was a mechanism for pausing to take stock. Schools move at a cracking pace, and those working in schools are often racing to keep up. Stopping to look back over our shoulder at how far we have come, and in what direction, can help us to realise what we have (or perhaps haven’t) achieved. It can help to anchor us in reality, to consider possibilities, and to re-orient us as we move into the future. I remember doing this from time to time during my PhD: looking back, wondering how I’d come so far, and remembering that it was just by taking one little step at a time.
My own reflections were around a shift in perceptions of my role between the beginning of the year and now. Mine is a new role to the school—Dean of Research and Pedagogy—and in January it felt a bit nebulous. A fuzzy outline of a role. A job description yet to come to life.
I initially spent a lot of time teasing out the crux of what this role was about; its strategy, its deliverables, and how I might gauge my progress in fulfilling its mandate. Looking back at my initial strategic and operational planning is gratifying; most of it has come to life, becoming breath in my work and in the life of the school, on which I can now build.
One of the indicators of how my role has evolved in this short time is the increasing list of those from across the school—from the classroom to the boardroom—who are approaching me for support in their area. I’m especially pleased at some of the unexpected impacts of my work.
Reflecting takes time, but it’s time worth carving out. I was recently reminded that my one word for 2017 was meant to be ‘nourish’. I have lost track of that along the way this year, but am hoping to regain some capacity for nourishment in this coming week when I’m with my family on a South-East Asian island for some time together and some time out.