The Challenge to Reflect: See You in Sunriver

River and mountain skyline

Author: Bruce Smith

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror” - Michael Jackson

One of the things that I love about fall is the sense of transition. From summer to back to school. From warm evenings to crisp mornings. From sun baked grass moist with dew. A favorite fall image of mine, that enters my head whenever I think of this time of change, is that of a small lake or pond, sun peaking through the clouds to form a pristine reflective surface on the water.

As educators, the changing of this season offers a prime time to reflect -- on the ways that we’ve grown, the ways that we serve our students, and the opportunities that we’ve missed along the way. I know that for at least some of us, whose academic years started back in August, changes between seasons and the current transition from summer to fall doesn’t represent an exact calendar alignment. However, like that fall lake image, the opportunity to reflect on our work -- to intentionally find the time to improve and develop -- is clearly in front of us.

This summer, I had the chance to read a really interesting and informative book about leadership and supervision. Great at Work, by Morten T. Hansen, makes the case that those who are great at work -- who enjoy their work, find success, make adjustments to their work processes, and keep coming back for more -- make a point of regularly reflecting on their why’s and how’s.

Morten uses the frame of “deliberate practice” to demonstrate that ways that those who are great at work and fulfilled by their work participate in a “learning loop” of self-guided professional development. Deliberate practice, a concept Morten borrows from K. Anders Ericsson, includes:

  • Assessing outcomes meticulously

  • Soliciting feedback from others based on known standards of excellence

  • Striving to correct even the tiny flaws that are exposed via assessment and feedback

Merton reframes professional development for the contemporary fast-paced work environment, describing a learning loop in which professionals focused on great work do the following:

  • Learn as they work, and find opportunities to learn in everyday activities such as meetings

  • Spend a few minutes each day deliberately working to improve some aspect of their skillset, or adding to that skill set

  • Utilize informal feedback from peers and other co-workers

  • Take notice of how they are utilizing the so-called soft skills that are necessary for success in the workplace

This month in Sunriver we will gather for the NWASAP conference -- to catch up with old friends, to network, and to deliberately engage in activities designed to help us move toward being great at work. The NWASAP conference, because of the high level of intimacy afforded by the conferences regional focus, is a great place to pause and take a moment to reflect on our work. I look forward to these few days of professional development every year and know that I will spend time with colleagues from across the region who will help me assess my work, provide well informed feedback based on their professional expertise, and assist me in finding ways to make small but significant changes.

One space in which these moments can at NWASAP 2018 in Sunriver is the Monday night Networking Dinner. Check out one of the restaurants in Sunriver Village, such as Sunriver Brewing Company or South Bend Bistro. Or take a quick trip into Bend and visit Spork or Bangers and Brews. If you’d like to dine at the lodge check out Twisted River Tavern or Zeppa Bistro.

As we move into fall, I encourage you to take a peek at yourself and your work in the mirror -- be deliberate in finding those moments to self reflect, and to work with colleagues who will help you keep moving through that learning loop.