Reflecting in Times of Uncertainty

Melissa CunninghamBlog, Connect Better, Lead Better, Reflect Better


  • As we reach the end of the year, it is time to reflect together, problem-solve together, and try something that makes us uncomfortable.
  • Some questions to facilitate discussion among colleagues include reflecting on professional learning and collaboration, learning targets/instruction, assessment, and social/emotional support.

All over social media and throughout schools, we hear phrases right now such as, “Be compassionate,” “Take care of yourself,” “No, we’re still not okay.”  And, we’re right.  We all need to show each other empathy and compassion right now.  We need to be understanding of one another and seek to understand rather than be understood.

Our current reality is difficult right now, to say the least.  There’s no doubt about it.  There are numerous obstacles that present themselves every day and so many issues we have no control over.  But, whether we like it or not, our current reality is our reality.

I don’t say this to be harsh or to make light of the true struggles that many of us are going through right now.  But in times of trouble, there are always opportunities for growth, for learning, for success, and for joy.  And, I’m afraid if we spend too much time dwelling on all that is difficult right now, then we are going to miss opportunities for growth, learning, and joy.

As we reach the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, let's take time to reflect together, problem-solve together, and try something new that makes us uncomfortable. Click To Tweet

One of my absolute favorite quotes is, “Everything in life teaches you a lesson; you just have to be willing to learn.”

What lessons can you learn this year?  Which challenges can be turned into opportunities?  What risks are we willing to take even if we fail?

We all have a decision to make right now.  Are we going to let these times get the best of us, or are we going to find joy and opportunities in every day?  Though it may not always feel like it, we do have the choice.  No one has control over our mindset.  Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

So, what will you decide? Most might read this and think easier said than done, and you would be right.  It takes work.  A lot of hard, daily work.  But, it’s possible.

So with this in mind, what opportunities are there?

As we reach the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, let’s take time to reflect together, problem-solve together, and try something new that makes us uncomfortable.  Let’s get out of our comfort zone and take risks regardless if they produce successful results or not.

Over the past few weeks, there have been many areas in my coaching and teaching that have forced me to reflect and shift my thinking.  Below, I have generated some questions that I hope will facilitate reflection and discussion among your colleagues.

Reflecting on Professional Learning and Collaboration

  • Which area(s) am I struggling with the most right now?  Why do I think I’m struggling with this?  Have I had success with this in the past?  What did I use to do in the classroom for this?  Could I make this work remotely somehow now?
  • Do you have a professional learning community?  Who could you go to for support and help?  Is there someone who you haven’t reached out to before that could be a great support?
  • Is someone you know finding success in an area that you’re struggling with?  Could you reach out to that person?
  • What resources are available to help me?  What would help me learn best?  To see it in action?  To talk through it with someone or to read about it?

Reflecting on Learning Targets/Instruction

  • What are the most important standards you want students to master in this unit?  What does mastery look like in each standard?  And what learning targets could I create that would help lead to mastery?
  • Is this learning target at the right depth of knowledge for my students?
  • How will students be introduced to the learning target?  How will I make sure the learning target is clear to students?  And how can I have students take ownership in the learning process?
  • What does instruction look like for this learning target?  How can I model this skill for students?  How would I do this skill on my own?
  • What am I doing for students that they could be doing themselves?  What areas of my teaching could students take ownership and control of?
  • Who is doing more of the talking and work during my lessons?  How could I structure my class to allow for more student work and talk?  Are there behaviors I need to teach that would help with success in this area?

Reflecting on Assessment

  • How can I assess students’ mastery of this learning target?  How will I know that students got it?
  • Is this assessment truly matched to the learning target?  Is it getting to the right depth of knowledge that I hope?
  • Are there other ways I can check for understanding?
  • Do I have too few or too many questions?
  • Are there quick ways I can check for understanding?  How can I adjust my teaching in the moment or the next day?
  • Based on results, do I need to slow down or speed up my instruction?  What will I do for the students who already mastered it?  What will I do for the students who are still not at mastery?
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Reflecting on Social/ Emotional Support

I hope as you end 2020 and dive into 2021 that you find new opportunities, give yourself permission to take risks, and lean on your professional learning community to support you.  I hope you find joy and reasons to celebrate every day, even the most difficult ones.  And lastly, I hope that you give YOURSELF empathy and compassion and continue to grow every day.


Melissa Cunningham is a passionate middle school educator who has had the pleasure of being in the middle school setting for all 12 years of her career. Her roles span from language arts and math teacher to assistant principal and now, instructional coach. She is especially passionate about student leadership and choice in the classroom, while cultivating the skills of collaboration, problem-solving, and creativity. Outside of school, she enjoys photography, writing, reading, hiking, and spending time with my husband, friends, and family.