Reflection and Service

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So pleased to have a guest post today from Dominic DiBenedetto. Grade 8 English teacher at Keene Middle School.  These are the remarks he delivered at the closing of the National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony at KMS last week.  One of the things I most appreciate about Dominic- both as a teacher and as an NJHS adviser- is that he seeks to make the exclusive inclusive.  NJHS at KMS isn’t about drawing a circle in which only one brand of excellence is valued, it’s about honoring a whole bunch of different versions of service, citizenship, and academic success.  (He’s also an AUNE alum, so that makes him extra snazzy in my opinion.)

Learn from your mistakes. It seems simple enough, right? But how do we know at which point in the process we went wrong? How do we pinpoint the specific pieces of the puzzle to readjust – instead of simply trying to jam something in place that simply doesn’t fit? The answer involves the art of reflection: looking back with a critical eye and using resources to change and address those mistakes.

As an educator, I benefit from the daily, almost hourly opportunity to be reflective – specifically in the area of lesson planning.  Whether I ask for it or not, I am given immediate, specific feedback regarding the content of my lessons, the timing of my activities, and the methods with which I manage my students. Even a very organized and competent planner can come across mistakes in his classroom. Were I to blindly follow my plans, disregarding my students’ ability to learn successfully, or blame it on their supposed laziness, I’d never get anywhere!
The young men and women honored tonight have shown that they must be very reflective members of our community – taking seriously the delicate processes for learning from their mistakes. They have put in a great deal of effort into reviewing their unsuccessful attempts, culling out the problematic steps, and revising their strategies to accomplish their goals.  Skills and instincts, no doubt enriched through the careful, loving support and teachings of their biggest influences – the parents. You have all given these young leaders the benefit of your reflective practices and learned-from mistakes.  We all appreciate the countless hours and sleepless nights you’ve invested.
And now, kids, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and really give back. Whether or not the plans we make come to fruition this year, we are always planning and reflecting – What parts of our community need our help? How can we provide that support? These questions and more are considered regularly. Tonight isn’t simply a party – it’s the beginning of a commitment to lead by example, encourage others to do their best, and going forward in excellence, remember to learn from your mistakes.
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