Conducting an Annual Reflection

By Scott Sterling

Reflection should be a regular component of a teacher’s practice, but some times of the year seem to be tailor-made for reflective study. One of those times is at the beginning of the calendar year, which may signal the midpoint of the school year or the start of a
new term/semester.

Just like everything else in a teacher’s craft, reflection should be attacked with deliberate, meaningful purpose. It’s not enough to simply ask yourself questions and poll your feelings. You’re looking for ways to affect change in how things are done in the coming months.

Reflection is only as good as what you are reflecting on. Superficial, shallow questions will get superficial responses. “How do you think the year is going?” Might be a starting point, but it won’t lead to meaningful growth.

Instead, you want to take things apart. Consider your classroom. Are there areas within the room that you think can be improved? How conducive to learning is the setup? Do you spend less time in certain areas than others? Why?

Move on to the students. Are there some that seem to be slowing down or making considerable breakthroughs? Why? How can you help them? How does your practice change from class to class? Why? Look through the roster. Do some names make you frustrated and others smile? That can tell you a lot.

Last is curriculum. Is your grade book truly reflective of the progress students are making? In the grand scheme of pacing, are you ahead or behind? Why? Go through your lesson plans. Which lessons give you a warm feeling, when things went right and students connected? Which lessons make you shudder?

 

Step 2: Answer truthfully

You will never grow through reflection if you consistently tell yourself everything is fine. Honesty should be obvious. Besides, none of the questions above ask you to assess yourself as an educator (that will come later). They are just asking for feelings, in which every teacher has a deep supply.

To improve the practice, find a reflection buddy and share your answers. If you have a mentor/mentee relationship, invite your counterpart to observe and note their own reactions. You’re all on the same team.

 

Step 3: Come up with action items

There are easy solutions and then those that will require multi-step efforts. Room solutions tend to be easy, whereas curriculum changes take time. Your answers to the student questions can unlock trends, like how you feel uncomfortable with students with disabilities or a certain race. You can’t fix it unless you know about it.

Look at the answers to your questions and ask yourself what you can do to address any shortcomings and better celebrate successes. If you have trouble coming up with ways to move forward, ask a colleague or administrator. Chances are they’ve been exactly where you find yourself now. They may also offer opportunities of which you weren’t aware, like trainings, grants, or conferences.

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