As we enter the last few weeks of the academic calendar, I would advise teachers and educational professionals alike to spend the time and reflect on their experience within the classroom.
Over the course of the year, teachers face a myriad of daily choices: classroom management, classroom expectations, students goals, and, of course, student achievement. Many of these choices involve matters that are so ingrained within the day-to-day of the classroom that we tend to overlook the implications and transformative change we make on a daily basis. But as much as we can focus on the operations within the day-to-day, it is imperative for your development as an educator to think, address and reflect on the choices you have made during this academic calendar year. Self-reflection will not only highlight the strengths and achievements you have accomplished with your students, but it also address the flaws and weaknesses you can work to improve within your trade. This type of intense reflection will also allow you to identify and revise best practices and avoid inferior lessons for your next group of students.
To do this effectively, begin by dispositioning yourself away from the expectations set by your superiors. This suspension of judgment will allow you to holistically view your work in a more meaningful way. To get you started in a more positive direction, begin by thinking about your strengths and overall accomplishments you have achieved during this year. Think about those impactful lessons that will resonate with your students for the next up and coming year. Ask yourself what you were most proud of and what areas you grew within the field. For example, if you were able to devise a lesson that incorporated research, writing, and public speaking, make a note of that collaborative achievement. Not many teachers can get this type of engagement from their students, let alone all three in one lesson.
Once you have fully analyzed the positive achievement, take time to examine your own personal and professional weaknesses you may have experienced during the year. For some teachers, this could be specific lessons such as an unachieved Common Core standard or a particular lesson involving a higher-level text. For others, this could just simply be a specific trade skill like research or lesson planning. Whatever is the case, make sure you examine them deeply. Internalize those mistakes and ask yourself what you could have done to improve and build up for those skills or lessons for the betterment of your students. Having that type of awareness will allow you to hone in on specific skills and approaches for next year. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to ignore these weaknesses. Remember, no one is perfect. In fact, the only time this can be a problem is if you think there is no room for improvement. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Use this reflective thinking to think about what you can do to further better yourself for not just your career, but also for your students.
To fully analyze these weaknesses in a more beneficial and positive way, try evaluating your students based on their academic gain. Begin with those overarching goals you have set for yourself and your students. Ask yourself if your scholars were able to hit their targeted academic goals. If they were, great! If not, dive deeper and question what you could have done that year to possibly see success. To aid you with the process, make sure you utilize the student data in a more active and powerful way. Expert teachers adapt their reflective thinking to the situation and recognize each level of the data that could have changed this. If you see that your students were collectively weak on one Common Core standard, ask yourself questions about those specific lessons such as: What troubles did you see with those lessons? Why did your students struggle with that particular standard? What could you have done to break down the information in a more accessible way? These questions will not only identify your flaws, but also shape your lessons for next year.
Now the last thing you should look into is the situational portion of teaching. Whether you like it or not, teachers and educators are more than just individuals equipped with a textbook. They are the parents, coaches, mentors, and game-changers that can positively impact the aspiration and goals of a student. While there will always be difficult and arduous moments within a teacher’s day, it is important to think of areas where you can build a stronger relationship and classroom culture for your students.
The only way to get the best out of your students is if they can invest in your vision and goals for their future. Continue to think about ways where you can enhance your management and classroom culture in a more driven and invested environment. Remember, our students do not care what you know. They just want to know you are there for them. Take this time to refine those moments so that you can give your students the excellent education that they deserve.