Educators often advocate that self-reflection is essential to improving your craft as a teacher. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to take a video of one of your lessons (or all of them, as some teachers do). This allows you to see aspects of your classroom that you can’t observe while teaching.
And, it doesn’t have to be a big undertaking. Find a video camera or just a tripod for your phone (there are plenty of cheap options online). Place your camera setup at the side of your classroom—if it’s at the rear of the room, you won’t be able to see whether students in the back are engaged, and if it’s at the front, you’ll miss a lot of yourself. Then, simply press the record button, and go about your class as usual! When the time comes to review, here are five things to keep in mind.
1. Stay objective
Most of us struggle to be completely objective about our own work. So, above all else, focus on the actual evidence presented by your video rather than your reaction to what you see. Then, work to connect that evidence back to the actual effect it has on your students’ learning. It can be helpful to use a rubric similar to one an administrator would use during an official observation.
2. Watch for signs of disengagement
We’re all familiar with the obvious signs of a disengaged student. Talking with neighbors, putting one’s head down, or doodling are easy to see, even while delivering a lesson. Watching a video will let you zero in on the less-obvious cues, which can be different for every student. For example, are there students who appeared to be looking at you during the lesson but were actually staring out into space?
3. Think about pacing
Time can get away from you during a lesson. We’ve all had situations where we looked up at the clock and realized we were significantly ahead or behind in our lesson timing. Video can show you how that happened. Look closely at your speaking speed and how much time you are giving students to practice independently or in groups. If pencils are still moving when you need to move on, you either didn’t give students enough time or they weren’t ready to practice yet.
4. Look at your own mannerisms
It can be easier than you may expect to detract from your own message. Video lets you see if you’re inadvertently getting yourself and your students off track by such disruptions as going off on tangents, doing distracting things with your body language, or displaying a posture that is less than engaged. Subtle changes to your own mannerisms can make a big difference in student engagement.
5. Don’t forget to be positive too
There’s a reason we call it “self-reflection” rather than “self-critique.” You’re supposed to consider both the good and the bad. When watching your video, make sure that you notice the things you inherently do well and the things you’ve been making progress toward, as well as the things you’d like to work on. You might even want to write down these “wins” as self-affirming statements.
Looking for additional tips to reflect on your own teaching practice as the school year wraps up? Check out this blog post on Evaluating Your Own Performance as an Educator!