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3 Steps to Reflect on the School Year and Hone Your Craft

3 Steps to Reflect on the School Year and Hone Your Craft

As the school year winds down, teachers become reflective on the challenges they met and the successes they achieved. Teachers who develop a world-class craft harness these ideas into actionable opportunities with an intentional process.

Like everything else in a teacher’s craft, you should attack reflection with deliberate, meaningful purpose. It’s not enough to ask yourself questions and poll your feelings. You’re looking for ways to affect change in how you prepare for the next school year over the summer.

Step 1: Come up with relevant questions

Reflection is only as good as the subject. Superficial, shallow questions will get superficial responses. “Rate this school year from 1 to 5” may be a starting point but won’t lead to meaningful growth.

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

Move on to the students. Were some seeming to slow down or making considerable breakthroughs? Why? How could you have helped them? How does your practice change from class to class? Why? Flip 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 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 reaction, when things went right and students connected? Which lessons make you shudder?

Step 2: Be truthful

You will never grow through reflection if you 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 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

Some are easy solutions and some will require multi-step efforts. Room solutions are easy, whereas curriculum changes take time. Your answers to the student questions can unlock trends, like how you students with disabilities or a certain race may not receive your best efforts. You can’t fix these issues unless you know about them.

Look at the answers to your questions and ask yourself what you can do to discuss 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 where you find yourself now. They may also offer opportunities of which you weren’t aware, like trainings, grants, or conferences.

Looking for more opportunities to learn this summer? Check out how the Edmentum Educator Network can support your summer professional development goals in this blog post!

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Scott Sterling

Scott Sterling is a former English teacher who worked in Title I middle and high schools in St. Petersburg, Florida who is now a freelance writer who focuses on education. He is also a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year-old daughter Lily, who will soon be starting her own educational journey.