Meaningful Teacher Reflection – it’s part of becoming a better educator. And I’m sure it is an expectation for you to reflect on your teaching practices at one time or another.
Chances are, you do it already as you create new goals, prepare for observations or look forward to evaluations.
But what about the types of reflections that really matter? (Not that those don’t, but let’s face it, sometimes we rush through those administrative types of reflections to get them over with… am I right?)
So, let’s get real for a moment, shall we? Reflections take time (and we just don’t have a lot of that), but they are important. And as far as I’m concerned the more personal you make your reflections, the better.
What does that mean? Take ownership of your reflections. Don’t wait for the next observation or end-of-the-year eval.
Do it now!
When you do take the time to reflect on your teaching or your role in education, you do 3 things:
- Make Progress – When you reflect on your work, you can’t help but move yourself forward. You can see your mistakes and improve on them, celebrate your successes and increase them. Reflection helps you to make progress.
- Inspire – When you reflect, you inspire yourself and probably even others. Reflection helps to keep yourself on your toes and you can see how far you come each day. And as you make progress on your own profession, that can certainly be inspiring to others around you!
- Empower – Continued reflection helps to empower you. It puts you in the driver’s seat of your progress. You make note of your talents, success, weaknesses and failures. And then – you move forward! Why – because YOU want to!
Let’s take a look at some Personal Reflective Strategies that YOU can do for yourself!
Checklist & Questions for Meaningful Teacher Reflection
If time is of the essence, checklists are a great way to quickly and meaningfully reflect on yourself. But first, you must spend a little bit of time creating one that is useful to YOU!
To create your own reflective checklist, ask yourself this key question:
“What do I want to see inside my classroom?” (or office or learning space)
Then, you can make your list into a checklist.
Here is what I have on my checklist.
- Students are smiling.
- Students seem ready to learn.
- Students are participating. (hands up, contributing to discussions)
- Students are getting their work completed.
- Student work is successful.
- My materials are ready.
- I am prepared for the lesson(s).
- I am calm and ready to teach.
- My room is organized.
- The students’ areas are organized.
- My room “looks good”/seems inviting.
- Transitions are smooth.
- The adults in the room are adding positively to the student learning.
If you want, translate your checklist into a quick rating scale. That way, you aren’t reflecting on do you have it or not, but you are rating it with 1, 2 or 3 points. A 1 rating can be the best meaning you definitely have it, a 2 can mean you are working towards having it and a 3 can mean that you just aren’t there yet. (Of course, you can use whatever rating scale works for you!)
Once you have your own checklist, you can follow up with a few questions. Here are some general, but effective ones you can use:
- What are some things that are going really well?
- What are some things you can improve on?
- What students do you need to check in on and why?
- What students need to know that they are doing a great job?
- What needs to happen for things to be more successful?
- What resources might you need to help the learning be more effective? (people, materials, etc.)
(A copy of the reflection checklist that goes with this type of reflection can be found in this week’s FREEBIE!)
Meaningful Teacher Reflections
Journaling for Meaningful Teacher Reflection
For some, there is nothing better than a good old-fashioned journal and that may be JUST what will work best for you!
But instead of using a list of questions for this, I like to have some Journal Starters. These are like sentence starters. They give you a jumping point from which to write. As you read through some of these Journal Starters, one may resonate with you for some reason. That’s the one you should use.
Journal Starters for Reflection:
- Today was ______. Let me explain.
- We had a break-through!
- ________ finally got it!
- No matter what I try, ______ just can’t understand the concepts.
- I think it may be time for me to revisit __________.
- It’s time to check on ____________.
- I really need to do more ___________.
(These and many other Journal Prompts can be found in this week’s FREEBIE which includes a mini-journal to print and use!)
Blogging for Meaningful Teacher Reflection
Now, blogging may be something that interests you as well. It certainly did for me! I started my blog in 2008. It was a way for me to express my ideas and give voice to my concerns and aspirations for education, specifically for teachers!
And now… 11 years later, those reflections have helped me define my role as a teacher and consultant. It continues to do so as I try new things with my students, develop my craft as a teacher and work on new ideas for YOU in arts integration and SEAL.
I love to type. It’s like playing the piano to me and it feels good under my fingertips. Handwriting, on the other hand is difficult. My handwriting is messy and my hands tire easily. But typing is almost therapeutic.
Maybe you have a reason blogging would be a better fit for you! You can type your thoughts, add images, format your words and then send your reflections and ideas out into the world! Consider it. 😉
Reflecting with Future Goals & Vision Boards
Thinking about your goals, hopes and dreams is another way to reflect on your teaching. (And a fun one at that!)
For this, you can journal, blog or create something that shows the vision you have for yourself professionally.
A number of years ago, for one of the Summer Arts Integration & Steam Retreat workshops, I led teachers in designing their own vision boards. (Many of them created two: a personal board and a professional board!)
Creating a vision board is a powerful exercise and beneficial, reflective process. When you create a vision board, you choose images, words and colors that not only inspire you to be your best, but allow you to focus on what is most important to you. It’s as much about the process as it is the product!
And speaking of the product, when your vision board is complete is acts as a constant reminder of your values and vision of yourself in education. I have mine hanging behind my computer at school. (And my personal one is hanging in my office at home!) Here are pictures of both.
Starting up, here are some questions you can ask yourself on envisioning your goals, hopes and dreams for your career. This is only a sampling.
- What would my best day look like?
- How do I want my students to feel when they enter my room?
- What feelings to I want to have when I’m done with a lesson?
- Where do I want to be in 5 or 10 years?
(Instructions on how to create a vision board and other questions to help you unveil your goals are included in this week’s FREEBIE!)
Now, let’s get real. Written reflections are great, but it doesn’t always make sense for some of us. It takes time and energy and well, sometimes you just need to reflect in the moment WITH someone.
In fact, when I polled some of the Inspiring Teachers over in our wonderful Facebook group, (BTW – Have you joined yet???), verbal reflections were what many teachers preferred.
So, here are a few important points to keep in mind when we talk about verbal reflection.
Reflect with Those that Get It
Sometimes you just need to kabitz with your own people who just get where you are coming from. Their experiences are similar and they can show true empathy as well as give you constructive criticism from a professional standpoint. In other words, they are educators too and walk your walk.
Reflect with Those who Detach from It
Other times you just need to talk with someone who doesn’t quite live your challenges or successes. It’s fun to share a success story of how you really helped a student out. (Thus proving what you do is super awesome and amazing.) It can also be satisfying to tell someone a crazy story from the trenches that will shock the heck out of them. (Proving that what you do is pretty much something only certain people are cut out for.)
Talking with a spouse, a friend and family member who does not work in education can help give you a new perspective. If you choose your person carefully, they can also be a safe place get something off your chest. And that brings us to one more thing…
Venting – Do it in Moderation
So, this topic needs to be mentioned here… right? Venting is certainly part of reflection and is, at times, necessary! We all do it whether in the form of an eye roll, a silent scream or a cathartic release of words. Let me repeat – we all do it! But I’d like to offer a couple of bits of advice when venting.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings At one school I worked in my colleagues would go out for a Friday afternoon drink after work and, as any group of teachers seems to do after a little bit, we started talking about school. The problem was, we didn’t leave the town where we worked. And while most of our conversation was totally fine, there was one afternoon where a teacher told a story about a student and used his name. Little did we know there are townies at the establishment who listened in and then went to administration. Oof
You always want to be self aware when you start talking, and most importantly WHO is nearby.
The school I’m at now is a modified open-concept school: a few flimsy walls, but you can hear and see nearly EVERYTHING. Private conversations are laughable and while we obviously need to have conversations in school about curriculum and students, it’s so important to know where you are and who is nearby.
Venting – Keep it Under Wraps
- Keep it off of Social Media Just like knowing your surroundings when in public, you need to do the same on social media. Actually, it’s probably MORE important. The rule of thumb: If you don’t want your principal, parents (of your students) or grandmother to see what you are posting, DON’T DO IT!
It’s the same advice I give my own children: Once it’s posted, it doesn’t go away – ever – even if you delete it – it lasts forever!
And if what you posted is mean-spirited, sarcastic or easily misinterpreted, you might as well not even bother. Better safe than sorry. ANYone can take what you post and turn it on you.
Venting – Have a Buddy
- Have that 1 Person Gerry Brooks (FB Funny Guy) once gave some great advice to teachers when it comes to venting: Have 1 person that you vent to. Make it someone you trust and who is willing to listen without judgement.
I really appreciated that he understood that there is actually a NEED for teachers to vent their frustration. So, I’ll say it again:
Find one, trustworthy person for your venting.
- Keep Kindness in Mind While venting is easy, it’s important to remember that we are dealing with people I know I can certainly get into a heated conversation, wanting to know the latest gossip or funny stories. However, our true calling is to help and be role models for maturing students. It’s ok (and possible) to vent your frustrations with kindness.
Are you interested in going even more in depth with this topic? Awesome! Meaningful Teacher Reflection is the topic of this month’s mini-workshop on Facebook Live! All you have to do is tune in Thursday, October 17 at 7:00 pm EST in our Inspiring Teachers’ FB group.
But you have to be part of the group to join in!!! So, get over there and JOIN!! https://www.facebook.com/groups/inspiringteachers/
See you then!
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