As the end of the school year approaches for many teachers, it is a great time to think deeply about our professional growth and progress. This time of year, I always feel a great sense of relief and satisfaction, however, there is usually also a twinge of discontent – a sense that I could have done things better. Often I play through various teaching scenarios in my head and think about what I’d like to do differently or new things that I’d like to try. The problem is that I rarely write these down in a way that I remember them and then September rolls around and I keep doing the same routines.
In addition, there are always new ideas that I’d like to develop. All year, I think, “oh, I’ll have time to do that during the summer.” Then the next thing I know, it is the middle of August and I’m caught up preparing for a new academic year and I haven’t got anywhere near the amount done I’d hoped to.
As I researched reflection, I found this interesting idea:
Stages of Reflection: Van Manen (1977) described reflection as consisting of three stages: Stage one is confined to analyzing the effects of strategies used. The second stage involves reflection about the assumptions underlying a specific classroom practice as well as its consequences. Stage three entails questioning the moral and ethical dimensions of decisions related to the classroom situation. It involves reflection on the assumptions underlying a decision or act and on the broader ethical, moral, political, and historical implications behind the assumptions on which the decisions are based. It also involves technical, educational, and ethical consequences of those decisions. For reflection to have the maximum effect on professional growth and development, educators must engage in all three stages.
So today I am challenging myself — and you– to make reflection turn into real professional growth. Here are some strategies that I recommend:
1. Write in a Reflection Journal. Use this opportunity to write down what went well. We all need positive reinforcement and to acknowledge our strengths. I’ve found that this is hard for many people, but I think it’s very important for understanding ourselves as professionals. Next write down some things you want to change. Think about what didn’t go as well as it could have and then what you might try to do differently. Think big. Consider what you’d do in a perfect world. You can narrow these ideas down later to be more practical.
2. Gather New Ideas. Inspire yourself by spending some time on the Internet exploring. As I’ve written here before, I love Pinterest, Edutopia, The Teaching Channel, the Responsive Classroom Blog, and Twitter, of course! The good thing about Pinterest is that it’s so easy to save your ideas in one place. Create a board with “New Ideas” that you can refer to again in August. Even items that you find on other sites you can pin here and have everything in one place. Here’s one of my favorite boards: Teaching in Style. Be sure to follow me!
3. Set Goals. When our supervisors require us to make personal improvement plans, it can feel demanding and onerous. But when we set our own goals on our own terms, it can be a wonderful motivator (just like our students). I encourage you to think through a few things you’d like to accomplish over the summer or over the next school year. Then plan out action steps you’ll need to take to reach those goals. Too often I make summer plans and get little done so I’m experimenting with putting these on post-it notes on the wall and then removing them as I accomplish things. That way I can also see my goals all at once. Of course, it’s also important to be reasonable!
4. Have fun. Teachers’ work is incredibly demanding and exhausting. Take some time to have fun and recoup your spirit. Consider your rest and relaxation as part of your professional development 🙂
I’ll keep you all posted on how my reflections and goal setting turns out at the end of the summer. In the meantime, please share in the comments the strategies you use to reflect and improve your teaching!