As the school year comes to a close, teachers create many unique ways to celebrate their students’ learning – from “portfolio parties” to awards assemblies to graduation ceremonies. These opportunities allow our students to reflect on the progress they have made, synthesize new information they have learned, and set goals for their future learning. As teachers, we often forget that this process of reflection and celebration is also crucial to our own professional development.
So, how can teachers reflect about their own practice at the end of the school year? Start by setting aside time to work through the questions below.
1. Evaluate Your Practice
Did you experiment with a new unit of study or a new instructional strategy this year? How did your students’ respond to this?
What was the most challenging aspect of your teaching this year? Why?
What was the most successful aspect of your teaching this year? How do you know?
How will you revise your instruction for next year?
If you have a hard time reflecting on your year holistically, instead, look at your scope and sequence and reflect on individual units of study. Which were challenging and why? How will you modify these units for next year?
2. Evaluate Your Professional Journey
Did you take a class this year or attend a professional development workshop? How did it impact your practice?
What are your instructional goals for next year? What new technique will you experiment with? How will you embed new instructional content in your curriculum aligned with Common Core?
Commit yourself to conducting research on one area of your practice. Apply for a year-long action research fellowship and reflect on your practice with a network of colleagues. Check out Chicago Foundation for Education’s Action Research Fellowship.
3. Evaluate Student, Family, and Colleague Feedback
Our students can be our best cheerleaders and our best critics so learn from them – ask them which units of study they enjoyed, which part of your literacy or math block helped them learn the material the best, what new learning has impacted them the most.
Ask your students’ families what they thought was the most effective part of their child’s learning experiences in your room this year. Write a survey and send it home. Encourage families to return the surveys by doing a raffle and only enter in families’ names who return the surveys!
Buy a colleague lunch and invite her to talk with you about your practice. If you still have student work samples, share them with your colleague and ask her to reflect with you regarding that specific learning activity.
If you are interested in creating professional learning communities focused around colleague feedback in your school, take a look at the ASCD article, “Critical Friends”.
4. Make a Commitment to Regularly Reflect Next Year
Set up a blog or a personal journal and begin recording weekly reflections throughout the year.
Join a professional community of educators and read their reflections on their instruction.
If you are interested in expanding your professional learning network and elevating your practice by learning from other professional educators, visit the Center for Teacher Quality and join the CTQ Collabortory.
Create mini-PLCs at your school! Reach out to your colleagues and develop TchAUSL groups by content and/or cycle groups. Dig into an instructional practice together – experiment with new strategies in your classroom, record your “instructional experiment,” and upload your video to your TchAUSL group. Ask your colleagues to view your video and provide feedback for you. At your TchAUSL group, you can also provide links to professional resources such as articles and websites that your TchAUSL group can all use to enhance their practice.
Just as reflection is crucial to our professional growth as educators, celebrating our accomplishments is just as important. So, how can teachers celebrate their instructional accomplishments at the end of the year?
Celebrate Your Risks. Did you take a risk this year in your instruction? Share this with a colleague and brag – even small successes are steps to enhance your practice!
Celebrate Your Colleagues. Send a “kudos card” to a colleague – highlight one thing that she did this year that you noticed was a risk she took in her instruction or something that she did really well.
Check out Teaching Channel’s Teacher Tales Series. What’s your Tcher Tale? For inspiration, watch Christina Procter’s video, “A Beautiful Moment…” and reflect on what your beautiful moment was this year.
Celebrate Why You’re a Teacher. Watch Taylor Mali’s Teaching Channel video, “I Teach for the Fire” and reflect on what your fire is. And don’t forgot to reflect on why your students are so fortunate to have you light this fire for them!
To practice what I’m preaching, I’d like to publicly celebrate one of our AUSL colleagues! Congratulations to Mr. Javier Velazquez of Howe School of Excellence who was recently recognized for his excellence in teaching by being awarded the Fishman Prize for Superlative Classroom Practice. Mr. Velazquez will join 3 other outstanding teachers this summer as part of TNTP’s distinguished summer residency program. A former resident, Mr. Velazquez began teaching at Howe during its first year of its turnaround. Since then, Mr. Velazquez has been instrumental in providing transformative mathematical experiences for our students. Congratulations Mr. V!
Is there a colleague that you want to celebrate?