Posted in Reflection

Reflections and Refractions

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You may use this picture if you link back to this blog.

Dear Teacher,

I know that some of you are done with school for this school year, some are drawing this year to an end, and my Southern Hemisphere friends are just beginning.  I am in that middle group.  Today I start the last week of the school year, so you will have to forgive me if I seem a little nostalgic this morning!

As I was thinking back on the year and the start of this last week of it, I see a lot of growth and change.  Growth and change in my student, which I hope is always a given, but also growth and change in me.  I think this year has marked my greatest leaps as a teacher, and I have been doing this a little while.  I do not know why this year was my “jump forward” year, but I do believe it has been.  I feel like a veteran teacher now, and it is more than the number beside years teaching.  I feel like I understand more about what it takes to connect to and reach students, but also to connect to and reach my fellow teachers.  I realize how important that is now.

While I pondered on all of this, the idea of the behaviors of light came to mind.  The word reflection spurred this jump between trains of thought.  Reflection, as you probably know, is the bouncing of light waves off of the surface of an object.  That is similar to when we reflect on the year as a teacher, we are letting our experiences “bounce” off the surface of the school year and come back to us to think about.  We let the “energy” of the year come back to us, good or bad.

This led me to thinking about looking back in another way, through another behavior of light: refraction.  Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one medium/material to another.  Refraction is why lenses make things look bigger or smaller.  Refraction is what makes images larger or smaller.  Either way, after refraction, an image is not the same.  Maybe this is a better way to think about end-of-year reflections as a teacher, they are really more of a refraction than a reflection.

When you look back, what you remember is either magnified or diminished.  We see the failures as bigger than they should be, though sometimes they look smaller than they should to us.  We sometimes shrink the successes in light of the “bad stuff,” sometimes they hide the fall-backs from us altogether.  Any way you slice it, or memories are not quite a true reflection.  They are not the original image.

This can be a good or bad thing.  It is bad if we are not honest and letting our experience over the last year be what it really was.  We need an honest look at where we triumphed and where we were defeated.  We need to look closely at what we did well and what we did not do well.  We need to build on the success and find the trail that led to the not-so-successful parts of the year so we can avoid that path from now on.  We need to learn what we can from an honest look at ourselves and move on to bigger and better things!

Refraction of the year CAN be a good thing, though.  We do need to pump up and celebrate what went well.  We need to find achievement somewhere in each student and magnify.  We need to tell them and let them see it, even if it is microscopic.  We need to see it for ourselves, even if it is distant and you need a telescope.  We need to know where we made a difference so that we can gain excitement from that and make bigger strides next year!

Where are you in this?  Are you reflecting or refracting?  Don’t forget to do both!

You are SO awesome, Teacher!  I know that you will look back at this year so that you can make next year even better!  Keeping on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

For more hope and encouragement: @DearTeacherLT (Twitter) and Dear Teacher/Love Teacher Facebook Page.



I am a middle school teacher who lives in the upstate of South Carolina.

6 thoughts on “Reflections and Refractions

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