So, you had a rough year last year? I hear you. I was there, too. The word “challenge” barely covers it. It was quite a mix of difficulties all wrapped up into one not-so-glorious year.
But I survived.
And you survived.
And now that we have settled into summer a bit, it is time to do one last difficult thing related to last year…reflect.
Reflection is the key to growth and change as a teacher…especially after a tough class period, day, quarter, or year. When we reflect, we take stock of what went right and wrong, what we need to change for the better, and what we can let go of. The process can be painstaking, but it is therapeutic…and more than that, it is vital to making next year better.
As I was working through my own mental system of reflection today, I thought of a new approach to reflecting, but before I tell you about it, I need to tell you a story from this morning. I need to tell you about breakfast.
It all starts with muffins…
I do my wife a favor in the mornings when I can and get our boys going. This includes breakfast.
This morning, I decided to do a secondary favor. We had some overripe bananas and she talked about making banana bread yesterday. I had an epiphany…I can make banana muffins for breakfast! So, I looked up some recipes.
There was a problem, however.
As it seems, you need certain ingredients to make said banana muffins…not all of which were present in our cupboards. We had most of the staple products, but since today was shopping day some were missing.
You don’t know me that well, but if you did you would know that once I get an idea in my head to do something I do not give up easily. So, I pushed on. I know some recipe replacements, and I thought I knew enough to guess some others.
It was rough, but I was able to get something together that resembled batter…and I poured into the muffin tins and baked.
I had to keep adding a few minutes of time in the oven, but eventually they looked a lot like muffins.
I took them out. I tried one…
Honestly, they were not the worse muffins I have ever had, and if you added butter they were not too bad. They weren’t the best, but they were my muffins…and they would pass as breakfast.
So…what the heck does this have to do with teaching and reflecting?
Every year, we start of with some pretty high goals for our students and ourselves. We know that we have the basics that we come in with as teachers, but sometimes the ingredients in our classroom are not what we expected. We do our best with what we have and we strive towards those goals.
We have to alternate plans.
We have to do things a little different than “the norm.”
We have to compromise.
We have to make do.
But in the end, though our results may not be exactly what we hoped for, we still have results. Sometimes “kind of” results are okay. We did what we could with the resources at hand, our skills, and some ingenuity.
They may not be the best results, but they are our results.
As we reflect, we need to look at how everything went and see the positive in what we had at the end. Sometimes that can be more difficult than others that like to judge education will ever know, but they were not in our classroom and do not know our students.
Sometimes edible muffins are the best you can do with baking…and sometimes students getting through the year know more than when they started and able to learn more on their own than before are giant strides for the situation you are giving.
And that brings us to the looking forward side of reflection…this is where my new approach to reflection comes in…
You have got to take a good, long look at your “teaching pantry.” Ask yourself these hard questions and make a PANTRY LIST:
- What really went well last year that you can go into the new year armed with?
- What are your strengths as a teacher?
- What strategies vibe up well with your teaching personality?
- What is the upside to that teaching personality?
- How do you connect with students best (both inside and outside of the content)?
- What are your best improvs as a teacher?
These are the things currently in your pantry. This is what you bring to the table. These are what you can bank on being a part of you.
On the other side, you need to ask some harder questions and add these to your PANTRY SHOPPING LIST:
- What did not go well last year that shows a skill that you may be lacking?
- What is an aspect of teaching that is a weakness that is vital that you work on?
- What is something that you would like to learn from a teacher you think is a great teacher?
- What are ways that you know your classroom atmosphere needs to change?
- What are some ways that you do not connect well with students?
- What are your worst improvs as a teacher?
These are the things that you can work on this summer. DO NOT MAKE THE SHOPPING LIST LONG! Small steps get you in the right direction. Do not think of these things as what you are bad at…think of them as things you would like in your teaching pantry. Spend some time this summer making a “supply run.” Pick something to read a book about. Attend a PD session over the summer. Find a teacher good at one of these things, buy her/him lunch or coffee, and pick their brain. Make a plan for getting some new ingredients in the cupboard. And don’t forget to rest!
I hope that this made sense!
What is in your teacher pantry? What do you need to go shopping for? Share here and perhaps we can all help you find some resources,
Teacher, you are amazingly awesome! I bet you already reflect on this level and I am preaching to the choir. If not, please don’t give up. Your students and all of the other teachers need you! You are amazing. Keep on teaching, Teacher!