Self-reflection is the catalyst that leads to change. Self-reflection is essential for everyone, students and teachers alike. We are always growing and evolving. In teaching and life, if you aren’t moving forward, you are moving backward, but you can’t move forward without at least some degree of self-reflection.
Becoming the teacher you want to be is a process. Often a new teacher looks at a teacher with 5, 10, or 15 years of experience and think that other teacher has arrived. If you’ve taught for a few years, you realize that isn’t the case. Your whole career you are always going to be growing and changing. With the right mindset, this is a good thing even if it feels a bit uncomfortable at times.
Try to incorporate reflection on a regular basis. Because teachers are often so busy, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to finish the next thing on your to-do list rather than stepping back and looking at what is truly important. Wondering where to start?
Journal! Examine what is working and what isn’t. Schedule a regular time to step back and look at the big picture.
For me, Friday afternoons were the best time. I had a view of the whole week and was exhausted enough that I didn’t feel like doing anything too taxing. You know yourself best. Your best time to reflect may be at lunch once a week or before school when you are rejuvenated on a Monday. So, pick a regular time and try to stick with it.
• Was the lesson too easy or too difficult for the students?
• Did the students understand what was being taught?
• What problems arose?
• Did the materials keep the students engaged in the lesson?
• What materials did we use that worked in the lesson?
• What materials did we use that didn’t work in the lesson?
• Are there any resources or techniques that you’d like to see used instead?
• Were students on task?
• With what parts of the lesson did the students seem most engaged?
• With what parts of the lesson did students seem least engaged with?
• Were my instructions clear?
• Was the lesson taught at a reasonable pace?
• Did all students participate in the lesson?
• How effective was the overall lesson?
• How can I do it better next time?
• Did I meet all of my objectives?
• How did I deal with any problems that came up during instruction?
• Was I perceptive and sensitive to each of my students’ needs?
• How was my overall attitude and delivery throughout the class?
Once you have answers to these questions, you’ll be better able to prepare for and take on whatever teaching challenges the future holds, but don’t stop there! There are even more ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of reflection.
Videotape yourself: This one sounds daunting and probably a bit uncomfortable. Yet, it is one of the most powerful practices you can put into place. Christina Grayson, a Master’s candidate at the Harvard school of education, said this of watching a video of herself (as required by the program):
“When I came to the Ed School, I said that I valued certain things,” says Grayson, “and when I watched my first video I realized there were certain things I valued in my practice that I thought I was doing that I was actually not doing at all.” As a result, “Video reflections are something I will continue to do, even when I’m not turning them into anybody.”
Hence, watching a video of yourself gives you a perspective that nothing else will.
Ask Others for Feedback: Speaking of perspective, others have a different view on your teaching abilities and your classroom than you do. Ask a trusted colleague for their thoughts. Since they see you in practice most, your students are also a valuable source of information for your growth as well. Furthermore, ask a colleague to come and observe a lesson and give you some feedback.
Know your Strengths and Limitations: It’s ok not to be perfect, in fact, no one is. It’s also ok to ask for help with your weaknesses. You know where you are short on skill, maybe you struggle with classroom management, organization, and consistency, but you are very patient and creative. Find ways for your strengths to make up for your weaknesses and work actively on improving in your weak areas.
Don’t Be an Island: Find someone who has overcome the same struggles. If you need help with the organization, you may do better to find someone who has worked hard to overcome their messy classroom than a natural neat freak. Find a buddy that can positively support you.
Listen to Your Intuition: Pick and choose the advice you take. Information is valuable but listen to your intuition. You know how your classroom works, you know your personality, and you know what is essential in the classroom. Take what is valuable and leave the rest.
With these starter questions and follow-up strategies, you’re set to have a well-rounded and informed approach to your lessons. Once you feel confident with your own self-reflection strategies, move on to sharing them with students! Try these strategies & activities to teach self-reflection in your classroom to pass along the same skillset to your students.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.
Dr. James Stanfield, Ed.D.