This year was...interesting/challenging/no words. Isn't it nice that we can look back at it now instead of be in the thick of it? We can decide what worked, what failed miserably, what we want to try for next year. Reflection like this is important for our teaching practice.
"When we take the time to look back at what we have done in the past, look at what we are doing now, and look ahead to the changes we hope to see in the future, we make better, more deliberate decisions." -Sharon Thomas writes in Partnership Principle 5: Reflection.
As a peer coach, reflection is at the core of coaching with my high school teachers. We are constantly questioning our teachers and guiding them to think about their lessons and teaching practice critically in order to make changes for improvement.
Not all teachers have worked with a coach and not all teachers are accustomed to reflecting; however, reflection should be a regular part of our teaching practice. It can come in the form of informal reflection in the car on your drive home, or you can go all out and journal weekly; it's all up to what your style is. For example, are you a writer or do you like to talk it out? There are different forms of reflecting. There is no one-size-fits-all in teaching, just like there isn't for our students!
Write it out
Journaling might be the most popular way of reflecting on our practice. How many of us have a nice journal we may have purchased in our browse through TJ Maxx or Homegoods? I am guilty of a few of those that I let sit on my bookshelves because they are just too cute to write in.
You don't need a cute or professional journal to write in to reflect, though. You can type out your own document in your Google Drive, or you can find a workbook like this one with some guiding questions. It doesn't matter how fancy the medium is; the power is in the reflection questions.
Talk it out
If you aren't an introvert like me, talking out your reflections may be more your style. This is where a peer or instructional coach comes in handy. They can hold space for you to listen and guide you to questions you may not have thought about before so you can come to new ideas and conclusions. If you don't have a coach at your school or district, buddying up with a colleague who is a good listener might be a good idea. Just make sure that you return the favor and actively listen when they need it too.
Read about it
Maybe you've reflected and already decided you might have an idea on something new you want to try or your coach has identified a strength that you really want to hone in on. Take some time to research some professional development books that can help you grow your teaching practice.
If you teach multilingual learners, maybe you have decided that you want to develop your reading and writing strategies. Reading and Writing with English Learners by Valentina Gonzalez and Melinda Miller may be your best bet. Or maybe you want to learn more about how to make your classroom more culturally responsive- Culturally Responsive Teaching for Multilingual Learners by Diane Staehr Fenner and Sydney Snyder might be a good read.
Listen to others
Being an active listener can do wonders for others and yourself! Some of us actually learn better when we listen. Hearing things from another person's point of view can show us information about ourselves if we are listening carefully and actively. It can also show us the way others may do things in their classrooms and we can take some things with us from that conversation to our own class! I can't tell you how much I have learned from listening to the teachers I coach, whether seasoned or new. No matter what, I can always take things, big or small, with me.
Sample reflection questions
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you reflect on your year:
We will be reflecting monthly in our high school teacher membership as we review new instructional strategies to try in our lessons. How will you use reflection in your teaching practice?
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.