Saturday, April 08, 2006

Teacher reflecting

For me, reflecting on my practice is really important as a way of continually trying to improve my teaching, and so when I received this newsletter in my email inbox I was very interested. I thought I’d share it with you and write a post about it as a way of remembering what I liked about it. It comes from Inspiring Teachers at their ezine site. You can subscribe to their email newsletter here.

When I started really thinking about it, I realized that I reflect quite a lot each day. Throughout each class I mentally make note of what works and what doesn't. Then, when I have a free moment, I try to implement a change to my plans for the next class. At the end of each class period I think back over what worked and what didn't in that particular class as a whole and use that information to mentally adjust my attitude, plans, and spiel. This is a continual process for me. Then, at the end of the day, I sit down with my plans and make notes to help me remember the changes that were successful.


What type of reflection works best? As usual, it varies from person to person, but there are a few things that everyone can do to make full use of those informal and formal reflections we make each day.

1. Catch yourself thinking: Whenever you have a thought about the way your lesson or activity is proceeding, you are reflecting. Jot down your thoughts on your lesson plan or on a separate sheet of paper. At the end of the day, label the paper for easy identification later and staple it to your original lesson plan.

2. Don't be afraid to make changes immediately: When you are reflecting about a lesson and you feel that it just isn't working, don't think, "Oh well, there's always next year." Instead, make a notation in your plans and change them for the next class period. Lesson plans often are in a state of flux changing from class to class and year to year.

3. If you work in a teaming type situation where you and one or more teachers work together teaching the same lessons or related lessons (interdisciplinary units, etc.), be sure to do some reflection together at the end of the day or at some point during the week: Find out how the lesson went for the other teachers. Did they approach it differently than you? Was their approach more or less successful? The purpose is not to compare teaching styles in order to judge, but rather to determine the most successful way to help your group of students.

4. Keep a journal: Often when we write down our thoughts and feelings, we are better able to analyse them. I know that when I write about a situation or problem I face in the classroom, I am better able to fully think through everything. Later I can go back and follow the flow of my thoughts. This especially helps when I feel frustrated but cannot identify the problem. Often I am better able to pinpoint the exact issue through my writing. If you are not in the habit of keeping a journal, start small. Try to write for five or ten minutes after your students have left. Make it part of your daily schedule or even part of your lesson plan. This may help you get into the habit. Once you are writing daily, you may find that you are writing for longer periods of time.

No matter what method of reflection you use, mental, verbal, or written, it is a vital tool to use towards self-improvement in teaching. Take some time right now to reflect over the past school year or a recent teaching experience and think about what you
can do to become an even better teacher for your students.

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