Teachers: Don’t Let the Year End Without Asking Yourself These 6 Questions
As the calendar year comes to a close, it’s time to pause and reflect on our teaching practice. Teachers often focus on what we didn’t get done, what we still have to do, and the mistakes we’ve made along the way. This can quickly lead to burnout. It’s time to flip your reflection game and examine what’s going well, and how to maintain your best practices. Here are six questions to consider as we approach the second half of the school year.
1. What successes did I have this year?
It’s easy to focus on the things you wish went better or the projects you didn’t finish, but surely you’ve had some awesome successes this school year. A great lesson, a fun class, connections with students, or an improved relationship. Push yourself to think about the things that did go well without qualifying or discounting them with failures or doubts.
2. How have I improved my practice?
Just as we teach our students to continuously improve, grow, learn, and change, so must we as educators. We are always growing as professionals, as educators, and as people. In the last four months of school, what have you gotten better at? Perhaps you’ve learned how to manage your classroom better during challenging moments. Or perhaps you’ve improved your lesson-planning abilities. Embrace a continual growth mindset. Look back and figure out how you’ve grown and then consider what steps you can take moving forward.
3. What was the best moment of the school year so far, and how can I have more moments like it?
Four months includes a lot of school days filled with important moments. What were some of the best? A rewarding moment with a student, the day your class understood something new, a hilarious classroom memory, a good meeting with colleagues? What were your best moments and how can you work to create more of them for the rest of this school year? How can you work to improve the school culture for you, your colleagues, and your students?
4. How do I personally support my colleagues and the mission of the school?
Teaching is so overwhelming that worrying about our own workload is sometimes all we can manage. But the truth is, we’re all in it together. Colleagues must support each other and work together to improve the student experience. In the last few months, how have you supported your fellow educators and your school’s work? How can you best contribute moving forward?
5. What do I do for myself each week and what do I need?
Self-care is simply not optional for teachers. In order to continuously give so much of ourselves to this work, we must also take care of our mind, body, and spirit. Grading and planning will always be there, but your health demands regular attention.
Look back and examine what healthy habits you have integrated into your life each week. Are you managing to get enough sleep? Maintaining healthy eating habits? Living with a strong work/life balance? Socializing with friends? Now, look ahead and see where you might need to improve your self-care habits for the months to come.
6. How am I doing with communication?
So many of the frustrations felt by school staff members are rooted in communication issues. Ask yourself how you are communicating your needs and actions to those in your community. Are you expressing yourself well? Are you keeping people informed? Are you asking questions when needed? Are you avoiding negativity and gossip? How can you help your school communicate better in the next few months? While communication is a two-way street, you can “be the change” because all of those little choices we make each day really add up.
Jennifer Gunn spent 10 years in newspaper and magazine publishing before moving to public education. She is a curriculum designer, a teaching coach, and high school educator in New York City. She is also co-founder of the annual EDxEDNYC Education Conference for teacher-led innovation and regularly presents at conferences on the topics of adolescent literacy, leadership, and education innovation.