Looking Back to Look Ahead

I’m big on self-reflection (because Lord knows I have PLENTY of improving to do!).   There’s nothing like looking back to help us look ahead.   In order for any teacher to learn and grow, self-reflection is key. Teaching is such a complicated and nuanced thing, most of us find ourselves reflecting on a daily basis–sometimes hourly!  And while we all reflect after a lesson or a conversation with kids (or colleagues!), sometimes we forget to leave space to self-reflect in deeper ways.  But in order to become the strongest, most confident teacher that we can be, we have to make time for it.  The importance of self-reflection in teaching cannot be overstated.  

Summertime is the perfect time for a little self-reflection in teaching. 

It’s a time for long drives to the waterfront, leisurely walks after dinner, and enjoying a glass of rosé on the back porch.  It’s a time for slowly rising in the morning and for taking in a gorgeous sunset in the evening.  And let’s be real–it’s the best time to catch up on all the Netflix you’ve missed!  Firefly Lane for me, btw!  Summer is the perfect time to slow down, to catch your breath.  

As we near the end of the school year, there’s always eager anticipation to just get on with summer.  And there’s the rush, rush, rush of packing up your classroom.  The emotional tug of war that comes with the sadness of saying goodbye to your kids and colleagues alongside the excitement you feel as visions of 8 hours of sleep, no more need to inhale your lunch, and no down-to-the-minute bell schedules come to mind.  But, as Pam Ochoa from the Craft and Draft podcast reminds us, “an ending means that you’re about to start a new chapter.”  

With the time that summer always gives us, it’s a great opportunity to think about our year to make plans for making next year–the next chapter–even better. 

Image shows woman in straw hat sitting on brown chair on beach facing the water with her arms out, self-reflecting.

Here are some self-reflection questions about teaching to ask yourself as you ease into summer and look look ahead to next year:

  1. How well established were my routines and procedures?  Transitions?  Did I find myself having to revisit these often?  
  2. Did my kids find my classroom library engaging throughout the year?  Did they find books that kept them interested so independent reading was strong?  
  3. Was my library accessible, both in terms of ease of use and in my kids’ ability to find what they were looking for?  Do I need to reorganize it in some way?
  4. How engaged as readers and writers were my students?
  5. Did my kids look forward to writing?  
  6. In what ways did my kids grow as readers and writers over the year?  What surprised me?
  7. What do I need to remind myself that I did really well this year, despite frustrations I may have had?
  8. What do I need to learn more about to help my students next year grow even more?  Where can I go for that learning?  
  9. Did my lessons land with kids?  Do I need to tighten up my lessons?
  10. How can I take care of myself this summer in order to come back refreshed and ready to help a new crop of kids grow in literacy–the most important job on the planet?

Here’s the deal though.  Self-reflection in teaching is not self-bashing.  It’s not self-regret. 

Do not let yourself go there.  It’s a time for recognizing where we should celebrate and where we have room to grow and for thinking about ways to get there.  Teaching is a journey.  Every one of us has room to grow, each and every year.  No one “has it” right away.  I’m almost 25 years in, and I am well aware of the many ways I have room to grow–as both a teacher and a coach.  And in one year’s time, five year’s time, and far beyond that, there’ll be innumerable ways I will need to grow that I’m not even aware of yet.  

But that’s what’s exciting about it.  The constant reach for more, the ever-present wish to do better.  This career is not a boring one!

But you’ll need some support.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of professional books, podcasts, webinars, and even Instagram ideas to lean on for help.  For deeper learning, go to a colleague who inspires you.  Seek out your school’s instructional coach.  And know that I’m always, always here for that support.  If you could use a thinking partner to help you grow as a literacy instructor, reach out!  I’m available for coaching calls year round, on your schedule–because learning doesn’t happen only during the 180 days of the school year.   

Image shows hands holding up red letters that spell the word together against a blue sky background to signify support in teacher self-reflection.

Speaking of ongoing support, consider joining my Facebook group! It’s a place for learning together in ALL things literacy.   It’s a community of educators just like you to offer support right when you need it, and it’s a place I can answer questions, share tips, and offer mini-PD on topics that are relevant to you.  

Where you find the support you need to reflect on your teaching is entirely up to you.  Just know that no one has to figure this whole thing out alone!  

Here’s to a summer of self-reflection, growth, and renewal!

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