How to reflect on the end of a school year
As the school year rapidly draws to a close, it can be tempting to forget about students and worksheets and assessments and administrators and school and simply EVERYTHING to do with teaching for a while.
It's tempting to hurtle headlong into the holidays - be it Christmas or that long-awaited getaway to some tropical paradise. However, in order to fully lay each school year to rest, it's important to look back on the year that was and do some detailed reflection in order to better ourselves as teachers.
Asking yourself these questions will help put the year in perspective, help you realise how much you have achieved, areas you have improved your practice and perhaps some other areas where you still desire growth and most importantly, how this can shape your practice in the following academic year.
Six Questions to ask the Teacher
- What worked, what didn't ?
This can be particular units of work, an approach to behaviour management or simply your procedure for marking the roll. All those day-to-day practices can be streamlined in order to be as efficient as possible and give you more time to focus on the things that matter. Are you frustrated by the bottleneck everytime students gather around to get a pencil? Change your system!
Are you sick of having to take 20 minutes of writing time for a 30 second assessment? Change your system!
On the flipside, do you love the start-of-class routine you've worked hard to establish with your students? If it's working for you, keep it!
- Was my work/life balance etc. how I wanted it this year? What would I change?
Teacher burnout is one of the most commonly discussed issues in our profession and it's an important factor to be aware of. Whilst the upcoming holiday break will certainly help to recharge those batteries, we simply can't run ourselves to exhaustion during term time in the hopes of making it up over the holidays.
Finding an ideal work/life balance is an individual task and one that nobody else can really do for you. Reflect upon the things that make you happy outside of work and try to make time for these from week to week. Find a routine that allows you to switch off after a rough day - it might be exercise, baking, sudoku puzzles, a long walk, Netflix or getting a massage. It might be making music for yourself and not your students. Whatever it is, remember that you can only be the best teacher you can be when you are also a healthy and happy human being outside that role.
- How have I been interacting with my students? Was I always happy with this?
It's a common adage that "I set the climate in my classroom" and whilst a teacher's powers don't stretch quite as far as controlling the weather, they do have an effect on student behaviour.
Students subconsciously pick up on a teacher's mood and attitude and will respond accordingly. Finding a way to "fake it til you make it" ensures your students enter the classroom in a happier frame of mind, tending to pick you up along the way and ending in a positive and enjoyable lesson for all.
If you have been struggling with this over the year (which gets more and more likely as the term stretches on) then reflect on what you would like to change and develop some tricks such as mantras to get you in the right frame of mind.
With those reflections in mind, you can think about what you were happy with this year and what you hope to change or improve in the next, allowing you to grow as a teacher.
Take a well-deserved break, but then reflect so that you can look forwards. Start planning for next year by summarising this one. Of course, it doesn't hurt to summarise from somewhere like this!