I don’t know about you, but I have a difficult time working in meaningful reflection at the end of the school year. And meaningful reflection during the school year is nearly impossible. As soon as I finish one unit, we are immediately onto the next and then the next and then the next. It creates a perpetual hamster wheel that doesn’t slow down until it comes to a screeching halt on the last days of school. By that time, I am usually so tired and ready for a break that reflecting back on the year is the last thing on my mind.
We know as teachers that reflection is what makes us recognize how to be better. So how do we reflect back on the school year in a meaningful way that doesn’t take up too much time?
Here are four simple, yet effective, reflection questions for the end of the school year to make that possible! You will notice that for each question, you are to focus on ONE ITEM and one item only. Narrowing the focus of your reflection will make it easier to implement changes and won’t make the process overwhelming. It’s important to note that creating quality instruction takes time. As we implement changes across the years, our curriculums become more and more effective. Don’t feel so overwhelmed that every unit you teach has to be “perfect.” Implement changes one at a time, and as the years pass, your instruction and curriculum will improve simultaneously. Like a fine wine, it just needs room to breathe.
So, here are four reflection questions with actionable items to inspire your reflective process. Jot down answers to these questions as you read through them and put this list in a place where you can find it easily at the beginning of next school year. These can be the first items you address at the start of the new school year!
Question #1: What is ONE THING you know you can do better next year?
Take Action: What can you do to make this item better?
It is it a particular project? Is it how you manage make-up work? Is it your seating arrangement?
Question #2: What is ONE THING that would make your life easier as a teacher?
Take Action: How can you make this one change possible?
Is it a piece of equipment for your classroom such as a new table, a bin, a projector, etc.? Is it figuring out how to finally use Google Classroom? Is it implementing a better make-up work policy? Is it cutting down on the number of assignments you grade?
Question #3: What is ONE THING you can change on your curriculum map or schedule to better meet the needs of your students?
Take Action: How can you implement this change next year?
Is it cutting and pasting a unit to a different marking period in the school year? Is it allowing more time for a particular project? Is it adding another assessment for certain targeted skills?
Question #4: What is ONE THING that worked really well this year?
Take Action: How can you implement more of that next year?
Is there a particular standout moment from this school year? Why did it work? How can you add more of that element throughout the entire school year next year?
Narrowing the focus of your reflection down to specific, actionable items can help ease the stress of where and how to implement effective changes from year to year. Try out this strategy at the end of each school year in order to zoom in on the changes that are most meaningful.
Bespoke ELA would love to hear from you! Please respond to any of these questions in the comments.
About the Author
Meredith is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA. She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University. She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas. Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.