Reflection is kind of a buzz word in education circles, but I think depth exists when we properly apply reflection to our teaching practices. It is easy to hop onto the treadmill of teaching day in and day out. Before we know it, we blink and a week, month, quarter, semester, and year have gone by. All the while, we just keep doing our teaching thing.
Reflection requires us to stop and think. Reflection asks us what are we doing well? What needs improvement? How can we do better with ______?
The new year is a perfect time to stop and reflect. In my own teaching realm, I changed schools this year. I’m teaching a different grade level and different types of students. I was at an alternative school for at-risk students with maybe twelve students in a class. Now, I’m in a regular ed classroom (whatever that means) with 30 kids in a class and co-teaching for two of my classes. Has my teaching changed? DUH! Of course it has, or at least it should have.
Herein lies the power of reflection. In some ways, my teaching hasn’t changed. Out of habit and necessity, I am teaching the same things in the same ways. For a few concepts, that’s OK. Overall, though, I need to be stretching myself more. I need to be learning and trying new approaches. My classroom management skills need some work. I need to be better at building positive relationships with my students.
The value of reflection lies in not only assessing my teaching practices, but in finding new or improved methods for doing what I do. Otherwise, the reflection is meaningless. I need to search out advice from mentor teachers, online sources, and even books to help improve my teaching practices. Reflection keeps me from creating and staying in ruts. Much like the path Thoreau created from his frequent trips to Walden’s shoreline, unless challenged I will keep doing the same thing in the same way in my classroom. My students deserve better from me. I deserve better from me.
I encourage you to stop and reflect in the brief moment of the new year. Then, create margin in your life so you may be able to create the desire to reflect more often.