Confessions of a Teacher

How to Use This Year’s Reflections for Next School Year

The end of the year for a teacher is especially difficult: everyone is tired, the kids are off the rails, there are a plethora of special events going on, and grades are due. Many of us are holding onto our sanity like a life raft. The last thing many people want to think about is the start of a whole new year, but if we spend a moment to reflect on our year, it could be a gold mine for the next year.
Using Your Reflections
We have spent all year reflecting, and we are already doing it now in our heads. We have said, “Oh, that lesson worked well,” or “Wow, I clung to that classroom procedure, but it didn’t work for this group.” Instead of pushing all of those reflections away and racing out the door towards our much-needed break, we should take a moment to write those down. These reflections can improve our craft for next year.
How to Mine Reflections for Next Year
Start by writing down everything you would do the same next year. Be proud of the lessons that went well. On my list I have:  social issues unit, read alouds, and morning meeting.
Next, write down what could have gone better, or practices you ditched because they didn’t work for you. This can be anything from classroom procedures to lesson or methodology choices. I recently decided to give up my long-standing “water bottle station,” which I had previously adopted for a class that continuously spilled water all over the place. This year, I realized that my students never spilled water on their work areas. I was also tired of telling kids to put their water where it belonged. So next year, I’m ditching it.
I’m also realizing the way I set up my small groups didn’t work as well as it could have, so I need to take a closer look at that for next year. All observations that you can write down will help you craft the classroom you want in August.
Once you have all of your reflections both positive and negative, divide them into categories like “curriculum,” “classroom management,” “relationships,” “conferencing,” or “procedures.”
You Can’t Do It All
A big mistake I am usually guilty of is trying to do it all. When you’re looking at your list, remember that all of the things you ideally want to change or improve may not be possible all at once. Stick to a few important ones and make them your year-long improvement goals. If you want to work on parent relationships, stick with that and make it your focus.
Ultimately, what it all comes down to is your new group of students. Even if you know already who they will be, you don’t know what the dynamic will be until they are there and working with you every day. How your classroom environment turns out will depend on your students and their needs. Every group is different, so remember that you’ll need to match your goals with your students.
Once you finish your reflections list (it can be rough; it doesn’t have to be an essay), put it away and don’t dwell on it until just before school starts again. Revisit it with fresh eyes to see if you still feel strongly about what you wrote. Because as we all know, there isn’t anything like being teacher tired and the chaos of the end of the year may have clouded how you really feel. 

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