We’re familiar with the saying “Practice makes perfect,” and during this time of year, in particular, I enjoy taking the time to reflect on my teaching practices and philosophies. Personal and professional reflection isn’t “work” for me. Even with a rather established division of “home life” and “work life”, I find myself diving into reflective activities at home, far beyond my traditional hours at school.
Through conversations with colleagues in my building and those here in the Canvas Community, it’s clear that instructors balance many many things, and it’s easy for the self-care and reflective activities to slip down on the priority list.
I have always loved learning, and it’s one of the most amazing things about teaching. I teach my students, but every day, they also teach me. This circular connection is the motivation that fuels my passion for challenging my beliefs about curriculum design, assessment, classroom environments, etc. It doesn’t bother me that I will always be revising and revisiting my practices.
To “keep up” with my honest efforts to create relevant and engaging classroom experiences for my students, I have a fairly dedicated reflection routine. Keep in mind that I find this process invigorating! This is not something which is required by my administration. What I do is purely for my personal satisfaction and desire to be the best professional educator possible.
- On Fridays, I spend the last 30 minutes of the work day rehashing the week and setting goals for the upcoming one.
- I review my weekly lesson plan page in my 3-ring binder, decipher notes, and make adjustments for the coming week. This helps me recenter academic pacing and align my plans with my Canvas courses.
- If something significant came up during the week, I make a plan on my semester curriculum map so I remember or can make changes for the next time I teach the course.
- I have an ever-growing list of education/learning theory books to read. I probably invest an hour or two throughout the week to working through my list. I don’t set deadlines, but it’s fun to try to connect topics in the books to my classroom. (If you need any suggestions, let me know! I have a pretty awesome list.)
- As a part of teachers, I contribute to a Flipboard magazine. We share articles, leave comments, and have candid conversations about current educational trends.
- I carry around a notebook for new ideas for my classrooms. In this 5x7 notebook, I write down one idea per page, and then lay out the information and details needed to put it into place. If I try an idea, I jot down student feedback.
- I talk candidly with students about what works and doesn’t work with course design, projects, assignments, etc. It’s amazing what I can pick up from those conversations.
- I do a thorough “brain cleaning” during conferences and at the end of each semester.
- I ask myself a ton of questions and analyze everything from student performance (thank you Canvas Analytics), anecdotal feedback, assessment strategies, projects...well, you get it.
- It’s not exhausting, but I usually fuel this session by getting to a local coffee shop and listening to some awesome music while I sip a latte.
- While it can be discouraging to identify holes, it can also be really encouraging. It’s an opportunity to change or adjust, but it can also be a time to celebrate growth and future plans!
Will this routine work for everyone? No. Am I slightly over-excited about this process? Perhaps. However, I honestly believe that every educator can benefit from taking a little time to think, question, and evaluate their actions in the classroom.
As the school year winds down, I challenge you to figure out what works for you!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Start small.
- Identify one part of your teaching practice you’d like to advance.
- Add one reflective tool or practice into your routine. You don’t need to do an overwhelming amount to make a difference. This is “you time” - no need to stress.
- Get out of your typical workspace.
- A change of scenery does wonders. Go for a walk, find a coffee shop, or create a creative space elsewhere.
- Give yourself time.
- Schedule time at a specific time of the week, and don’t double-book yourself.
- If you prioritize reflection, it’ll happen!
- Write it down.
- It doesn’t matter how you jot down ideas. You can collect or color-code ideas on Post-Its, keep a notebook, start a private blog, share ideas in the Canvas Community...find a way to document your thoughts.
- When you take the time to write down thoughts, the extra time required to formulate the thought can help you process and see natural connections.
- Find a reflection buddy.
- Just like some people rely on workout buddies to make it to the gym, find someone who will hold you accountable.
Practice makes perfect? Nah. I think that’s unrealistic. However, I fully believe that practice makes professional improvement, individual growth, self-fulfillment...all wonderful things! In my opinion, the best part of all of this is that you’ll likely increase or rediscover your excitement for teaching, and your students will likely notice.