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New Year, New … Approach to Teaching?

Self-Reflection in the New Year

By Kristen Fraine

With the New Year just starting there’s plenty of chatter amongst friends, family, and colleagues about everyone’s goals for their own personal “New Year, New You” ambitions.  As a teacher, I find myself doing this sort of self-reflection and goal setting both at the start of the school year and the start of the calendar year. It’s a sort of mental reset that’s nice to have twice a year, but can be difficult because self-reflection isn’t always easy. I always find these conversations an awkward combination of exciting, stressful and invigorating.

So I started to think about it like a lesson plan – how would I ask my students to reflect and set goals? Can I scaffold this life-lesson for myself?

So, here’s my super-simple “New Year, New You” lesson plan (yes, it is a bit tongue-in-cheek!)  Walk yourself through it.  Then, take what you’ve learned about yourself and engage with your peers.  I think you’ll find that collaborating doesn’t have to be intimidating – in fact, it helps make this self-reflection process a bit less daunting.

“New Year, New You” Lesson Plan Framework

Essential Question:  How can I improve?

Objective:  Teachers will be able to ask questions of themselves and their colleagues in order to reflect on their own practices and make an adjustment.

Key terms:  introspection, analyze, reassess, curiosity, inquisitive

Performance tasks:

Engage:

  1. Self-reflection questionnaire: Self-reflection can often be stressful because many people focus on what’s not working, rather than finding a healthy balance of recognizing what works well and should be emphasized and what needs adjustment. To help you through this process, answer the following questions in complete sentences using good grammar and vocabulary (kidding!).
    1. What am I loving about this school year?
    2. What is working well for my students this year? What should I keep doing?
    3. What educational strategies or theories have piqued my interest that I have been wanting to try out?
    4. What is the most tiresome thing I do for school?
    5. What might not be working as well for my students? What should I reevaluate?
    6. What are the different ways my students are motivated this year?
    7. What motivates me and how can I experience more motivating moments?

Explore & Explain:

  • Think-Pair-Share: That’s right, we’re doing it. Stop rolling your eyes! It will be fun… and if not, it will be helpful, I promise!
    1. Think: Which questions above left you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Did anything actually create more questions for you?
    2. Pair:  Find a buddy at school or take your question to the TeachersConnect community! Having trouble? Here are some sentence starters you could use as a jumping-off point:
      • I really enjoy ______ and want to do more of it. Does anyone else do anything similar they’d like to share?
      • My students love when we _____.  Any thoughts on how I could do more of this in my classroom?
      • I’m having trouble with ______. What is working for others?
      • How do I know if _________ is working? Is motivating? Is engaging?
    3. Share: You’ll be surprised at what you get back, I promise. Take some of these thoughts back to your school. Try them out – share them with other teachers you think might appreciate them!

Elaborate:

  1. Once you feel like you’ve had some solid input, comb through it.  Compare it to the list you made in the beginning of this exercise.  What can you do to…
    1. Do more of what you love?
    2. Ease the fatigue by staying away from the things drain your energy?
    3. Improve your students’ learning?
    4. Continue to motivate your students?

Evaluate:

  1. The self-reflection never stops! Once you get the ball rolling on self-reflection, it’s easier to keep it rolling. That’s the whole idea of inertia (I do teach science after all, how could I resist?) Once you’ve made some adjustments and given new ideas a shot – pause! Take even just a few moments to think about how they’ve gone. Jot a note to yourself so you don’t forget – and better yet – share back with us what’s been working and what has not!
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