For some people the year has already ended and others have a few weeks left but this is the time of the year I always like to start to reflect on the year and look where growth is needed. To do this reflection I like to sit down and jot down items from my year. For example, I will look at classroom management, lesson planning and curriculum, using student data, classroom organization, and parent communication. There may be something else that you want to look at but these are some of the key areas that I always like to reflect on.
After reflecting I take time to really look into one of those areas in depth throughout the summer and have that area as my focus for the following year. You may be wondering why I wouldn’t want to take every area that I say I need growth in and work in every area. Well, my first few years of teaching I did just that. Each year I had a list of things that I wanted to improve in my classroom and I never felt like I really improved anything to the level I wanted it to be. After a few years I decided to take a new approach. I took the one area that I really felt I struggled with the most and where changes would be most beneficial. I made that my focus area for the following year. I really put a lot of time and effort into making sure that this area was exactly like I wanted it to be. I did extra research, reading, and planning to make changes. I also made sure that I did not lose my focus throughout the year.
Does that mean that I ignored the other areas where I needed to make some changes? Absolutely not. Of course all good teachers want to improve in anyway that they can, but these areas weren’t my focus areas. I worked to make some changes and some improvements but I did not beat myself up over it if I did not make every single thing perfect.
The first year I decided to pick a focus area for improvement, I showed amazing results. My focus was classroom organization. The reason I chose this area was because I felt like the benefits of organization would also benefit the learning that would occur. Over the summer I came up with many ways to organize. I looked through Social Media, I read blogs, I read books, and I developed a plan. Within the first few weeks of the school year I could tell that things were going to be much easier for me and my students. After I saw the amazing results I did this type of reflection every year.
Each year I could see improvements in my classroom environment and my teaching was becoming stronger. I know many teachers just want everything to be perfect after they reflect and make changes. It is important to remember that improvements take time. It takes time to develop yourself as a teacher. Even after 18 years of teaching there are still days where things don’t go right, there are still some years that are worse than others, and there are still times that I need to reflect more and make changes. I share this with you because I know some newer teachers might be reading this and might be beating themselves up over some things that didn’t go perfect in their classrooms. I just want to make sure that every teacher realizes that even veteran teachers have their days that are harder, years that are harder, and have struggles that they deal with.
I am providing a free reflection sheet and an opportunity for you to choose a focus area for next year. Just make sure when you’re doing this reflection sheet that you are honest with yourself. There were some years where I would give myself excuses for why things went wrong. These excuses caused me to overlook these areas as areas for growth. Until you can be honest with yourself it’s going to be very difficult to improve as a teacher and to make any areas of your classroom stronger.
Here are some areas I have reflected on in the past, made changes, and blogged about.
As you read through these blogs you’ll realize that I am a true believer that everybody has to find what works for them and for their students. I do not believe there’s a one approach fits all in teaching. I recommend that you jot down a lot of different ideas over the summer that you want to learn more about and think about what might work for you. Then when you go into the classroom if something doesn’t work just like you thought it might, don’t worry, don’t stress, just make some tweaks and find something that works for you. This is another reason why I think you should have a focus for an entire year. It gives you time to adjust things throughout the year until you find exactly what works for you.
Stay tuned if you were thinking that you want to work on classroom organization because that’s one area that I really like to discuss and share some improvements I made. I think many people don’t view this as an essential area but it really made a difference in my classroom environment and my ability to teach my students to their fullest potential. Next month I will make sure that I dig deep into this topic and show some of the ways that really helped my classroom. This may give you some ideas to try in your classroom.
One last reminder, reflect on areas that were successful as well as areas where you feel you need growth. No matter what, I know you tried very hard this year to make your classroom the best place you could for your students, so make sure you give yourself credit where credit is due.
New teachers download these FREE New Teacher Tips and Guides! Save this blog post to help you reflect at the end of the year!