Rebecca Wiehe, PhD, Spanish Teacher, Hudson High School
Self-reflection is at the heart of teacher improvement. Devoting focused time to analyze one’s work and effectiveness in the classroom can be difficult, but the results are well worth the effort. We can only improve our practice if we find where it is lacking. So, as we head into a new year, let’s make time to not only be grateful for what we have, but to also reflect upon how much more we have to offer ourselves and our students.
Like most teachers, my day begins before the sun rises and I attack it at a sprinting pace. I dash from task to task until the sky darkens again and it’s time to rest, only to get up the next day and begin the race again. In the midst of the holiday season, my personal life has become even more crowded with family events and obligations. Partnering these commitments with my workday responsibilities makes for additional stress and, at times, frustration.
I would argue, though, that the quiet process of self-reflection is the most important practice we do as teachers, even more so than the teaching itself. But, when do we find the time for it? How do we give it the attention it both needs and deserves? How can we truly perform harder, better, smarter, if we don’t take time to slow down, refuel and reflect upon what we are doing? Using the time we have away from school to not only to enjoy the company of family and friends, but to pause long enough to reflect upon our efforts in the classroom is imperative to our continued development as teachers and professionals.
I definitely know the value of reflection as a means to improvement. In fact, I have my students do reflection activities quite often. In my work as a high school teacher, I utilize common strategies such as exit slips and end-of-unit evaluations. In my online courses, each term concludes with an assignment that specifically requires reflection on the overall course learning, as well as goal setting for future learning and teaching. My use of reflection as a teaching tool is robust; it is in my own professional and personal growth where, at times, I find myself falling short.
As classroom teachers and college professors, we must model what we ask of our students. We need to force ourselves to periodically stop and focus on where we’ve been, so that we can set goals and plan for where we would like to go next. If we don’t, we will become stagnant and outdated. The world, including education, is changing and improving on a daily basis. If we do not find ways to do the same, we will be left behind. Ongoing change and progress starts by first, slowing down and taking time to analyze our current practices and procedures. A good teacher plans her lessons and executes them well; a great teacher learns from them. It takes commitment. It takes time. But it’s worth it.