3—2—1: Countdown to Summer
If you are like many teachers, you are trying to relax and enjoy summer but are still thinking about the school year. The most persistent thoughts probably begin something like, “I should have,” or “I wish I would have,” and are most likely followed by feeling anxious, confused or being overwhelmed about how to make sure your near misses this year turn into successes next year. The secret is this: Reflecting on the school year does not need to make you feel uneasy, and it shouldn’t.
Reflecting on the year as a whole is necessary, and if done right, beneficial, validating and motivating. Reflection done wrong can lead teachers to perseverate on the negative and quickly dismiss their year’s work as a failure and throw everything out and start new in the fall. Ineffective reflection can also lead teachers to deem the year a complete success and plan to blindly repeat step for step what they did this year. Instead, teachers can validate their effort and grow as teachers by counting down, 3-2-1, to the new year by identifying three practices to keep, two to improve, and one new practice they have been wanting to try.
3 to Keep: These are things that worked for the teacher, students and/or parents. Most likely, they are practices that the teacher has been refining for at least a few years. Although the teacher will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these practices through feedback from students, parents and peers, they feel confident they will be effective year after year. Examples of these “keepers” may be as small as a transition routine or communicating with parents through social media, or they may be as big as a project-based learning unit or student blogging which produced great results. The importance is not the scale of these successes, rather that teachers honor themselves—their growth and potential—before addressing their weaknesses.
2 to Tweak: Many times, teachers have systems or practices that have been proven elsewhere to be effective, or are well-thought out and have the potential for success, yet still fall short in the classroom. Usually, these are first or second attempts that are on target to reach “keeper” status, but need more fine-tuning. All teachers have these “works in progress”—the trick is for teachers to be able to distinguish between the things they have tried and should be thrown out and those that have real potential and should be worked on. The lenses teachers can use to help them identify the two strategies with the most potential are: student feedback, overall feel of the class while using the practice, their own comfort level and potential for outside support.
1 New: To keep pace with the changes in technology, the requirements of the workplace our students will enter and our ever-growing knowledge about how people learn, it is not enough for teachers to be complacent doing what have always done, even if it includes continuously improving. The world is moving much too fast for the status-quo and students’ futures are at stake. Teachers must progress along with the world their students live in. All teachers read blogs, articles, books or hear about amazing things other teachers do and think, “Someday I would like to do that.” Well, that someday is now. All teachers need to identify something they feel comfortable trying, find someone at their school or within their PLN that can help them, try it, learn from it and grow.
Reflecting on the school year should not be scary, depressing or induce anxiety. It should celebrate teacher’s strengths and guide their future growth. It should be both validating and inspiring. Summer is waiting. The countdown has begun. 3—2—1 Blast off!