3 Tips to Support a Reflective Teaching Practice
Your post on The Value in Reflection was so much fun to read. Looks like you're jumping into the new year with incredible energy! Your teaching journey has brought you to a place where you now feel comfortable to spread your wings and the relationship that you're building with Jessica Twomey, seems to be fueling you to create projects that you might not have thought of doing on your own.
Your vision for your work which you say is believing in my kids by providing meaningful learning experiences along with the various tools they can use to thrive clearly has been well thought out. You see the importance of "learning experiences" as the foundation of your student's growth and adding "various tools" to the mix keeps it energized!
It bears noting that you shared that you've "redefined and enhanced" your vision, not settling for last years passing whimsy. I take that to mean that you've actually sat down and done some kind of assessment of your past teaching and the results that you experienced with your kiddos. Maybe you sat with a coach or a colleague? Maybe even your principal? Either way, it's important stuff that many new and even experienced teachers fail to do. This leads me to the questions you posted for me last week:
What value do you see in reflection as an educator, Lisa? What are some other ways to spark meaningful reflection that we can share with our readers?
In my work as a school principal one of my biggest responsibilities was to observe and evaluate the quality of my teacher's lessons as they worked with their students. In the post-observation conferences I held with staff, I worked hard to consistently bring my teachers to a place of feeling comfortable reflecting on their practice. In talking with my teachers and urging them to give me feedback I found most teachers to be sensitive and protective of their teaching when asked to reflect on a lesson. Some even became a bit defensive. Walking my teachers through the reflection process became one of the most challenging aspects of my work.
In a teaching practice, reflecting can take many forms. Make no mistake...it's an integral part of our work as educators and should be done daily or at least weekly. Something we do into, through and beyond our work with students. So to answer your question, the value of reflection is unquestionably important. Here are three tips I want to share that you might want to start implementing to make reflecting on your teaching a daily habit.
1. Audio Reflection- We have many options these days at our fingertips to support us to use tech to reflect. I'd suggest using the audio feature in Evernote or Google Keep as a reflective tool. As you wrap up your day, why not reflect on your lessons or activities by speaking out your thoughts using one of these tools and their audio feature. You can even do it on your way home! What you'll end up with is an "audio" running record of your successes, challenges, and ways you want to fine-tune lessons that you can easily go back and listen to at any time. You might even want to use the recordings to transcribe them if you feel you need to get them out on paper or in a google doc. It's quick and easy to do and you might enjoy keeping a record of these as the years go by.
2. Photo or Video Reflection- I get it...time is of the essence and you might not be in the mood to speak out your reflections. Why not photo or video reflect? Using a tool again like Evernote or Google Keep use your smartphone and snap images of lesson results, activities and student work that will live in one of these tools. It will allow you to capture the components of lessons that are actually completed by students to check out the plus and minus of that lesson outcome. Did it work? Were kids engaged? Better still have a coach or colleague or family member actually take a video of you teaching a lesson! Nothing beats actually seeing yourself in action. As you this you can assess for that lesson what you liked about your delivery, how kids respond and where you want to work to improve. Great companies like Insight Advance are actually spearheading this video movement to support teachers to receive meaningful feedback on their teaching strategies via video, but you can certainly do it on your own.
3. Journal Reflection-Taking the time to do a quick daily journal post about a lesson taught is a great way to inform you of your teaching. Maybe you do it in an online tool like Omm Writer or maybe you just use good old-fashioned pen and paper. Maybe you select a cool notebook that keeps you inspired to do end of day reflections. Even better, why not have your students do the same activity! While you take 5 mins to jot down reflections in a journal about your teaching, your kids do the same reflecting on their learning. Littles, as you call them, who might not be ready to write could easily draw out a reflection with a Google tool or crayons and paper. Either way, you now have your whole class engaged in the reflection process (with you) which ultimately will serve them even more as they move through their school careers.
Taking the time to reflect on your teaching day will be a real game changer for you. It might not be easy at first but as a former Superintendent of mine used to say "if it doesn't get measured it doesn't get done." Who better to initially measure the growth of your teaching than you? As you later connect and reflect with a mentor or your principal, you'll already have some key insights about your teaching which will be so valuable.
Here's to a growing a happy reflective habit for 2018!