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As I write this I’m seven school days away from summer vacation. At this time, I’m filled with the usual mixture of emotions. I’m excited to recharge and relax. I’m sad to be saying goodbye to my students, while wondering if I could have done more. I’m anxious for the next year, wondering how I can apply another year’s lessons to my new students.
As a teacher I often feel sucked into an endless loop of work, reflect and revise, then work again. At this time of year, I’m especially thoughtful about what I want to try differently next year.
But, this year I’m realizing that before I can plan for next year, I need to celebrate the one that hasn’t ended yet. It makes perfect sense, it’s what we want our students to do when they get to the end of a unit of study. But it’s hard sometimes for me to remember to do the same. It’s much easier for me to pick things I want to do differently or better. I’ll admit it’s also even a little exciting. “Next year, I’m going to…” isn’t so much a statement of regret for me as a way of looking forward to new possibilities.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"]But, this year I’m realizing that before I can plan for next year, I need to celebrate the one that hasn’t ended yet Click To Tweet
I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks this way. I think constantly reflecting and refining are a part of practice for most if not all teachers. Still, it’s so important to break out of this habit long enough to reflect on what did work and what we’re proud of.
Here are a few questions I’m reflecting on that I’m hoping will help me focus on my successes. Then, I’ll move on to making fixes for next year.
- What’s something new I tried this year?
Maybe you finally tried out a flipped classroom. Maybe you were assigned a co-teacher for the first time. Maybe you went on a field trip to a museum you’d never visited before. No teaching year is the same as the one before it. Whether you were thrown into a new situation out of your control or chose a new challenge, let’s celebrate the ways we moved out of your comfort zones this year!
2. What’s a lingering problem I finally figured out?
I know it sounds silly, but for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out how to make sure every kid had a sharpened pencil, ready for work. I used to “assign” kids to bring 3 sharpened pencils, but it was an ongoing battle. It was also a waste of time. A couple of years ago I finally realized I should just have a sharp pencil and a dull pencil basket. I know it sounds obvious, but it took me 4 years to get there. This year, I figured out a way to get some of my reluctant readers excited by buying Star Wars and Lego books in bulk from eBay. Teaching is made up of hundreds of complex and minute challenges. Let’s celebrate our problem-solving skills, even if it’s something as small as a saving our kids from dull pencils.
3. Which unit or lesson am I particularly proud of?
Arguably, this question could be the first. But I don’t think any of us are forgetting to think about the teaching we’re most proud of this year. For me, I was proud of an English Language Arts unit that I planned last year, and refined this year. I felt like I really pushed the kids to write more, include more examples, and more transition words. But I think we can all be proud of specific lessons and even specific conversations that we know made a difference on our students’ thinking. We can also be proud of the lessons when our students really made a difference on our thinking! That only happens in a classroom where kids are feeling safe, encouraged, and valued.
4. Who’s a student who made growth in a key area?
Whether it’s a student who made extraordinary growth in reading, that kid who memorized their multiplication tables, or the one who finally learned to raise their hand instead of calling out, we all can think of a student who made a leap this year. Thinking about an individual student is an important way to counterbalance the pressure on all of us to be superheroes who close the achievement gap for all students in a single year. Yes, we want to help all students learn. Also making a difference for even one student is an achievement worth celebrating.
At the end of the year, I’m already thinking about the next one. Sometimes, if I’m not careful, summer vacation comes without me taking a moment to pause, and celebrate. These are just a few questions I thought of to help me do that. What questions can you think of to help us celebrate a year of hard work?