It's May. Some teachers say it with delight, giddy with the thought of summer days, sleeping in, and no papers to correct. Others say it with defeat. It's May--I only have a few weeks left to teach them something. It's May. For me that means looking back over the year, looking at the changes I made in the classroom, and seeing what I've accomplished in the lives of my students.
I'm a big believer in self-reflection, knowing I'm my worst critic. But I'm honest and I don't embellish what did or didn't work. It's important for teachers to squeeze out some time, maybe at the end of the day or the beginning of one, to look back over the year and ask themselves some questions.
1. What did I teach my students? I'm not talking content or the standards but what did I teach them about being a decent human being? What type of behavior did I model? How well did I teach them to think and analyze?
2. What have I learned? Again, this doesn't have to be about content, but what did I learn about my students? What did I learn about me? What did I learn about the teaching profession and how to be better?
3.What impact have I had beyond my classroom, in the community? This may seem like an odd question to ask, but again, I think it's modeling community involvement to my students. School can't be my entire life, so what have I done this year that has helped others, impacted others, or made a difference in my community? I am involved beyond my classroom walls. Talking to my students about what I do models the volunteerism I'd like to foster in my students' lives.
4. What did I crush this year? Sometimes that's the hardest question for me to answer. And most times it isn't the content or curriculum that comes first. How well did I connect with my students this year? Was I peevish? Patient? Did I smile a lot? Did I make students feel safe, successful and self-confident?
5. How can I improve? There are teachers in my district whose work with students blow me out the water. I recently met with a colleague and I could only listen in amazement at her dazzling display of success she'd been experiencing with an exceptionally difficult group of freshman. I enjoy meeting with this friend as I'm always challenged to step up my game after my talks with her. She, without knowing it, shows me areas I need to grow in as an educator and as a person. She makes me want to better myself. I'm grateful for friends like that. Meetings with her always lead me to ask myself what I need to work on to become a stronger teacher.
So take some time this month to ask yourself these questions. Slow down, take a break and really reflect on yourself as a teacher. Who knows? It could make all the difference.