One of the most powerful things you can do as a teacher is spend time reflecting on how things are going in the classroom. Reflection give you a chance to identify things that are working well and replicate their success. Reflection also gives you time and space to honestly appraise what isn’t working well, and identify potential ways to address any problems. But, the problem with reflection is that it’s hard to carve out time for it- papers demand to be graded, emails clamor for our attention, and just about everything else becomes more urgent than finding a quiet time and space to stop the presses and just reflect.
For over ten years, Rachel and I have worked in the same school district. Working similar schedules, and always looking for ways to save a little money, we’ve car pooled to work most days. We chose carpooling for financial reasons, but within a short amount of time we found that it had an extra bonus for us. The drive home from work proved to be an ideal time to talk about our work with students and really reflect on how things were going. We would bounce ideas off of each other, ask for advice, or just talk through what happened during the day. This built in time for reflection has made each of us a much better educator. Even though it sometimes makes more logistical sense for us to each drive our own car, we value and jealously protect that time. Those car ride discussions have led to countless epiphanies and solutions to nagging challenges.
Inside a car jam session
During our car “jam sessions”, reflection happens in a couple of ways. First, when debriefing on our day, we have to put into words observations, triumphs, and frustrations from the day. Simply putting those things we’ve experienced into words helps to really make sense of them. Sometimes just the act of articulating what is going on helps each of us to understand situations better and see a path forward. Other times, we brainstorm together and find approaches that will work.
Try it out
Taking time for reflection will never rise to the top of the to-do list, or seem urgent to do. Yet I have come to believe it is one of the most important practices we can do as educators. Here are a few things I try to do to make sure I have time for reflection and that I get the most out of it:
- Carve out a time and space- make it a priority
- Reflect in a way that makes sense for you- maybe it’s writing in a journal or blog, maybe it’s reflecting with a colleague, or maybe it’s a few minutes in quiet meditation.
- Identify actionable steps at the conclusion of your reflection- what are you going to do now? Maybe it’s following up tomorrow with a particular student. Maybe it’s starting the next lesson specifically addressing a misconception. Maybe it’s adjusting your seating chart. Maybe it’s sending a thank you note to a colleague whose help really meant a lot. Whatever the step is, take some action based on the thoughts you’ve had during reflection.
Whatever you are doing right now, stop and identify a small window of your day that will become your sacred time for reflection. I guarantee you’ll see a high return on your time investment.
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