Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday's Five - Self-Reflection

In order to become better at anything we do, it's important to take an honest look at our practices and look for areas of improvement.  Knowing our strengths, and recognizing our weaknesses allows us to make positive changes in our teaching.  Often, it's hard to do this self-reflection for a variety of reasons.

Over the past few weeks, I've been forced into reflecting on my teaching, and it's been both humbling and immensely beneficial.  I've been fortunate to be nominated for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST), and the demands of the application process have forced me to seriously look at what I do as a professional both in and out of the classroom.  Because of this, I've been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about ways teachers can self-reflect to improve their craft.  Here are five ideas.
  1. Videotape and watch a lesson or two.  Having to watch myself teach has made me realize a few things about my teaching.  As the amount of time in the period gets short, my use of formative assessment decreases.  When my students are discussing concepts in groups, I sometimes cut them off earlier than I should.  Sometimes they are having great conversations, and I should let them continue.  I never would have realized these things if I didn't watch myself teaching.
  2. Allow others that you trust to come into your room, and discuss your teaching with them.  This is beneficial for both of you.  Too often we teach with the door closed.  Our great lessons never get shared, and we never get to hear an outside perspective on our teaching.  Some lessons are great, some stink, and most fall somewhere in between.  That's going to be true whether another teacher is watching your lesson or not.  The only difference is that you get professional advice and dialogue when you invite others into your room.
  3. Re-write your resume at least once per year.  If you are not looking for a job, it's easy to forget about your resume.  It can be a great self-reflection too, though.  As you look over your list of achievements you'll probably find it easy to identify what areas are strengths, and areas that are lacking.  Identifying those lacking areas is the first step toward building them into strengths.
  4. Develop lessons collaboratively with others who teach the same topics.  This can be colleagues in the same school/district, or it can be those you know from networking.  Collaborative planning gives you ideas of ways to improve upon your pedagogy, opportunities to share resources (like videos you make, math manipulatives, etc.), and different points of view.  Collaborating with those in a different location is easy now with videoconferencing tools like Skype and Facetime.
  5. Participate in a Professional Learning Community (PLC).  This term has gotten a bad reputation in some places because it refers to mandatory meetings lead by an administrator.  That's not what a PLC should be.  Get a group of committed professionals together and agree to meet once a month or every few weeks to discuss pedagogy.  At each meeting, set the topic for the following meeting and decide upon the information and/or data that each teacher needs to collect.  One month you could focus on formative assessment and have everyone bring the two techniques that work best in their classrooms to share.  The next month you could focus on reading comprehension and have each teacher bring a summary of a journal article, blog post, or other piece on best reading comprehension practices.  The meetings should be voluntary, lead by teachers, and the topics should be set based on what the participants want to improve upon.  


    1. I like #3 - I need to do that. I haven't put a resume together in over 15 years. Thanks for the nudge.

    2. I also like #3. It might remind me of my many skills and strengths. I've taught in such varied placements and used different skill sets each time - I really ought to document this.