One of the best parts about teaching is that each year you start over with a new group of students, new challenges, and new opportunities to make a difference. Each year, you have the chance to grow and perfect your craft as a teacher.
Each year when state testing is over, benchmarks are complete, permanent records are filed away, and the sun is shining, I start reflecting on the year and contemplating the changes I want to make for the next year. I think this end-of-year reflection for teachers is key.
In this post, I will share the simple questions I ask myself each year to reflect and grow as an educator. I like to ask these questions and reflect right at the end of the year while it is still fresh on my mind.
1. What went well that you plan to continue?
I always start with the positives and think about what went well during the school year. I think about these overall areas but I also try to be really specific with what aspect of that area went well. Here are some examples of areas I reflect on when I am thinking about the positives:
- Classroom Management
- Any Subject Areas I Taught
- Meeting the Needs of Each Specific Subset of Students
- Parent Communication
- Relationship Building with Students
- Using Assessments to Guide Instruction
- I also reflect on any other specific areas that were a school or personal focus for me.
By reflecting on the positives first, I am putting myself in the right mindset to then start thinking about the areas I want to change or modify.
2. What did not go so well and will be your focus area for the following year?
Once I have some positives reflected on, I start thinking about what did not go so well in each area. From that reflection, I then choose 2-3 areas to focus on the next school year. I try to only choose a couple of focus areas because I really want to perfect those areas. If I choose too many areas, I get overwhelmed and wind up not doing any of them well.
Once you choose your focus area, here are some ideas to make some positive changes for the next school year:
- Start a Pinterest board specific to that focus area. Start curating and compiling blog posts ideas, free resources, and even paid resources that will help you. All summer long, add to your Pinterest board as you find things that you want to try.
- Ask for help. Reach out to your colleagues or teachers in collaborative Facebook teaching groups and ask them for suggestions on how to improve specific areas. Need a good fifth-grade group? Click here to join a fifth-grade teaching group I am a part of.
- Seek out a professional development book. My focus for next year is to tighten up my writing instruction, specifically in the area of writing conferences and revising and editing.
Now, that I have the obvious areas that went well and did not go well, I like to specifically reflect on the following areas.
3. Reflect on your classroom routines and procedures.
Ask yourself: Which procedures will I keep? Which will I change? What new ones do I need?
Also, think about which times of the day or transitions were the most frustrating and challenging. Think about a way to create a procedure to avoid problems or minimize the problems.
Once you have reflected, make a list of procedures you want to make sure you implement the following year. Save the list so you can refer to it at the beginning of the year.
4. Reflect on your classroom management.
I break this reflection into two areas: Rules and Consequences
In regards to rules, ask yourself:
- Did I introduce my rules effectively?
- Was I consistent with ensuring my rules were being followed?
- What rules do I need to change/add/or remove?
- Did I effectively revisit my rules as needed throughout the year?
For consequences, ask yourself:
- Was I consistent at issuing consequences for rules not being followed? If not, what can I change to be more consistent?
- Were the consequences effective? In other words, did they work? Did the students care enough about the consequence to follow the rules?
- What new (and logical) consequences do I need to implement next year to ensure my students are following the rules?
- What positive reinforcements worked well? What did my students respond to the most that I can continue?
5. Reflect on your organization.
Organization has never come easy to me so I always spend a lot of time reflecting and making new plans for the next year. Here are some questions to guide your reflection:
- What areas or parts of the classroom were the most organized?
- What areas or parts do I need to improve?
- What part of my classroom did I feel was the most unorganized? How can I fix it to make it more organized?
- Did I do a good enough job involving the students in keeping the room organized? How can I better involve them?
- What, if any, new organizational supplies do I need to purchase to help me stay organized?
6. Reflect on your classroom setup.
At the end of the year, I always make a quick labeled sketch of my classroom. Then, I make quick notes on my sketch of what went well that I want to keep and what I want to change. I then make a few new drafts of my classroom to play around with new ways to set it up my classroom for the next year. I usually tape the final sketch on the marker board to help me remember how I wanted it at the first of the next year.
7. Reflect on your curriculum and instruction.
I reflect a lot as the year is going on about my curriculum and my instruction, but I also like to spend some time at the end of the year reflecting overall. Here are some questions that guide my end of year reflection:
- Which area of my instruction was the weakest?
- Did I provide enough student choice in my instruction?
- Which areas of instruction and curriculum were not engaging for me and which were not engaging for my students?
- Did I get all of my curriculum taught? If not, what can I combine, cut out, or speed up to get through it the next year?
- In which areas of my curriculum was I lacking in engaging and meaningful resources?
- What areas of my instruction needed to be more rigorous?
- What type of instruction (whole group read aloud, experiments, centers, small group teaching, etc.) went really well this year? Why did it go so well?
- What type of instruction do I want to try out next year?
8. Reflect on your relationship with students, parents, and colleagues.
One of the most important parts of teaching is the relationships we build each year. I like to spend some time reflecting by asking these questions:
- What did I do that helped build relationships with my students? What else could I do?
- What did I do that helped build community among my students? What else could I do?
- Was I effective at communicating positives and concerns regularly with my parents? If not, how can I improve on this?
- Which colleagues did I interact with the most? Which colleagues do I want to interact with more next year? Your colleagues can definitely be your best asset when teaching, so choose the ones you want to interact with carefully. Choose colleagues whose philosophy and attitude toward teaching align closely to yours. Also, choose colleagues who will push your learning and growth as a teacher.
And there you have it! Those are the questions and areas I go through each year as I complete my end-of-year reflection. What do you reflect on each year? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments!