End of year reflection questions for teachers

June 11, 2012

in instructional coaching

Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers.My intention was to create a beautiful, thoughtful end-of-year reflection form for you all and then use that form to reflect on my own work this year. However, I’m one week away from sending my latest book off for publication, and my brain is consumed with formatting and last-minute copyediting. Emotionally, I’m a little, well, ravaged by the terror that comes with releasing words into the world in print. As in, once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. No edits. No delete button. No updates. The finality of it all is the scariest part for me. And since this is my third go around with book publishing, I know myself well enough to realize that the best thing for me to do is embrace the fear–lean into it, press through it, and give myself the time and space I need to focus. Everything else can get pushed to the side for awhile. The reflection form will have to wait until next year.

Then I saw that Rachel Lynette from Minds in Bloom had posted 20 Teacher End of the Year Reflection Questions. Her questions are absolutely perfect and cut right to the core of what our work in education is all about. For my own benefit, at least, I thought it was worth thinking about some of those questions, as I’ve learned a lot since last June’s end of year reflection. In case anyone reading doesn’t know exactly what I do, this year I was writing, blogging, instructional technology coaching, consulting, and BrainPOPing. Most of the stuff I share below is related to my work in schools, since it’s the closest thing to teaching and therefore most relevant to Rachel’s questions.

What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of? What is one way that you grew professionally this year?

I’m going to combine those two questions because for me, they’re really closely linked. The accomplishment that I am most proud of this year IS the way I grew professionally. I stepped outside of my comfort zone a lot more this year than last year…actually, more than any other year I’ve been in education. The scope of my work as a consultant has increased dramatically: I worked with teachers on Promethean boards, SMART boards, and Eno boards. One week I would provide relevant websites for a high school anatomy teacher, a middle school art teacher, and an elementary school P.E. teacher. Then the next week, I’d do it all again at a different school which uses iPads and needed apps–not websites–for high school chemistry, middle school algebra, and elementary  music.  I worked with Macs and PCs, tablets and computers. Every grade and every subject. Four boroughs in New York (sorry to leave you out, Staten Island), a few different states, and even some work in India (webinars which I conducted remotely–trust me, you would have heard about it if I’d made a trip overseas.)

I spent a lot of time learning about new programs and tools and sites, and seeing how teachers were using them in their classrooms. Almost all of this learning was self-directed. Not having someone tell me the focus of my own professional development can be scary, because I have to figure out what I need to learn on my own, and then decide how I’m going to learn it. But it’s also exciting and more meaningful. I came across so many great resources through my PLN (personal learning network–thank you, Twitter and Facebook!) and at conferences. ISTE will be another major learning opportunity for me this month. Individualizing my own professional development has made me an even bigger proponent of empowering teachers to do the same, and I’m sharing that more and more with school leaders. It’s so important for teachers to have a voice in the PD they attend…and for students to be given choices in their learning, too.

When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?

There are days when I left work knowing that I didn’t do my best, or couldn’t do my best because of factors in the school that were preventing me from being truly effective. Those less-than-productive days were energy draining, because I want to make a difference with my work and I’m not satisfied when I can’t think back on a solid set of accomplishments on the train ride home. And other days, I felt run ragged, like every inch of my brain had been picked apart and I truly had nothing left to give. Just figuring out what to have for dinner was a challenge on those days (thank God there are no fewer than 3 amazing pizzerias on our block).

The times when I felt joyful and inspired were the days when I hit the middle zone between those two extremes: when I worked hard and was challenged, but still had a few moments to myself to breathe and regroup. The best days were the ones when I connected with teachers and we were able to sit and brainstorm for awhile together without a million distractions. I felt inspired each time I knew I had offered them new solutions and the things they tried with their students worked. Elated might be the best word to describe the way I felt in those moments. And for that I feel blessed that I’m able to do this work, because not everyone experiences a feeling of elation when they leave their job for the day. I might not feel that way all the time, but I’m really glad to be doing work that makes me feel joyful and inspired on a regular basis. Those moments look different now than when I was in the classroom, but they’re still there, and I’m so glad! I can’t imagine being in any other field.

What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?

I didn’t get to work with students very much this year, sadly–I really like doing demonstration lessons, but that wasn’t the focus of my work in most schools. However, I can definitely apply this question to my work with teachers, as there are several things I hope they remember about our time together. I hope that I made them feel empowered and capable, and that they felt more confident in their teaching after we met. I hope they felt less alone in their struggles, and more equipped to meet their challenges. I hope they remember me as someone who was genuinely interested in helping them and learning from them.

How would you respond to these questions, or any other end of year reflections? Feel free to add a link below to a place where you’ve written your own thoughts about this school year, or share in the comments. We’d love to read how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned.



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Angela was a classroom teacher for 11 years and currently works as an instructional coach and educational consultant based in New York City. She's created a webinar series on pro-active behavior management and has written 3 books for educators. Check out the blog and free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cori June 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm

The best moment came the last student day this year. A student who struggled the year before with failing grades showed me their report card with a year full of A’s, B’s and C’s. They were so excited and proud fo their accomplishment. So excited, in fact, they hugged me! And a hug is a precious commodity from a middle schooler.

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2 Angela Watson June 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm

That’s awesome, Cori! What a great moment!

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3 Gretchen Schultek June 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Angela,
Great questions to ask. I think it is important to reflect not only as a person, but a teacher. Going through the National Board process really helped me increase my reflections on a daily basis. Teaching is not about me and what I want to do for that particular day. It’s all about the kids- Did I serve them best? Did I reach them all? What percentage of students will retain this information in a week? etc. In saying that, your perspective changes when you not only design your lessons but reflect on them as well. Here goes…

1) What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of? What is one way that you grew professionally this year?
I really got to know my students as people. I took off the teacher hat often. During direct instruction I was serious and intentional. As I walked around guiding students I became a facilitator. During transitions, we danced and sang as family. The best time was at recess playing football with the boys and double dutch with my girls. I think showing personality and relaxing goes a long way- I think they will remember those fun times fondly. I will say their respect for me what at an all time high in comparison to other years. Profesionally, I have been working hard on getting my blog up and running. Learning from other teachers and their experiences has helped change up some classroom routines and bad habits, but writing about my classroom has been the most powerful reflection piece. I can say (a bit embarassed) at my end of the year summative meeting with my principal, pulling up my blog to showcase student work samples and collaboration was an all new experience! haha hey, whatever material you have showcase it!

2) When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?
This was my favorite class of all time. This year was full of so many great memories. I tried to capture them as much as possible on my class website ( http://www.oncoursesystems.com/school/webpage.aspx?id=10866203&xpage=963461 ), but putting together that end of the year picture slideshow not only made me cry but beam with pride. I helped them grow, mature, and develop into strong, intelligent 4th graders. That inspires me to get back in there and do it again next year!

3) What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?
Well I kind of answered this in Q1… but I hope they realize I am a person. Looking back at my experience as a student I loved the teachers that told stories about themselves (especially the embarassing ones!). My students know that I care…really care. So I hope they remember having a fun time learning in my classroom. :)

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4 Patricia Dill June 12, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Teaching in an inner-city school so few of our students were able to take full advantage of the Pizza Hut Book-It program. For each 10 books read the students were given a certificate for a small pizza from a Pizza Hut. Few parents/family members were able to do that. Each week my teaching partners and I would take 2-3 students to Pizza Hut so they could receive their well earned pizza! Of course we had pizza dinner together and ice cream afterwards! We provided the transportation home afterwards. It was such a success that we plan on doing it again next year!!

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5 S. Henderson June 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm

An inspiring moment for me came after working hard with one of the younger students in my first grade class. First grade teachers know that readiness comes in waves and it’s tough for naturally confident little ones when all the other students around them are ‘getting it’ and they are still struggling. The little one who often would softly say to me ‘I can’t read’ changed that statement to ‘I can’t read that . Need I say things continued on the upswing after that?????? What a moment!

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