Friday, June 15, 2012

Reflect, Adapt and Remain Relevant

My favorite part about summer is having time to reflect and begin thinking about the possibilities of the upcoming school year. Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Preparation is essential to a strong beginning especially if you plan to implement any fresh new ideas.

Preparing for requires reflecting upon what has worked and what hasn't in the classroom, despite how painful it can sometimes be. When I was a physical education instructor, I found ways to assess my own teaching.  I would ask students to write me a letter after each unit simply answering two simple questions. What did you like most about this unit and what was something that you did not understand or would like to know more about during this unit? First of all, you must prepare yourself for very honest answers and most importantly, be willing to learn and make adjustments accordingly.

“There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.” - Confucius

Without exerting genuine effort and real intention into your self-reflection, you are wasting your time. The unexamined teacher can lead to ineffective and outdated lessons year after year. Times change, technologies change, best practices change, and you must change in order to adapt and remain relevant in the ever-changing world of education.

REFLECT ON WHAT? Ask Yourself These Tough Questions - And Be Honest!
What can I do to make my teaching more authentic while adding to my students' learning and enjoyment?
Which lessons or units am I only continuing to perform out of habit or laziness?
What changes can I make to my instructional delivery in order to directly increase my students' learning?
What assessment types am I utilizing with every student, every day, to make sure they have mastered the instructional goal? What are you doing with the results of your assessments to adjust instruction to ensure student learning? 
Are there any aspects of the profession that I am ignoring out of fear of change or lack of knowledge? (i.e. technology)
What can I do to be more proactive in my professional development?
How can I increase valuable parental involvement?
One of the best things about teaching is that every school year offers a fresh, new start. We owe it to our students to reflect, prepare, and make student learning inescapable!


  1. Great post Shawn.
    You hit on several points and questions we as teachers and admin should be asking ourselves daily.
    Thank you for posing these tough ones for us to reflect upon.

  2. Great thoughts! Another summertime goal should be giving yourself time to let go. As educators, we are driven to focus on that ONE parent, that ONE bad lesson, or that ONE student with whom we never made a connection. This personality trait is a driving force in self improvement, but it can also be self destructive. Summertime gives us a time to reflect, yes, but also time to heal and move forward!

  3. Thanks Bill for commenting. I think the key is to not hide from the truth and to be honest. Deep down we know the answers and until we are willing to address them, significant change probably will not occur. We owe it to our students to reflect, adapt, and remain relevant. Otherwise, our students will disengage from the learning. Enjoy your summer Bill.

    Terrific point Kelli! Great teaching is hard work and it is extremely important to relax and rejuvenate over the summer. To disconnect and as you state, "let go." After much thought, I believe it to be equally as important as self-reflection.

    You also bring up another important point. Great teachers care and this can lead to a disheartening feeling sometimes during deep, honest reflection. It's important to not beat yourself up. Hindsight is 20-20. It's important not to dwell on mistakes, and instead, acknowledge the situation, learn from any shortfalls, adapt, and move forward!