I saw this Tweet the other day and shouted YES (followed by a reTweeted “Yes”).
Reflection and readjustment should be core teaching practices. Early in my career I knew a few teachers who bragged about having legal pads with lesson notes they wrote years ago. This should not have been a point of pride, this should have been a point of embarrassment. This suggests that you have stopped active engagement in your profession and have instead thrown in the towel. If you are using the same lecture notes year after year, congratulations, you can now be replaced by a lecture video. You are no longer a professional drawing on your skills and expertise.
You are no longer teaching students mathematics, you are teaching mathematics (to whom it doesn’t matter since you are not taking them into account anyhow).
If you can’t find anything to change you are not looking. You can always be a better teacher.
I find the fact that you can never teach a perfect lesson is very motivating. Even when a lesson goes great, I can still find some aspects to tweak and innovate for the next time. When things go bad, I actually do enjoy thinking through ways to revise my lesson. It is a continual improvement process based on cycles of enactment, reflection, and readjustment.
As we continue through the summer, I hope everyone takes some time off to relax and reset. Everyone needs a break. Rest and relaxation is good for our heads and our hearts. It allows us to recharge and rekindle our joy for teaching (which we sometimes lose in the midst of stressful semesters!). I also hope you take some time this summer to reflect on your past year and make some plans for readjustments.
This reflection should include thinking about the good and the bad. It is way too easy to focus on the negatives, we have to embrace our wins. As we reflect, we should also make a plan to readjust. What are the things you struggled with? One of the things I didn’t do as well as I had hoped was leading debriefs to summarize bigger points made during explorations (I’ll write more about this in a future 180 Ideas Post). Knowing this, I then need to think about how to readjust my lessons to allow for these debriefs.
In order to document your ideas you might keep a journal or start building them in to particular lessons. I keep all of my teaching notes in my hot pink Moleskine and revisit them as I plan for the following year. I just went through my notes from last year. This led me to start creating activities to help summarize big ideas throughout the fall semester and I also have a plan for kicking off the year with a collaborative math task. If I didn’t have my notes, there is a good chance I would have forgotten some of my ideas for revision by now because it’s been nearly a year since I last taught the course.
What is your process for capturing your reflections and plans for the next time around? Leave me a note in the comments to share your strategies.