Teaching isn’t easy.
It will challenge your content knowledge, pedagogical skills, charisma, diplomacy, communication, statistical analysis skills, and a dozen other strands you didn’t know where strands. Some teachers may try to tell you that being happy doesn’t matter. That it’s about results. Data. Performance. Or more rhetorically, the students.
Teaching is about the students, but guess what? If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t help the students–not in a way that’s sustainable. We’ve talked before about surviving teaching. But what about setting the bar higher? What about thriving as a teacher? What about being happy? And further, can you be happy and be a good teacher at the same time?
A key factor in happiness can be perspective, and a factor in effectiveness can be reflection.
8 Ways To Be A More Reflective Teacher
- Record yourself teaching
Today, it can be a matter of casually propping up your smartphone out of sight, setting it to record, and getting on with the lesson. In fact, you can even create a time-lapse (there are many apps that do this with ease) to track your movement around the room. You can watch the video with and without sound. You can even look for specific things–who talks the most, average wait time, clarity of instructions, etc.
And it doesn’t have to be video–just audio can be revealing, too.
- Invite colleagues to observe your class
Not just the same few teachers, either. Ask them to be ‘critical friends’ and then thicken your skin. It’s not about you, it’s about your craft.
- Ask the students for feedback
You might be surprised how good they are at guiding you in your work.
- Ask yourself daily, “How did it go and how do you know?”
This is a question from Cognitive Coaching training, and it’s a useful tool to frame reflection. What are your general impressions, and what evidence do you have to support those impressions? Think of something right now that you believe to be effective. A literacy strategy, for example. Or a favorite unit. Maybe a grading policy.
You say it ‘works.’ How do you know? What can you point to as evidence? What would others say? What metrics are you using? (See #10 below.)
- Be honest with–but not critical of–yourself
So many potentially great teachers are blind to their shortcomings.
This is probably a kind of defense mechanism. That, or they really can’t see their hangups. No teacher is perfect, but reflection can help you identify those barriers that are keeping you from improving. This will require you to be honest with yourself; don’t rationalize your own mediocrity, but don’t tear yourself apart, either.
Reflect, iterate, and improve.
- Surround yourself with enthusiasm
The more potential you see around you, the more you’ll observe, analyze, and design to try to fit some of those ideas in.
- Look for what’s working
Don’t become addicted to fixing the broken bits in your teaching; celebrate what you do well. Identify your own strengths, and use them to bolster where you’re weak.
- Diversify your metrics
It’s tempting to have ‘stuff you like,’ but have a diverse set of measures of the effectiveness of what you do: Talk to students. Get feedback from parents. Have colleagues watch you. Use a variety of types of assessments.
And that’s just the content part. You also need to know if your manner of interacting with colleagues is working for both you and them. Your tone, body language, quantity and quality of conversation, and so on.
The same with how you grade papers, store unit materials, call the class to attention, manage your time, and on and on. There is no single way to do these things. But make sure you know what’s working and what’s not. So often, teachers spin their wheels wildly without knowing it.
(This article/text/quote/image are shared in good spirit to strang then school education system.)