Reflecting and Recharging This Summer

Center for Teaching Quality

By now, you’ve probably worked through the piles of papers and exams that needed grading. You’ve taken a stab at cleaning your classroom, mostly putting things into random boxes. You’re ready to let the tension from your neck and shoulders fall away.

Maybe you’re looking forward to some travel or perhaps you will finally find the time to get to the books that have piled up on your bedside table. No matter what your start-of-summer-break tradition is, I hope you’ll consider making reflection a part of it this year.

After all, summer can provide you with the opportunity to make the most of what you’ve accomplished this year—and make next year even better.

Review your teaching journal—if you keep one. When my students are writing in their journal at the beginning of the class, I am also writing in mine. This record of day-to-day reflection on my practice has helped me process the often chaotic times in the classroom.

At the end of the year, it is interesting to peruse through these journals and find moments of joy and frustration. It helps me think ahead to next year and consider making different decisions such as when projects are due, guest speakers are scheduled, and field trips are incorporated. Pairing my journals and next year’s school calendar helps frame my thinking before I think about making major changes in my pedagogical practice.

(A tip for next year: Jim Burke has worked with Heinemann to create The Teacher’s Daybook to help teachers reflect as they progress throughout the year.)

Look back over your planner. Even if you don’t keep a teaching journal, you may have kept up with the daily work of the school year in a digital or paper planner. At the very least, you probably have access to your “sent” personal and professional email messages. Taking a look over your sent messages from the past year can be revelatory in helping consider how you may want to do or schedule things differently in the future.

Revise/create unit plans.

Unless you’re changing and growing in your own learning, you’re basically teaching the same year over and over again to your students. Reviewing units from previous years will provide the insights you need to change up your ideas. If the shift to Common Core State Standards isn’t already leading you to mix it up in your classroom, consider scrapping a unit you’ve done in the past and trying something different next year.

Deep diving into curriculum planning takes time and energy, so it’s a great summer task. To keep yourself on track, consider joining up with colleagues to share ideas and receive feedback.

Find opportunities to continue your growth.

Adding new experiences to your personal life will only enrich your professional life. Consider how travel can expand your point of view and add a depth of understanding that you’ll bring back to your students once school starts back up again. If your passport has expired and a trip is out of reach, consider reading widely this summer. According to Jhumpa Lahiri, “…that’s what books are for, to travel without moving an inch.”

In addition, many organizations offer summer professional development to help teachers grow in their area of interest. For example, the National Writing Project’s Educator Innovator is kicking off The Summer of Making and Connecting, including a MOOC on connected learning.  And if you have yet to experience an Edcamp, check out their site and see if you can attend one in your area, or better yet, host one.

How will you reflect on your practice this summer? What experiences will aid your rejuvenation as a teacher this summer? I look forward to reading your ideas.

Center for Teaching Quality is writing a series of blogs in partnership with Teaching Channel. CTQ is transforming the teaching profession through the bold ideas and expert practices of teacher leaders.

Meenoo Rami is a National Board Certified English teacher at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. She also runs a weekly twitter chat for English teachers via #engchat. She is a teacher consultant with the National Writing Project and a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s Collaboratory. 

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