I am really excited about the changes coming to my district next year. Many of my peers are moving to new leadership positions, and I may even be working in a different capacity. For me, one of the best parts about teaching is that each year I get to start over with a new group of scholars, new beginning teachers, new challenges, and new opportunities to make a difference. Each year, I have a chance to grow and perfect my craft as a classroom teacher and mentor.
It’s certainly that time of year: state testing is coming to an end, semester finals have begun, permanent records are filed away, and the Arizona sun is beaming. These are my cues to start reflecting on the year and contemplating the changes I want to make for the next year. Any type of end of year reflection can be useful for teachers. With the changes in my district, comes some anxiety for me. We have a new superintendent finding her way; several changes in the mentoring program, and the inevitable staff shake-ups. However, the good news is I am surrounded by a caring staff, a supportive administration team, and some amazing teacher leaders.
With all the changes in my district and new opportunities afforded to me, my reflection this year will take on a whole new meaning and purpose. I usually just ask myself a few simple questions each year to reflect and grow as an educator. I like to do this right at the end of the year while everything is still fresh on my mind. I always start with the positives and then tink about some of the challenges I encountered throughout the year, and what I did to work through them. I usually try to focus on 2-3 different key areas each year. If I choose too many areas, I get overwhelmed and wind up not reflecting with meaningful intent and purpose.
One of the most important parts of teaching is the relationships we build each year. So I definitely like spending some time reflecting on my relationship with my scholars.
Some basic questions I usually ask myself are-
- What did I do that helped build relationships with my scholars? What else could I do?
- What did I do that helped build community among my scholars? What else could I do?
- Was I effective at communicating positives and concerns regularly with my parents? If not, how can I improve on this?
Interestingly enough, the first two questions are very similar when I am reflecting on my relationship with my beginning teachers. Throughout the year, as well as at the end of the school year, I also encourage my mentees to participate in reflective practices.
This year, while I was cleaning out my files, a funny thing happened. I actually found one of my “Dear Self” letters that I wrote during one of my Arizona K-12 Center teacher leader conferences and network meetings. This was a conference that took place early on during the school year. The speaker asked all the participants to write a letter to our future selves; the letter would reach us during the school year.
As I read the letter I wrote to myself in September, I couldn’t help but smile and nod in assent. Although the letter was written a few years ago, and it was short and not that specific, it truly captured my sentiments this year, as well as what I am feeling about the next school year.
This is what it said:
Dear Future me,
I’m certain that this year is both challenging and rewarding. Take the time to truly reflect on the learning and consider what kind of impact can be made for as many classrooms as possible.
I know you are afraid of some of the changes taking place because you see the impact and value your work (and others) is having on students and teachers, but I’m going to reaffirm that you need to trust the process and know that good decisions will be made on behalf of the students and beginning teachers.
Keep being fearless and passionate. #World Domination, #Don’t Stop Until Apprehended. Don’t be afraid to be you and to always be an advocate for students and teachers!
Wow! Honestly, this letter to myself is spot on for this year as well as my new path next year. This year was quite challenging, but also very rewarding and despite the discomfort of change, I was reminded many times this year that I was never alone. There was always that camaraderie among my peers that often got me through tough times. Some of these colleagues became and are fierce friends who continue to be my sounding boards and support in different places. I formed so many great relationships this year (especially going through the National Board process). There is no greater satisfaction than knowing the impact that results from building strong bonds.
There is a Bible verse that truly gives me great comfort anytime I reach a milestone in my life, or anytime I begin to feel anxious about the future. This is also the Bible verse that I read right before I begin my end of year reflection.
The Bible verse reads-
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
As summer approaches, I look forward to really combing through my reflection notebook from previous years and looking deeply into what I learned and how I can continue to grow from here.
What is one thing you want to reflect on this year? What are you looking forward to most next year? Do you have a special thing that you do when you reflect at the end of each school year? Please share.
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