Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Educator’s Summer – Reflection and Preparation

prepare For many educators, the beginning of the summer months marks the end of a school year and the beginning of a well deserved pause from the daily grind of school.  While most teachers I know are sad to be away from the students, very few do not look forward to this break.

I have always looked upon the summer as a critical piece to my own professional development.  When I was coaching, I volunteered to coach summer teams as a way to improve.  As a teacher, I often tutored or attended professional development opportunities available.  As an administrator, this time is vital to developing and refining operational plans to address the strategic goals of my division.

No matter what role you fill in school, the summer provides a great chance to reflect on the previous year and prepare for the fall.

Reflection

Personal reflection is one of the top three pieces of advice I give teachers about how to improve their craft (the other two are: actively engage in a professional learning network and visit/observe other teachers).  Reflection is powerful and safe because the only person to whom you are accountable is yourself.  You can be as critical or as complimentary as you like, but, in the end, the reflection should reveal areas of strength and challenge.

Entering the reflection process from the proper perspective will determine its value to you.  As much as possible, looking back on your performance needs to lead to growth and understanding rather than a mark against your ego.  Remember that the better teachers are those who accept growth and development as a natural piece to their “educational DNA.”  Unfortunately, we often do not see areas for growth without experiencing some set-backs, confusion, or errors.

Here are a few questions that can help you begin the reflection process:

  1. Did you accomplish your goals for the year?  If so, how do you know?  If not, why?
  2. What do you believe were your top 3-5 lessons/activities this year?  How do you know that?
  3. What were the lessons that were the biggest disappointments?  Why?
  4. Is the class set up to facilitate the type of class you want to teach?
  5. What feedback can you gather from students about their experience?
  6. Do you recognize professional growth this year?  If so, in what areas?  If not, why?
  7. If you had one thing to do over again, what would it be and why?

Preparation

It is possible that your reflection may uncover questions that you cannot answer.  These questions may provide a nice bridge to your preparations for the following year.  I remember a common teacher quote, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.”  Therefore, taking time during the summer months to truly get ready is essential to the success of your year.  Preparation can take many forms from the actual physical space and design of the class to the course goals, expectations, and assignments.

I cannot imagine any class that would not benefit from SOME adjustment.  The implication being that a lack of adjustment assumes that class was PERFECT.  This does not have to mean a complete overhaul of resources, reading selections, etc.  Adjustments can be as simple as setting up desks in a different configuration, committing to displaying student work more prominently, implementing a different approach to integrating technology, etc.

At the core of your preparation needs to be a focus on maximizing your strengths as an educator to:

  • encourage, facilitate, and support student learning
  • address your professional challenges as part of your growth and development

Here are a few questions that can help you with your summer preparations:

  1. On which “21st century” learning skills do you want to emphasize next year?
  2. Which model for professional growth do you believe is the most effective for you?
  3. What instructional skills will you focus your refinement efforts?
  4. What leadership and/or community building skills will you refine?
  5. What leadership role will you play in your school?
  6. What are your goals for the year?  What is your plan to achieve those goals?  What “deliverable” should anyone expect as a result of accomplishing your goals?
  7. What resources or support do you need to accomplish your goals?

If you would like to read more about my ideas concerning goal setting, please click these links to previous posts.

Image Source Page: http://www.studentlinc.net/studentlinc/2006/03/prepare_to_perf.html

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