Moving Past the Required Reflection
By Monica DeMuro
Reflection is something we’re all taught as educators going through college. For some of us, by the time we graduate, reflection becomes rote, something we have to check off at the end of the semester. It became that way for me. At times, I felt as though I was reflecting upon reflecting upon reflecting. I couldn’t take it anymore! Like many methods learned in our education classes, the value of reflection only became realized in practice in the real life classroom.
Through the tumultuous affair that was my first year teaching, reflection, which should have been a life preserver was pushed out of my mind as I tried to stay afloat that year. It wasn’t really until my fifth or sixth year teaching where I truly saw the value of reflection. For a while, I had been reflecting on the effectiveness of my instruction or the management in my classroom in my head. A random sticky note here and there may have made it on to a lesson or unit plan. There was no follow through to the next year. Nothing that actually improved my way of educating. I had to start taking my reflection-like thoughts and move them into writing. I bought a brand new notebook and established my professional goal as keeping a reflection log to enhance and improve my instruction.
Before I started my reflection log, I thought about what I wanted out of it. What I truly wanted out of the experience was to see what practices of mine were effective and which ones were ineffective. What was working and what didn’t work within my four walls. I used a basic template when I would sit down at the end of the day. I split each notebook page into thirds. On the top of the page, I would summarize what we did during the day. In the middle, I would make notes of what worked well with the lesson, and then in the bottom, I would make notes on what needed to be worked on. With any remaining space I would write down ideas for future lessons. This year and in future years, I am able to look at the notes that I have and use them to become a better teacher.
Reflection is something that is important to all of us, and it is also something that can be personalized. As teachers, we are always evolving. Our reflections should show that. As another year comes to a close and summer is on the horizon, reflect back over not only the year you had, but how you can make next year even better. Embrace reflection. Allow it to improve your teaching, allow it to improve you. We are being held to such high standards of accountability these days. But most important is to be accountable to you.
Monica DeMuro is an Eighth grade English teacher in the Central Bucks School District. This is her eighth year teaching, and she became a PAWLP fellow in 2013.