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How-To: Develop as a Professonal

Making a Practice of Reflection Judy Jones

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards includes in its list of "Propositions of Accomplished Teaching," the following:

Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.

Accomplished teachers are models of educated persons, exemplifying the virtues they seek to inspire in students - curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences - and the capacities that are prerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and take multiple perspectives, to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem-solving orientation.

Accomplished teachers draw on their knowledge of human development, subject matter and instruction, and their understanding of their students to make principled judgments about sound practice. Their decisions are not only grounded in the literature, but also in their experience. They engage in lifelong learning which they seek to encourage in their students.

Striving to strengthen their teaching, accomplished teachers critically examine their practice, seek to expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge, sharpen their judgment and adapt their teaching to new findings, ideas and theories."

You should begin this practice of reflection from the moment that you prepare to teach. This will become a way of thinking for you over your years as an educator. It is very easy to fall into the trap of blaming students, schools, parents, administrators, or any other handy person, for a lesson that does not go well and then congratulating yourself when a lesson shines! Human nature! However, a practice of reasoned reflection will lead you to grow as an educator, which will directly benefit your students and improve their learning.

REFLECTING ON ACTIVITIES/LESSONS:

When you finish an activity with a class, it is extremely valuable to evaluate its effectiveness. Over the years, I have done a lot of "fun" activities with my classes. But upon reflection, I have realized that some of them do very little to enhance learning. So ask yourself some important questions after your students have experienced a lesson or activity:

    • Have my students learned from this lesson/activity?
    • What have they learned?
    • What is my evidence that they have learned?
    • What was the success rate of the students?
    • Are there details that should be changed?
    • Should the activity be eliminated entirely?

If you keep samples of your activities and lessons in a binder or in files, you can add your reflection notes to the folder. The following year, these notes will be invaluable to you as you plan your curriculum.

REFLECTING ON STUDENT BEHAVIORS:

For a new teacher particularly, student behaviors can be extremely serious and preoccupying concerns. There will be other pages on this web site to discuss behavior management in more detail. However, reflecting upon student behavior can be the first step in learning what to do about it. When faced with troublesome actions on the part of your students, ask yourself some questions:

    • What is the student really feeling?
    • Is the student frustrated by lack of success?
    • Are there home problems that may be upsetting the student?
    • Could substance abuse be the problem?
    • Are there influences in the classroom that are affecting the student?
    • Is there some way that you are relating to the student that is exacerbating the behavior?
    • If so, what can you do to change how you relate to the student?
    • What other actions can you take to help the student?
    • What resources exist in your school that would help you with the student?

Once you have thoughtfully answered these questions, you should be able to find some ways that you can change your own relationship with the student. If you change, it is practically guaranteed that the student will change how he or she behaves in your class. In addition, you may be able to refer the student to other services that can help with all-encompassing problems that many of our world's children are dealing with.

REFLECTING ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT:

Student achievement can be very problematic. There are always the students who perform extremely well. They validate our vision of ourselves as excellent teachers! But the students who do not thrive are upsetting, partly because we care about them and their learning, but also because their lack of success makes us feel inadequate. As teachers, we should always believe that all students are capable of learning and that our job is to find the key to each student's success. This will require deep reflection, however. As you reflect, ask yourself these questions:

    • What is keeping the student from being successful?
    • Is the student able to do the assignments? Or does the student refuse to do assignments?
    • What is the student's state of mind? Are emotional problems blocking learning?
    • Do you need help from family services?
    • Does the student need another mode for learning?
    • What resources can you turn to for help in reaching this student?
    • What can you do?

If you develop the practice of serious reflection about the effectiveness of yourself as a teacher, you will find that you become a better and much more satisfied teacher over the years.

 

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