First-Year Teaching Advice: The Importance of Reflection

Girl & DeskReflection over my first-year teaching is what allows me to step back and look at what has and hasn’t been working. There have been days when I remember that quote by Albert Einstein: The definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different outcome. I’m especially reminded of it when I reflect over my rookie use of classroom management skills and discipline strategies.

When I stepped back and realized how many of my students were having problems with each other, I incorporated a unit on bullying. It took me a while to see that my class with the most behavior problems would benefit from having all materials ready on their desks—despite having seen and helped teachers, I worked with in the past, use this strategy. It took me a while to realize that my second class of the day, which unlike most of my classes has about 20 students, needed a seating chart. It took me a while to understand that I was becoming unhappy because I took grading home with me, so I figured out ways to grade during school hours.

Even though I learned about the importance of reflecting on my teaching in college, I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to be able to reflect deeply on my teaching on a daily basis or weekly basis, and that I would rarely ever actually write a detailed reflection over my teaching.

During conversations with friends, family, and coworkers, I have found wisdom to learn from and apply in my teaching. This usually happens after I or they, depending on who I am talking to, share frustrations and ideas about teaching.

Sometimes before my first class starts or after my last class ends, I briefly reflect on what I want to change or improve that day or the following day. For example, one day after school I learned that a messy classroom does not work for me. So now I have students pick up after themselves.

I think that in a lot of ways reflection is intertwined with teaching in a way that I don’t even realize I’m doing it. As I go about my teaching, I apply changes as needed when I see that my teaching and my students’ learning will improve with modifications on a class by class basis. I am grateful that as I go about next year, I’ll have this year’s experience as background knowledge.

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