It is easy as teachers to just start going through the motions in our classroom. Stress, fatigue, and numerous other factors can drive you to it. However, engaging in self-reflection is a way for teachers to continue to grow as professionals.
Fight the Teaching Rut
It's easy to become complacent as a teacher at points in our career. The reality is that for many of us, surviving the first five years in the classroom can be extremely stressful. You go into the classroom and have to learn to master classroom management, changing standards, and constant scrutiny of administration and parents. Just making it five years in teaching is a milestone. So once you've made it through all of these milestones, and reached tenure status in your district, it is easy to become complacent and just do what you have always done. However, as teachers even when our districts may have lightened up on their formal evaluations of our teaching practices, we still need to evaluate ourselves to continue to grow in our profession.
Make a Professional Development Plan
Many educators work in districts where the vast majority of their professional development plan is prescribed. Everyone in the building probably attends to the same professional development classes throughout the year, but the reality is that is not the best approach to growing yourself as a teaching professional. If you want to grow as an educator, you need to conduct a self-evaluation of your teaching and identify areas that you need to improve.
First, you want to collect data from a variety of sources. It could mean you video your class to evaluate your classroom management practices. Another strategy could be doing an anonymous student survey to identify areas of your teaching that students may be struggling with. Finally, it could be working with colleagues in your subject area to evaluate your lessons or assessments for appropriateness. Once you have the data and have reflected on your teaching by yourself and perhaps even with your colleagues, identify areas that you feel you want to work on in your teaching.
This self-evaluation can help you realize the areas that you need to pursue in terms of professional development, rather than just following the professional development train in your district. For example, you may need work on engaging students with an appropriate level of academic challenge, or use more authentic forms of assessment in your classroom. Whatever the area you need help with, you can often locate free professional development thanks to the Internet.
For example, most professional organizations such as the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development offer free webinars for teachers even if you are not a member of that particular association. You can also locate books or articles through these associations that may be helpful in addressing your particular needs as a teacher. Don't be afraid to ask your administrator for suggestions as well. You'll find that they appreciate teachers who seek out opportunities to improve their teaching practices.
Build Our Teaching Skills
As teachers, we will inevitably find ourselves telling our students that if you don't occasionally fail, you can't grow. The reality is that we need to take this advice to heart ourselves. If we as teachers don't evaluate our successes and failures, we can't grow as teaching professionals. If you don't self-evaluate, you fall in danger of falling into a rut in your teaching.
Learn from What Worked
For example, pick a lesson or series of lessons on a topic that you think worked well. Not just because it felt good in the classroom, but because you have evidence that the strategies you used impacted student learning. Once you have the lesson unit, reflect on what happened. If you teach middle or high school, think about how the lesson went in different classes.
Then, make a list for yourself specifically of what strategies seemed to work well. When we saw strategies, this means techniques that you could apply to other lessons during the year. Did you use a digital tool as a formative assessment that became a powerful tool to adjust your instruction? What techniques did you use to get students to engage with the content? These successes can be transformative in your teaching because when you reflect on them, you can find ways to use the same strategies in different ways in other lessons through self-evaluation. Scholastic provides a useful self-assessment checklist.
Find Solutions For Teaching Challenges
Once you have evaluated what worked in the lesson, go back and think about what didn't go so well. Start by just making a list, and getting it in front of you. Even the best lessons have their flaws that we can learn from as teachers and improve our practice. It may be that you struggled to reach a handful of students, who couldn't master the content. You may have had some classroom management issues during the lessons that you need to find strategies to improve upon. If you don't know how to fix the issues, don't be afraid to ask for help. Even if they are small issues, good teachers find ways to grow from them.
The reality of the teaching profession is that each group of students who walk into your classroom have different strengths and challenges. Within a single day, you could have four or five groups of students who are all distinctly different and need you to approach teaching them a bit differently. To do so successfully, you need to regularly engage in self-evaluation so you can grow the skills you need to deal with any challenge students throw your way.