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How to Become a Reflective Educator

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Becoming a reflective educator can be very worthwhile both personally and professionally, but it is not necessarily easy. This lesson introduces strategies on how to be more reflective in your practice.

What is a Reflective Educator?

For the past five years or so, Ms. Bailey has been doing a pretty solid job as a third grade teacher. Her students like her and seem to learn a lot. Her classroom is well-organized and her management style works. Still, lately, Ms. Bailey has started to feel as though something is missing. She rarely takes the time to improve on her practice, and sometimes, she feels kind of lonely.

Then, Ms. Bailey hears the phrase 'reflective educator'. She learns that a reflective educator is one who thinks about her work deeply and considers strengths and weaknesses of her practice. Reflective educators are constantly learning about their students, themselves, and the art of teaching. Ms. Bailey resolves to take some steps toward becoming a reflective educator.

Set Aside Time and Space

One of the first things Ms. Bailey becomes determined to do is set aside time and space each week for thinking about how the week went in her classroom. She decides that she will do this during her prep time on Fridays, while the week is still fresh in her mind.

Rather than work in the classroom, Ms. Bailey decides to go to the school library during this time. Setting aside devoted time and space for thinking through the week helps Ms. Bailey stay committed to her goal of becoming more reflective. She finds that knowing that this time is taken for reflective work prevents her from frittering it away with other tasks. During this time, Ms. Bailey might:

  • write in a journal about something that went well last week
  • look over one or two students' work from the week, reflecting on what they have learned
  • rework a lesson plan that seemed to go awry
  • write a set of goals for herself for the upcoming week

Find Like-Minded Colleagues

Though she is very happy to have the time set aside, Ms. Bailey starts to feel like becoming a reflective educator is lonely, isolating work. She realizes that she needs to find a few like-minded colleagues, other teachers who are interested in reflecting on their practice.

Ms. Bailey approaches her principal with this question, and she points Ms. Bailey in the direction of two particularly reflective teachers in her school. The three colleagues don't have much time to spare, but they set up a system where they can talk occasionally and e-mail each other reflective thoughts. Ms. Bailey finds that these colleagues help her feel less isolated and also hold her accountable for maintaining a reflective stance.

Define Strengths and Struggles

With her colleagues, Ms. Bailey starts to realize that an important part of being a reflective educator is defining her strengths and struggles. In this context, strengths are aspects of teaching that you are really good at and might even come naturally to you. Struggles are areas where you feel you need some improvement.

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