Saturday, November 20, 2010

In anything we do, reflection is critical to continued success. For effective teachers, this component is perhaps the most important part of their success. Having the ability to look critically at what you've done, the impact it had on student learning, and how you would do things differently next time, that reflective piece of the puzzle, is what sets apart great teachers from mediocre ones.

We all teach lessons that go well. We all teach lessons that bomb. It's a fact of life in the classroom. Somedays we are on our game. Some days, at best, we coast through.

Maybe that is the next great craze for professional development - forced reflection for teachers. A once a week, minimum, journaling activity where teachers critically dissect their lessons....

Would it really change anything? Would the less successful teachers be able to look honestly at their shortcomings and find the missing parts?

As a teacher, I am always looking at what I did, and often, focusing on what went wrong. When my students blow a test I thought they were prepared for, I point the finger at me and my teachings methods. When behavior gets out of control in my classroom, I rethink my own reactions to the situation. I try to rationalize how I could have changed the situations before these digressions happened, and strive to make it different tomorrow, next week, next year.

I don't think of myself as perfect. I don't think I am the 'greatest' teacher ever. But I know that every day, every time I teach, I think about my role in the success or failures of my students. I try to take that reflection of my role in their learning journey and use it to improve.

Can that be taught to struggling teachers? Sometimes, I think yes, and other times, when I hear a struggling teacher boast they "use TOO many best teaching practices" in their classroom, I wonder.

I think it all comes down to humble-ness, of being the kind of person who never feels you measure up to your own standards, of always looking for ways to improve.

I remember one of the teachers who taught here when I was first hired. Her room was always immaculate. Students in her classes were ALWAYS on task, perfectly behaved. Yet, SHE asked the principal to attend a classroom management trainings. This teacher who had such perfect control over the same children who would set fire to buildings in their spare time! SHE wanted more classroom management training!

We all need that humbleness, that ability to find ultimate fault with ourselves and our teaching, and the ability to seek improvement along the way. THAT is the difference in being a GREAT teacher and a mediocre one.

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