How are you feeling right now? Maybe you’re energized and bubbling with ideas for next year? On the other hand, maybe you’re burned out, ready for sunshine and days reading in your backyard? Either way, the end of the school year is the most powerful season for reflection.
For one year I wrote a single sentence every single day reflecting on a moment that day when I thought about a person I cared about. I put all the memories into a calendar that I now read on the assigned date. Those short sentences bring back floods of memories from each day and remind of joyful moments I would have otherwise forgotten. They also afford me an interesting comparison between where my life was on this day last year and where it is now.
This anecdote serves to demonstrate a few important aspects of reflection:
- Reflection provides us a metric for growth and change. It helps us keep track of where we were compared to where we are. How many times have you heard a student say something like, “I haven’t learned anything!” and yet, when they think about how far they have come, they realize the tremendous amount of skills they have now that they didn’t at the start of the year. Conversely, I can think of times when I thought I was making incredible progress toward a goal, only to realize that when I looked back at metrics of success, I was not very far from my starting point.
- Reflection allows us to outsource our memories. We only have so much capacity to hold onto information. Our brains tend to auto-store big emotional moments and actually has a bias toward the bad ones. When we write and reflect, we save the “mundane”, the small details, and those little feelings and gestures that bring us life.
An Invitation for Reflection
At the end of this school year, I invite you to take at least 30 quiet minutes to yourself for reflection on the year. I plan to do this exercise myself and with my faculty during outservice. Take out a few blank sheets of paper and write yourself a letter. Let this letter be for you. Here are a few prompts I would encourage you to consider if you don’t know where to start:
- Think about Outcomes: What were your goals for the year? Did you meet them?
- Focus on Process rather than outcome by asking yourself:
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What needs to change?
- Give yourself a pep talk for next year. What small moments with students gave you life? What will you need to hear a year from now to keep you pushing through to the end?
I wrote myself a letter last June and when I read it in September, it brought back so many memories from the previous year. It helped me jump start school and hit the ground running with strategies that worked the previous year. My letter also reminded me of goals that I had for this year’s class and I set about working towards them right away.
Some of the most valuable feedback that I receive comes from my students. Just as we ask students to consider our feedback in their reflections, I encourage you to use your students feedback in your reflection for the year.
This year, I gave every student a stack of post it notes and I pinned nine posters around the room. The headings for each poster were:
- Something that helped you learn
- Best thing about this class
- Worst thing about this class
- Something you’ll remember about this class
- Something Miss Chiappetta should do again next year
- Something Miss Chiappetta should stop doing
- Advice for next year’s students
- Draw a picture
- Anything else?
I learned so much from them! For example, as we prepared for final conferences, I started class every day with the students standing up at the whiteboards. Before they came in, I had written problems up on the board and assigned everyone to at least one or two. More than half of my students reflected that this activity was extremely helpful for their learning so I plan to start EVERY class that way next year, not just review classes at the end of the year.
How do you plan to reflect this year? Did you write yourself a letter? What did you say? We’d love to hear from you. Connect with us on Twitter @masteryforall.
Was this not the post on reflection that you hoped for? Here are a few other resources.
This archived blog post, written by Starr Sackstein, gives guidelines for scaffolding reflection for your students so that they may deepen metacognition.
You can also watch this helpful video with examples and criteria for effective student reflections.
If you want to dig deeply into student reflection and self assessment, check out Starr’s book, “Teaching Students to Self Assess.”
Happy end of the school year!