What do you think of when you hear the word ‘reflect’?  I always think back to college.  We had to write reflections after everything!  It was tiring, and often seemed pointless.  Now that I’m livin’ the dream, I realize that reflecting is a critical tool to becoming better each and every day.

So how can we become more reflective teachers?

1.  Get Feedback from Your Students

I created this silly little activity where my students can give ME feedback.  After all, I spend a lot of time telling them how to improve various skills, why not give them the opportunity to do the same for me.  I love hearing what activities they like about my class, and what things they would like to see change.  
Some changes, are out of my control.  I’m sorry that we have to take various standardized tests.  But other things, such as the seating arrangement of my classroom or classroom jobs, are totally things that I could change if a student provides a valid reason.  

2.  Teachers You Admire

More than likely, there are at least two teachers in your building that you look up to.  Maybe it’s the passion that you see in their teaching.  Maybe it’s the creativity that you see in their lessons and routines.  I believe that you should be yourself, but I also believe that it’s ok to bring great ideas and attitudes to your classroom.  If that means picking a mentor teacher’s brain a little–do it!

3.  What Excuses Have You Made Lately?

Don’t get offended and stop reading!  But seriously.  We all make excuses from time to time.  
    *I just didn’t have time this week because of ____.  
    *I’ve been busy planning for ____, so I haven’t had time to focus on teaching right now.  
    *It’s basketball season, and we are running like crazy!

See, they happen, right?  I’ve said my fair share of excuses as well.  But, as a reflective teacher, think about what excuses you have made, and make a plan for how to prevent them.  Maybe it is basketball season, and you are just swamped.  Plan a day where you stay after school to really focus on your lesson plans, differentiating, or working ahead.  Maybe you can wake up a half an hour early to focus on lesson planning or getting yourself organized for the day.  Is that ideal?  Maybe not, especially the waking up early part! :/  But stop making excuses, and start making your students a priority.

4.  Create a Goal

Maybe it’s the special education teacher in me, but I thrive on goals.  I like to set a goal for each school year.  Last year, I wanted to focus on student computation.  I worked my tail off to make sure that happened.  This year, I’m focusing on integrating reading into science and social studies.  I’m working to make this goal happen.  When you set a goal for yourself, and genuinely put forth the effort to achieve it, you are naturally reflective.  Since you are striving to reach that goal, you are usually asking yourself:
    *What am I doing to achieve my goal?
    *Are the strategies/routines that I’m using the best for this goal?
    *How effective am I being?  Am I (or my students) on track to achieve my goal?
    *How are the students responding to these strategies/routines?
    *Is there anything I can do better to help my students achieve this goal?

5.  Find a Friend

As teachers, we often have a few teachers that we just ‘click’ with.  Once you know and trust them, you feel comfortable sharing your joys and frustrations with them on a regular basis.  If you have a trusted friend, reflect with them.  Share things that you’re doing, thoughts that you have about your teaching style, and ask for suggestions.  Sometimes an outsider’s opinion can really help with improving.  It can also help keep you accountable.  Knowing that someone is going to be asking you about your big goal or new teaching method your trying, is great motivation for actually implementing it to the best of your ability.