Thursday, September 26, 2013

If You're Not Reflecting, You're Not Trying

Without question, one of the most important things I do as an educator is reflect. I'm always amazed when I talk to other educators and ask them about their reflection process and many do not have a set way of doing things. Many say they just tweak on the fly and look at it before the teach it again. That process just terrifies me.

It took me many years to figure this out, but reflection during and after lessons, sessions, presentations, etc. is crucial if I want to continue to grow as a professional. Everything I do is under constant scrutiny because I want to be better. Being better requires reflection and I challenge people to argue otherwise. 

The next step after reflection is making changes where they are needed. Just thinking about what you have done does not mean anything if you do not take action. If something is broke, fix it. If something is not working, do something completely new. Education is a constantly changing creature and our lessons need to evolve with the rest of education to ensure that we are doing what is best for our students. Reflection and change are crucial parts in the process of providing the best education for the students in front of us. 

Please, do not tell me there is not enough time. I'm tired of hearing it. We are all busy. We have friends, families, lives, etc. That doesn't mean we shirk our responsibility to become better at our jobs. Reflection and change is how we can be better. Standing pat because everything seems to be "working just fine" is a lame excuse for not changing. I'm not saying just change everything because change is great. I'm saying take a look at what you do and change what needs to be changed. 

Change will never be easy. I hate change to some degree, but I hate not being the best at my job even more. The day I stop reflecting is the day I stop trying to be the best teacher I can. 

Our students, parents, principals, superintendents and everyone else involved in eduction expect teachers to give their very best every day in the classroom. That might not be possible, but we need to try. If we fail, we fail nobly in an effort to be the best. 

Take some time this year and reflect on your profession and see where you can make some meaningful changes for you and for the students. 


  1. I talk to my students about being intentional instead of being reactive. I think reflection helps us make better choices before we begin our lessons. I also think we can be in the moment of teaching but still be actively reflecting and modifying what we are doing.

  2. Nick,
    You are making a few assumptions. First, you are assuming that teachers take the time to reflect. Many do, but some don't. You are also assuming that when they reflect they are seeing a need to change. It isn't always easy to pinpoint our weaknesses. Even in 2013 there are still teachers who don't see a need to change. I think by sharing examples of what we can do differently will help. Change will happen slowly.

  3. I love this post. I truly believe that being reflective is one of the most essential tools I have and use for my own growth and models for teachers, students and parents. My most recent post is my reflection on the impacts of my own leadership.

  4. Reflection is such a vital tool for educators. While I am constantly reflecting upon information, experiences, lessons, and more... I made it a point from the outset of my career to build some intentional reflection time into my week. Using the website, Oh Life!, I sent myself an email each Friday afternoon. When I sit down at the end of the week to collect myself and organize for the following week, I take some time to really reflect on what seemed to work, what didn't, and what I could do differently. It has truly made all the difference in my professional practice! The email also includes a "Remember this?" feature and pulls content from a previous entry. It's fun to see how I've grown and changed throughout my career so far. Great post!


  5. Other than this post missing an obligatory screenshot of Yoda, I think you've nailed it :)

    We constantly hear from others that "they're trying hard", but often that trying to nothing more than just the same old routine, just intensified through a brief attempt at paying lip service to something an administrator told us to do. William is right, we still have moments of reaction and on the fly modification, but the time spent thinking and reflecting, and then deliberately setting down a path means we're better prepared for those moments of reaction.

    @Beth: I don't think Nick's assumption is too far off. I do believe all teachers, and all individuals reflect, but quite often it's a momentary occurrence that isn't followed up with deliberate action. As William and Nick both mentioned, the simple act of making a decision "on the fly" based on a students' response is a lightning-quick moment of reflection; we take in a student's negative or positive remarks, quickly compare it to how the previous "X" number of students have responded, then consider what to say next, and weigh how that will impact the rest of the learning environment. It all happens in the blink of an eye. I think Nick is talking about taking that moment past the "teacher lounge" reflection at lunch, and then deciding how you might create a circumstance for better student interactions in the future, and then set out some action steps or self-prescribed actions you can take. And yes, all change will happen slowly.....if it's happening in a way that will have deep lasting impact.

  6. I'm currently a grad student working on my master's and certification in secondary ed. One of the things that has been discussed and reinforced throughout the program is the need for reflection after each lesson. We document a lot of what we do through videos, artifacts, and collections of lesson plans. I've found it to be very useful as we've progressed through the program. I'm curious as to how you go about the reflection process. It's almost easy to reflect when you have a whole class full of "teachers in training" plus your mentor teacher, who help to discuss your lessons and the pros and cons. I suppose I'm just interested as to how others go about reflecting upon their lessons and how you collaborate with others so that your units can continue to adapt and evolve. Thanks!

  7. I'm currently working on my master's and certification in secondary ed in Michigan. One of the things that has been continually stressed and reinforced is the need for reflection up teaching our lessons. We document our practice through videos, artifacts, and collections of lesson plans. I suppose what I'm curious about is how exactly you go about the reflection process. It almost seems simple when you have an entire class full of "teachers in training" in addition to your mentor teacher, all are helpful in identifying the pros and cons of lessons in addition to how you can improve. I've found a fresh perspective is always advantageous. So I suppose I'm simply wondering how it is you reflect upon you lessons after teaching, and if there's anyone you discuss your lessons with. Thanks!


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