“It seems like you are getting a lot out of your weekly reflections.”
My professor left this note on the reflections he required during my semester of student teaching.
He was right – I did get lots of value from the routine. During this first real teaching experience, I received a barrage of information from my teacher prep classes and the results of lessons I was teaching. Reflection helped me make meaning from it all.
What I could not express then was that reflection was the perfect routine for maximizing my growth during this early stage of my career. I now realize that responding to those teacher reflection questions turned my daily experiences into lessons I could refer back to for years to come.
When administrators put reflection at the heart of new teacher programs, early career educators have a chance to thrive.
Make new teacher support more generative and less additive
Teachers have more to process in the first few years than at any other time.
Each day brings new experiences and new information. Curriculum, policies, student data, and more. Then there’s the emotional experience. New teachers feel the joys and challenges of the job for the first time, leading to an understanding of the phrase “teacher tired.”
If given a chance to pause and process, new teachers navigating have a unique opportunity for growth. All it takes is a few minutes per week of reflection.
Reflection is a generative act. In other words, it builds on the thoughts and feelings teachers already have. It does not add to new teachers’ plates, but helps them digest what’s there.
Massachusetts mentor sees reflection for new teachers lead to growth
Not only does reflection for new teachers lead to growth, but it helps coaches and mentors improve, too.
Jeremy Brunaccioni is a 20-year elementary teacher from Massachusetts who supports new teachers as a mentor. During a recent new teacher partnership, reflection led to growth for both the new teacher and Jeremy.
“I think [reflection] was beneficial to the both of us,” Jeremy noted. “For me, it was often reaffirming for my practice and would sometimes lead to new ideas. For him, it was an opportunity to think about how he might tweak a lesson, react differently to a student, or differentiate a lesson.”
For reflection to yield its true benefits, it has to be ongoing, as Jeremy observed.
“We quickly fell into a pattern of identifying areas we wanted to refine and were able to support one another. We chose teacher language as a focus and both made gains during the course of the year,” he said.
As both mentors and new teachers bring their reflective approach to their classrooms and interactions with colleagues, it can have a transformative ripple effect on the entire organization.
It all starts with a simple goal
With new teachers already busy, reflection could be considered “one more thing.” But the beauty of reflection is in its simplicity. It takes little time, and makes other time spent more productive.
Reflecting with Sessions requires just two steps: setting a goal at the beginning of the week, and reflecting on it by the end.
Including goals as part of the reflection process is important for two reasons:
- Goal-setting helps new teachers build self-awareness. Setting a goal requires teachers to identify areas of their practice where they want to grow, and define challenges in need of solutions.
- Goals keep reflections focused. Without a goal, reflections can become meandering. However, a goal keeps the reflection focused and productive.
When channeled through reflection, new teachers’ energy and ideas become renewable fuel for growth. Concerns and anxieties become catalysts for finding solutions.
It all starts with setting a simple goal to revisit by the end of the week.