Reflective –> Effective

Okay. It’s time I hopped back on the blogwagon. I have been in graduate school this past year earning a Master’s degree in Private School Leadership (yeah, that exists) but I haven’t felt like I had anything to contribute to the discussion around math TEACHING up in my ivory tower. I want to end the year by reflecting on some of the things that I have been thinking about, ranging from little random thoughts to unanswerable questions, all of which I am excited to test out next year in my triumphant return to a math classroom!

So that’s what the next series of posts will be. But first… I have wondered if it was a good/necessary move for me to take a full year away from the classroom to reflect. One the one hand, it’s great to have the space and time to really delve into issues from human cognition to the use of data to improve student learning. On the other hand, I haven’t been able to workshop any of the ideas running around in my brain. Regardless, it has driven home to me the importance of reflecting, so I thought I would share the small change last year I made in my lesson planning that helped me become a more reflective, and thus more effective teacher.

You don’t need to take a year off or find more hours in the day to journal. You just need to add a column to your lesson plans.

lesson plan2

This is an actual screenshot from my Evernote planning notebook.  I chunk my class into activities, so that’s what you see on the way left. The next column describes any other necessary details or files that the activity requires. The third column is initially blank, and this is where I reflected. Every day, before planning the next lesson, I would go back to the one before and jot down a bullet point or two about each activity. Sometimes I would have a lot to say and would write some notes for my future self, but I would, at the very least, note how much time the learning activity took. Before long, this became a habit of my lesson planning that took no more than a few minutes.

I initially conceptualized this as a way to keep notes for myself in the future, should I teach the same class again, but found that I reaped the benefits far more quickly. Just sitting down for even 5 minutes to think about what happened that day started a recursive process where my reflections allowed me to make decisions in a different way in the future.

So I hope that some of my reflections from grad school might be helpful (for both readers and myself) — but I am also looking forward to reflecting next year in the classroom in a way that has a more immediate effect on my teaching and student learning.

Posted on April 30, 2014, in Growth Mindset, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Good to see you writing again, Bowman. Maybe I can squeeze this in next semester. Looks good.

  2. Bowman

    I took a year off from the classroom 7 years ago to engage in curriculum coursework. It was crucial to re-energizing my brain and breaking free of some of the habits I had developed after 20 years of teaching at that point. Good on you for taking this break and reflecting on your practice – even when you cannot put it into practice just yet.

  3. thanks for this – that’s giving me some optimism about this choice!

  4. i was so disciplined about doing this last year for my precalc and honors algebra 2 classes… then i changed schools and got an all new schedule. 🙂 haven’t done it this year as i’ve struggled to keep pace in day-to-day planning and simultaneously develop all new systems that work in a very different type of school – but hopefully next year i will get back to it. constant process of reflective and refining! p.s. glad you’re blogging again; i missed you!

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