For most teachers, the last days of school are a frantic sprint of classroom tidying, teary goodbyes, and messy end-of-year parties. Teachers are usually too tired or too excited or too busy to take time for reflection. I get it; you really do have to track down that missing library book and account for all your curricular resources.
But when the dust settles and you’ve checked all the boxes on your classroom close-up list, carve out a few hours to systematically reflect before you shove school into the back corner of your mind or leap right into summer professional development. A little time for reflection now will help you capitalize on what you’ve learned this year, figure out what must be changed, and thoughtfully plan how you want to spend your learning time this summer.
If your mind strays quickly back to an overwhelming to-do list, consider using some of the items below to frame your reflection.
Make a Fix List
Instead of fixating on everything that didn’t work this year, start a fix list with quick, bullet-point items of what you want to do better. Don’t spend time on solutions just yet! Instead, use the list as a running record of items to come back to as you read, learn, and think throughout the summer. The fix-it list will be a resource to come back to throughout the summer but it’s helpful to get all those things you want to change written in one place.
Plan Your “No’s”
Most teaching gigs include lots of unexpected asks and suddenly you’re the sponsor of the knitting club, the JV basketball coach, and leading after school PD. Now is your chance to reflect on which activities are lifegiving for you or crucial for students and which make life feel far too hectic.
As you reflect on how you spent your time, write out what you’ll say no to next year and what kinds of challenges or activities you might welcome. If prioritizing a Friday afternoon yoga class feels essential to your mental health, you can pre-plan a “no” to all Friday after-school requests. When any unexpected requests come your way in a new school year, you’ll be prepared to answer in a way that actually reflects your needs.
Pitch Your Principal
Just as you figure out what things you’ll turn down next year, you may decide that a few of your new ideas are worth chasing. Now’s the time to figure out what ideas you should take to your school leadership and which ideas deserve further study this summer. If you’ve been wanting to forego the social studies curriculum for a great new project-based unit, create a plan to make it happen. Now’s the time to write a Donors Choose request for science lab equipment or solicit a big donation from a local business, too.
Refine A Reading List
Sometimes it’s hard to fit serious reading into a busy semester of teaching so now’s the time to curate a personal summer reading list. If you haven’t put much thought into what you’ll read, think about your goals. Maybe you want to mix and match relaxing beach reads with a few challenging professional development texts. If you need a few suggestions, check out online reading lists focused on everything from general educator development to student technology use.
As you reflect and plan, start to refine your vision of what you want your classroom to look like, what is most important for students to learn, and how you’ll stay sane and balanced in a new year. Taking time to reflect at the end of a school year gives you a runway to put your plans into action and capitalize on a few months away from students.