I started reflecting on my teaching (and school days in general) back in November. Two of my coworkers and I went to a professional development seminar at a Day School in Manhattan to hear Rick Lavoie speak. This guy is awesome. After spending the day listening to his stories (both humorous and heart-breaking), my colleagues and I agreed that we would love to have him speak at our school because it would benefit our K-12 faculty a lot.
Long story short: Rick served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs for 30 years. This experience has provided him with a “living laboratory” in which he developed and refined his methods and philosophies related to the education of children and adolescents with special needs. He has now delivered his message to over 500,000 parents and professionals throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Rick’s main focus for this day was Strategies that work (and those that don’t) with struggling kids. I have 4 pages worth of notes from his presentation and still remember how much of a story-teller he was. Anyways, some of his strategies were…
One that I personally liked that would benefit my students and myself was the one where I would write daily reflections. His story for this strategy was that a teacher came to him for help because one student (student A) would come to her English class some days and be completely off the handle. There wasn’t a pattern that the teacher could notice – it wasn’t during certain times of the day (the schedule was the same every day) so it wasn’t that he just had a candy bar for lunch or anything like that.
The teacher started writing daily reflections in hopes that this might show a pattern, but no pattern seemed to come out of it. However, when Rick checked out the reflections and compared the days where the student was especially a handful, he realized that another student was absent on those days. It turns out that the two boys were partners in Science, the class right before English. They were in the dissection unit and student A hated dissecting things, so he always relied on student B to dissect while he took notes. On the days where student B was absent, the teacher forced student A to perform the dissections himself and it caused him to get really anxious and it would throw off his mood into the next class – English.
How cool is that? That you can find a pattern from just a reflection and note of who was absent a certain day!
It’s difficult to remember to do it daily seeing as my free-time and prep periods go to (duh) prepping. Or talking to and/or venting with co-workers. But it’s so helpful and calming, especially when it’s been a particularly difficult or stressful day. I recommend teachers try it out, recording positive and negative interactions between students, their own interactions with students, and how their lessons went.
The reflections don’t have to be essays or epic sagas; it’s actually better to keep them as bullet points: short and sweet. Who was absent? What was the lesson on? How did it go? Is there anything you will change the next time you teach it? What are some positive or negative interactions that occurred during the class?