Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Year of Reflective Teaching

I fought to make the closing minutes on the final day of school last as long as I could.  At about the same time that I had slumped down at my desk weary and frustrated a year earlier, I set out to savor all the teacher moments I could before the students would leave for the summer:

I helped a group of rising 11th graders track down summer reading in the library.
I sought out many of my students from this past year, now rising 12th graders, to thank them, and to wish them a wonderful summer.
I chatted and took a selfie with a group of rising 10th graders.
I said some difficult goodbyes to students who would not be returning to CAJ next year.
I received several beautiful letters from students that brought tears to my eyes.

When I left campus for the day, my heart was heavy, though for very different reasons than the year before.  My heart was heavy because I had invested it so deeply in my teaching and in my students, and by stepping out the gates, I was admitting that time had to keep marching on.  The deeper our love for something, the more difficult to let it go.
And yet, this same investment--my love for my job and for my students--was a source of tremendous joy throughout the whole school-year; joy that far outweighed the sadness I felt as I left campus--and the school-year--behind.

This year, I chose integrity.  I taught in a way that was true to my identity.  I was real with my students, and just as importantly, I was real with myself.

A vital component of that realness has been these regular reflections.  Writing is, and has always been the means by which I process what is happening in my life, and this year, it enabled me to process my teaching in particular.  Taking the time to reflect every week or every other week kept me accountable in my quest to teach with integrity.  Regardless of the topic, my reflections brought me face-to-face with my priorities and practices, my strengths and my weaknesses.  It led me to think deeply and intentionally about what I was doing in the classroom and spurred me to continually work harder, to invest more completely, to try new things, and learn from my mistakes.

Though this school-year has ended, my reflection will continue.  I am satisfied with my curriculum, but I still have adjustments to make for next year, new resources to find, new activities and teaching strategies to brainstorm.  I cannot simply repeat what I did this past year--reflective teaching requires a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth.  I am grateful for the summer vacation that now stretches before me, but deep down, I am already counting down the days until the next school-year begins.  I pray that my teaching next year, too, will be characterized by integrity, and supported by earnest, ongoing reflection.

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