DJHS Staff Newsletter
April 23, 2015
A Time for Reflection
As we approach the last month of the school year (YAY!), I thought it might be a good time to do some reflecting on this past year. Mrs. Thomas has said repeatedly that this has been a learning year, and I truly believe that. We have had plenty of ups and downs this year, but through it all, we have remained focused on our one true goal - our students. As I was thinking about this, and combing through some back issues of New Teacher Advocate, I found a couple of articles I would like to share. These articles seemed to really speak to what we have all been through this year. I hope you feel the same way. I have shared the first one here and will share the second next month. And although this article speaks more to a failed lesson, I think it applies to all aspects of our lives, no matter our position or title. Enjoy!
"Pedagogical Autopsies: Reflecting on Lessons that Died" by Max Malikow
"In his 22 seasons as a major-league baseball player, Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times. In a full season, he went to bat approximately 600 times; therefore, it could be said that Babe Ruth had the equivalent of two years in which he did nothing but strike out. Yet, despite this statistical failure, Babe Ruth has an honored place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
"Whether in baseball or teaching, poor performances are inevitable. Rather than dwelling on failings, learn from them. Creative reflection is the practice of constructively examining why a lesson failed and what can be tried to prevent similar problems in the future. It's an educational autopsy performed to determine a lesson's cause of death. How a disappointing lesson is examined and understood will determine whether its failure will be repeated. Try these six suggestions for reconsidering a lesson that failed.
"Six Habits for Highly Effective Reflection
"First, don't overreact to a disappointing lesson by over-generalizing about yourself as a teacher. Don't overreact with self-flagellation. Global statements such as, "I'm a total failure" and "I can't do anything right" are neither helpful nor accurate. If you were incompetent, you would have been weeded from the profession during your teacher-education program. You earned your degree and were hired because you demonstrated competency and promise as a teacher.
"Second, get emotional and temporal distance from the failed lesson, and then carefully review your lesson plan. A day or two after the lesson, reconsider its introduction, objectives, methodology, and evaluation. Again, don't over-generalize. Be specific about what did and didn't work well. Work at understanding when and why certain parts failed.
"Third, have an internal locus of control in your analysis. Take responsibility for the factors that were in your control, so that you own them next time around. Consider the time and effort you put into the lesson and the enthusiasm you had for the material. ask yourself questions about possible influences on the lesson: Did I get enough sleep the night before? Was I preoccupied on the day of the lesson? Was I confident in my preparation? Did I consider the material to be valuable for my students?
"Fourth, account for external factors that contributed to the disappointment. Rarely is a lesson's failure entirely the teacher's fault. Were there any conditions that distracted or excited the students, such as a fight in the cafeteria, the possibility of early school dismissal, or a special after-school event? Think about the time and day of the lesson. For example, probably no time is more challenging for maintaining students attention than the last period on Friday. Reflect on how class went the day before the failed lesson; the previous day affects the following day's orientation. If some students were consistently off-task during the lesson, assess whether the problem occurred due to a poor lesson or student who were determined to disrupt your best effort.
"Fifth, debrief with a senior faculty member or teacher-mentor after you've taken counsel with yourself. Describe the lesson without interpretation, giving your colleague an opportunity to offer an uninfluenced analysis. Prepare definite questions for the meeting and expect to be asked questions. Resist the impulse to defend yourself - the meeting is continuing education, not a trial.
"Sixth, investigate. There isn't a problem you're experiencing that other teachers aren't confronting, that hasn't been a subject of research. Investigate what experts say. Even when an immediate and complete solution is not available, improvement can begin.
"Back at Bat
"Resilience is the ability to return to an original form or bounce back. Let creative reflection help you bounce back like a rubber ball, or gain insights and rebound like a Super Ball - to a greater height of competency.
"For Babe Ruth, batting was part of a game, a game was part of a season, and a season was part of a career. To consider only his strikeouts would greatly distort his amazing career. For a teacher, a lesson is part of a day, a day is part of a school year, and a school year is part of a career."